Heisman Milestones


1935: A Trophy is Born

Members of New York’s Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) appoint a Club Trophy Committee charged with conducting the presentation of the first award at the conclusion of the 1935 football season in the Club’s headquarters, located at the southern end of Manhattan.

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December, 1935: Berwanger makes history

The first award—initially named the DAC Trophy—is presented on December 9, 1935, to Jay Berwanger, a triple threat cyclone and legendary “one-man-gang” in the University of Chicago’s backfield.

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1936: The trophy gets a new name

The award is renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy following the death on Oct. 3, 1936 of legendary football coach and DAC athletic director John W. Heisman.

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1943: Nile Kinnick dies

Iowa’s 1939 winner becomes the first Heisman recipient to pass away when his military plane crashes off the coast of South America.

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1945: Junior mint

Army fullback Felix “Doc” Blanchard becomes the first junior to win the Heisman.

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1951: Ivy's last gasp

Princeton dynamic running back Dick Kazmaier becomes the third, and most recent, Ivy League player to win the Heisman.

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1956: The Golden Boy

Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung becomes the only player to win the Heisman for a losing team. The Irish finish 2-8.

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Ernie Davis - Heisman Winner 1961 - Syracuse University

1961: Ernie Davis breaks barriers

The Syracuse running back becomes the first African-American to win the Heisman. Sadly, he dies of leukemia in 1963.

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1962: Score one for the West Coast

Oregon State quarterback Terry Baker wins the first Heisman from the West Coast. He also plays in the 1963 NCAA basketball Final Four, the only Heisman winner to do so.

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1963: The most recent Service Academy Heisman winner

Service Academy schools won five Heismans in the first 25 years of the trophy’s history, but quarterback Roger Staubach of Navy is the last to do so.

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1972: Johnny Rodgers becomes first WR to win the Heisman

Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers electrifies college football on his way to winning Nebraska’s first Heisman.

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1973: The Heisman dinner changes location

Previously held at the Downtown Athletic Club, the growing popularity of the Heisman dinner forces a move to the Grand Ballroom at the New York Hilton. It would stay there until 1986.

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1975: Two-time Archie

Ohio State’s Archie Griffin becomes the only two-time winner of the Heisman, winning the trophy in 1974 and 1975.

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Earl Campbell awarded Heisman on variety show

1977: The Heisman makes its TV debut

The President of the DAC and the Heisman Committee decide to present the award as part of an hour-long, prime-time television spectacular. The victor is announced at the dinner along with six other outstanding players meriting other special DAC Awards.

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1981: Live from New York

USC’s Marcus Allen is the first Heisman winner to have his announcement broadcast on live television, courtesy of ABC.

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1982: The first finalists

For the first time, finalists are invited to New York to take part in a live televised Heisman ceremony (broadcast by ABC). The Heisman finalists are Herschel Walker, John Elway and Eric Dickerson, though Elway did not attend.

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1984: The streak is broken

Boston College’s Doug Flutie becomes the first quarterback since Pat Sullivan in 1971 to win the Heisman, breaking a string of 11-straight running back winners.

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Danny Wuerffel 1996 Heisman Trophy Winner

1996: Gator to Gator

Florida head coach Steve Spurrier becomes the first Heisman winner to coach another Heisman winner when Danny Weurffel wins the award for the Gators.

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1997: The Throwback

Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson becomes the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman, though his all-around brilliance as a three-way player helps capture the imagination of Heisman voters.

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2001: 9/11 changes everything

Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Heisman presentation is moved to the New York Marriott Marquis in 2001. In 2002 and 2003, it moves to the Yale Club of NYC.  In 2004, the announcement is held at the New York Hilton and, in the following year, 2005, the Heisman event is moved to the recently renovated Nokia Theatre (now the Playstation Theatre) in the center of the Broadway Theater district in Times Square.

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2006: The Heisman Trust is born

Following the closing of the Downtown Athletic Club in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks on Lower Manhattan, the Heisman moves to a charitable trust dedicated to promoting the causes of amateur athletics and underserved youth.

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2007: Online Heisman voting dominates

The Heisman vote moves primarily to an online ballot. By 2009, all Heisman ballots are required to be submitted online, giving all voters a chance to hold their votes until the final regular season game has been played.

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2007: Super Soph!

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow becomes the first sophomore to win the Heisman. He is the first of three-straight sophomores to win the award from 2007-2009.

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2012: Fantastic Frosh!

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel becomes the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman. He is followed as the Heisman winner the next season by Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston.

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2015: Non-seniors reign supreme

Junior Alabama running back Derrick Henry becomes the ninth-consecutive non-senior to win the Heisman.

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