For the past year, the Washington Post‘s Kent Babb has been on an incredible mission: To track down all 78 Heisman trophies that have been awarded to college football’s top performer each year and learn the story behind every single one.
The result is an incredible piece of work that was published today, ahead of the 2013 ceremony that will take place this Saturday in New York City.
Hockey’s ultimate prize, Stanley Cup spends time on yachts, in swimming pools, and serving as a bowl for cereal or other foods and beverages, but has to be returned and reissued each year to the new champion. The Heisman trophy, on the other hand, is just as storied, but it’s the winner’s to keep. As awesome a read as Babb’s article is, the accompanying online component—the actual Heisman by Heisman tracker—is equally as fascinating.
Here are some of the standouts from the 78 trophies, forged at a shop in Del City, Oklahoma and introduced to the spotlight on a stage in New York (blurbs from Babb’s article):
Johnny Manziel, 2012, Texas A&M
Manziel, the first freshman to win college football’s top individual award, traveled often and engaged in frequent adventures during his first offseason as a Heisman winner. As for the trophy itself, it leads a far more peaceful existence, Texas A&M associate athletic director Alan Cannon says. The trophy is on display at Manziel’s grandparents’ home in Tyler, Tex.
Tim Tebow, 2007, Florida
Tebow said his trophy is at his parents’ home in Jacksonville, behind family pictures and photographs from his sister’s wedding — symbolizing, he says, that individual achievements are less important, no matter their significance, than family milestones.
Reggie Bush, 2005, USC
In 2010, Bush agreed to forfeit his Heisman Trophy after details emerged that Bush received improper benefits. USC returned its copy soon after the Heisman Trust sent a custom shipping container to Heritage Hall. Bush, though, took his time, not returning his trophy until late 2011 or early 2012, Heisman coordinator Tim Henning said. The Trust no longer acknowledges Bush as a Heisman winner and is secretive about the trophy’s location. Henning said the trophy has neither been destroyed nor reissued—rather, it’s in a storage unit in the New York City area, alongside portraits and valuables the Trust no longer had room for.
Jason White, 2003, Oklahoma
Years after his trophy was buried under clothes in a closet during his last year at Oklahoma, White’s Heisman now has renewed meaning. Not only does he display the trophy that made him a Sooners legend, White’s Heisman also has a different kind of sentimental value. He said his daughter, Tinley, once steadied herself on the large trophy, standing on her own for the first time.
Danny Wuerffel, 1996, Florida
After Hurricane Katrina badly damaged Wuerffel’s Louisiana home, ruining his furniture and destroying most of his belongings, he says, the only furnishings in his new home were a desk, a chair and the 1996 Heisman — which had been at his parents’ home, away from the storm. He now keeps it on a shelf at his home outside of Atlanta.
Eddie George, 1995, Ohio State
On his way home from the Heisman ceremony, a determined LaGuardia airport security officer stuffed the trophy through the scanner, breaking off one of its fingers. George returned the trophy to the Heisman Trust (which still has the damaged trophy in a storage unit in New York), which sent him a replacement — which rarely leaves George’s home in Nashville.
Ty Detmer, 1990, BYU
Detmer said his Heisman is at his home outside of Austin, where he is now the football coach at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.
Tim Brown, 1987, Notre Dame
When Brown met with an architect to design his home in DeSoto, Tex., near Dallas, he wanted his Heisman Trophy to be a focal point. So together, they drew up a showcase near the front entrance; past the doorway on the right would be a lighted space for the 1987 Heisman. Then again, most times the showcase is empty. Usually, Brown said, his trophy is in a cabinet at his mother’s house in nearby Duncanville. If Brown hosts friends or important visitors, he retrieves it and adds it to the showcase, but for most of the past 15 years, that custom-designed Heisman alcove has contained no Heisman.
George Rogers, 1980, USC
Rogers’s Heisman has been dropped, scratched, chipped and bent. Before South Carolina games, Rogers stands outside Williams-Brice Stadium, posing for dozens of pictures and allowing anyone with a $5 donation—intoxicated or not—to hold his Heisman. “They always seem to think they can handle it,” he says now. The donations, he said, go to his foundation, which helps first-generation college students pay for school. Shortly before kickoff, Rogers loads his trophy into a large case, lifts it into his SUV, and after the game, returns it to his home in nearby Irmo, where it sits on a shelf near the fireplace.
Charles White, 1979, USC
In 2000, according to reports, White auctioned his Heisman for $184,000 to settle tax debts. The trophy was later resold, reportedly to actor Charlie Sheen, and then to an Arkansas memorabilia collector named John Rogers. Along with several Southern California alumni, Rogers offered to return White’s Heisman if he could make his money back. But learning that White had sold the trophy, Rogers said, the alumni lost interest. Rogers, who admits the effort to return the Heisman was as much a publicity stunt as anything, instead sold the trophy to a buyer who insisted he sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Archie Griffin, 1975, Ohio St.
The ’74 Heisman was Griffin’s first, but the ’75 trophy is his favorite, he said, because no other winner won a second Heisman. Every few years, he sends his trophies to be refinished, where the bronze is polished and the base and nameplate are detailed. “It’s like a good pair of shoes,” Griffin says. “You want to keep them shined and looking good.” Griffin’s second Heisman Trophy is on display at the Ohio State student union, he said. The ’74 trophy, which he occasionally travels with, is on display at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill in Columbus.
Johnny Rodgers, 1972, Nebraska
Rodgers and his Heisman travel so often together that he designed a case for the trophy, protecting its most fragile parts and allowing him to carry it on — never with the checked bags—on commercial flights. Other winners noticed, and Rodgers has since presented cases to other members of the Heisman fraternity. When the 1972 Heisman isn’t traveling to South Africa, Canada or points in between, Rodgers keeps it in the case—ready to go at a moment’s notice—at his home in Omaha.
