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Where Are They Now: The Heisman Trophy

heisman trophy

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.


Les Miles Loves Thanksgiving

Bring on the feast.

Kevin Ware Played In Tonight’s Louisville Exhibition and Nailed His First Shot

Just seven months removed from this (WARNING: extremely graphic video—if you’re squeamish, I suggest you just move right along to the next paragraph after this video)…

…Kevin Ware checked into tonight’s Louisville exhibition game against Pikeville (who? Wikipedia search if you’re interested—they’re located in Kentucky) and hit his first shot attempt.

You can’t script this stuff any better. Good for Ware.

Government Shutdown: Please, God, Not the Kids!

Sports are holy ground for many. But that doesn’t make them immune from the unholy, dysfunctional mess that is the U.S. Government.

When Congress failed to act and pass a budget continuing resolution to keep the government running, Washington was forced to shut its doors. National parks, monuments, museums, the whole kit and kaboodle. And for those who thought sports would be a place where they could turn their attention to forget about the giant steaming pile of feces on top of the Hill, well, think again.

The Defense Department announced on Tuesday that it has suspended travel for the intercollegiate athletic competitions (i.e. college sports programs) at the nation’s service academies (i.e. Army, Navy, and Air Force) for the duration of the government shutdown—however long that may last, no one really knows.

While the gravity of cancelling a few sporting events pales in comparison to the some 800,000 federal workers who are being furloughed, the message that this sends to the student-athletes is not so different. (I’m not going to turn this into a political blog, so I’ll let you determine that message for yourself.)

With the college football season in full swing, this obviously has an immediate impact on several games that were scheduled months ago. The first is the Navy-Air Force game that was scheduled for this weekend in Annapolis, Maryland. The game was to be the first of the season that goes toward the academies’ quest for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, and was sold out well in advance.

A statement on Navy’s athletics site reads: “The Naval Academy will cancel contests as appropriate and notification on Saturday’s football game against Air Force will be made public prior to 12 noon on Thursday. Tonight’s soccer game against Howard has been cancelled. It is not known at this time if the game will be made up or not.”

Also impacted is the Army-Boston College game scheduled for this weekend. No decision has been made there either, and in a statement to ESPN, BC athletic director Brad Bates said the schools are exploring every possible avenue to avoid a cancellation. “We have been in close communication with Army athletics officials regarding the potential impact of the government shutdown on this Saturday’s football game. Obviously our intention is to exhaust all possibilities to play the game and we will communicate the information promptly as soon as we have resolution.”

Also, according to ESPN, the Air Force Academy said it would try to play all of its home games,  but that it was working with the Mountain West Conference officials and other schools to reschedule games that were away from the school. Meanwhile, the Defense Department has said that no games will be played while the government is shut down.

A complete and total disgrace.

Guess How Much Your Alma Mater Owes Its Athletes?

While doing some research for a real-job article, I came across this doozy of a study by the National College Players Association and the Drexel University Sports Management Department that shows the NCAA is using the “amateurism” guise to deny roughly $6 billion per year that athletes in a fair-market system would be earning.

The study, released in March, used 2011-12 revenue figures and the NBA’s and NFL’s collective bargaining agreement terms to unveil just how much each of the 120+ schools in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision would owe each of their star athletes. The figures are staggering.

If these two college sports operated under the same revenue sharing agreements as their pro counterparts—NFL players get a 46.5 percent cut of total revenue, NBA it’s 50-50—than what players are currently being compensated with (full rides) wouldn’t even come close to covering the total cost.

Take for example the University of Louisville, the reigning NCAA Men’s D-I Basketball champions, and the school whose football team currently employs a Heisman trophy front runner in Teddy Bridgewater (screenshot via a pretty nifty infographic put together by Time):

Louisville athletes pay

The Cardinal are one of the more egregious violators when it comes to “robbing from its athletes,” especially in the case of basketball. According to records, the school’s basketball team helped to generate nearly $42.5 million in revenue. If that were to be split 50-50 and then divided amongst the team’s 13 players, each would be owed about $1.63 million. Then, when you take into account the value of the full scholarship for that year, that drags the total down to $1.61 million. Incredible.

I put together some incoherent babble on this issue over the weekend, but the figures from this study really ought to open some eyes. I’m not saying that college players should be making a couple hundred thousand each for playing, but if that’s really how much the school owes and would be able to pay each athlete based on the revenue figures, then who’s to say that money couldn’t be divided up among the other sports on campus to at least make sure these athletes have enough money to keep their fridges stocked?

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What are your thoughts on the pay-to-play issue? Share them below.

Pay to Play: College Athletes and Money

The tide is coming. Whether you’re in favor of it or not (I’m on the fence about it), the pressure is mounting for some sort of change to be made regarding college players getting paid.

Revelations about players accepting cash or other “impermissible benefits” are coming out at a faster clip, and the incredibly large stigma that came along with getting caught by the NCAA for committing such a crime has been reduced to the program or individual being stuck in the sports news cycle for a day or two and then returning to business as usual—unless your name is Johnny Manziel.

Pundits can’t seem to come to an agreement on what the model for paying college-level athletes would look like, but nearly all of them are in accord that the players who turn athletics into a multi-million dollar marketing tool deserve some sort of cut—be it from the money generated through mega television contracts or the sale of gear on the NCAA fan shop

Coverage in the media of this issue has exploded of late thanks to Manziel’s well-documented summer, which included getting thrown out of fraternity parties and allegedly accepting cash for signing hundreds (maybe thousands) of pieces of Texas A&M paraphernalia. But that coverage has been less about how terrible it is that Manziel might have taken cash (no evidence was ever uncovered) and more about how it’s a travesty that players are the main cog in the money-making wheel but don’t see a dime of it.

A face was put on the issue this week when former Tennessee star and current Houston Texans running back Arian Foster sat down with Sports Illustrated and admitted to taking cash during his senior season. The reason for doing so? Basic survival, Foster said.

I don’t have the perfect answer for what paying college athletes looks like, and I’m not sure that anyone does. It’s a complicated matter—if schools decide to pay athletes on the revenue producing sports (what exactly that means can vary from school to school), what kind of message does that send, or impact does that have on the other sports at a particular school; what about the female athletes and how does Title IX come into effect; what does a union of college athletes look like, because they’re going to need one to collectively bargain their rights and all… you catch my drift—but there has to be a simple