O.J. Simpson, 1968, USC
In 1999, a man named Tom Kriessman, the owner of a small steel company, bid $255,500 for O.J. Simpson’s 1968 Heisman Trophy, which was being auctioned to settle civil-suit debts following the deaths five years earlier of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Kriessman admits now that he made the winning bid to try to impress his then-girlfriend. “It sort of snowballed,” he said. Fourteen years later, Kriessman said he has matured past such impulse and showmanship; he now keeps the Heisman in a safety deposit box at a bank in Philadelphia. It’s not only far out of view; he says many of his closest friends have no idea he owns one of the most infamous trophies in American sports history.
Gary Beban, 1967, UCLA
Although Beban keeps his original trophy in the study of his Northbrook, Ill., home, alongside several other trophies and business materials, years ago he requested that the Heisman Trust have a duplicate cast and sent to Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City, Calif., where Beban once attended. The school has a Wall of Fame, and the duplicate copy of Beban’s Heisman is the display’s centerpiece.
Steve Spurrier, 1966, Florida
When Spurrier won the 1966 Heisman, he donated it to the University of Florida. Although the story goes that Spurrier left the trophy in Gainesville as a show of thanks to the program that made him a legend, in truth, the notoriously honest Spurrier said, he just didn’t want to lug the heavy trophy from stop to stop during his NFL career. Decades later, the national-title-winning coach keeps his Heisman in his office in the Floyd Football Building, an annex at the University of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium.
John Huarte, 1964, Notre Dame
Huarte’s wife, Eileen, said they decided years ago that they didn’t want the Heisman Trophy in their home, so they loaned it to Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., where Huarte is an alumnus. Eileen Huarte said her husband hoped it might inspire other children to chase their dreams.
Ernie Davis, 1961, Syracuse
After Davis’s death at age 23 following a fight with leukemia, his mother donated his Heisman Trophy — historic as the first awarded to an African American — to Syracuse. Although it was stolen and then returned in 1976, assistant athletic director Sue Edson said it’s now on display at the Carrier Dome, where the Orange plays football and basketball.
Paul Hornung, 1956, Notre Dame
Hornung said he sold his Heisman years ago, adding that he uses the money to put two students through Notre Dame each year. After all, he says, the trophy had been just sitting in his garage for most of the its lifetime. The buyer of Hornung’s trophy also bought Larry Kelley’s 1936 Heisman, and they’re both on display at The Stadium, a roadside restaurant and sports museum in Garrison, N.Y.
Howard Cassady, 1955, Ohio St.
Cassady’s wife, Barbara, said the 1955 Heisman Trophy is at their home on Davis Islands, Fla., often under close watch. In the early 1980s, the trophy was stolen along with several other awards. Apparently unaware of the Heisman’s value, the burglar was melting down the gold and silver in Cassady’s other trophies, and had tossed the Heisman in a garbage can. A sanitation worker noticed a bronze arm sticking out the bin and alerted authorities, Barbara said. Despite minor damage, the trophy was returned to Cassady, and as a result, it now spends part of its time in a safe.
Johnny Lattner, 1953, Notre Dame
The most mobile Heisman, Lattner loans his trophy—the second one he was issued after his original was destroyed in a fire—to raise money for charities. Although its permanent residence is the Oak Park, Ill., home of Lattner’s daughter (a short walk from the winner’s Melrose Park home), his Heisman is just as likely to be on temporary display in a bar, restaurant or school, or whomever is willing to bid the highest to live for a few days or weeks like a Heisman winner.
Doak Walker, 1948, SMU
The 1948 Heisman has spent its years on the move, first in a Denver sports bar, then at a ski shop in Steamboat Springs, hidden among the sweaters. Customers often suggested the trophy was a fake, and Walker—who worked at the shop part-time—jokingly told the unsuspecting customers that Walker occasionally visited the shop, never letting on that he was the former SMU legend. The Heisman later wound up on the mantel, behind skiing trophies, in the shop owner’s home. After Walker’s death, it moved to a nearby library. It has since returned to Dallas, and, according to Walker’s daughter, Laurie, is now on display at the Old Red Courthouse Museum near Dealey Plaza.
Frank Sinkwich, 1942, Georgia
Decades ago, Sinkwich donated his Heisman Trophy to the University of Georgia, a move senior associate athletic director Claude Felton says led in part to the Heisman Trust issuing two trophies: one to the winner and another to his school. After Georgia received its copy, Sinkwich retook possession of his original. The winner’s grandson, Frank Sinkwich III, says the family maintains possession of his late grandfather’s Heisman, in Athens, Ga.
Larry Kelley, 1936, Yale
In 2000, Kelley removed his Heisman Trophy from its longtime perch on his mantel, turning it over to its new owner after selling it for $328,100. Kelley said at the time that he planned to divide the proceeds among his 18 nieces and nephews. Four months later, Kelley committed suicide. In the years since, according to a 2009 story in the Newark Star-Ledger, Kelley’s widow, Mary Ruth, has decorated the mantel with pictures of family and holiday cards—including each year a Christmas card from the family of James Walsh, who bought Kelley’s Heisman and says he now displays it at The Stadium, his restaurant and memorabilia museum in Garrison, N.Y.
Jay Berwanger, 1935, Chicago
Years after using the first Heisman Trophy as a doorstop—its rectangular base and nameplate are smaller than those awarded today, but the bronze statue is identical—the first of what became sports’ most prestigious award now sits in a more appropriate location. It is displayed in the center of the rotunda foyer at the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center on the University of Chicago campus.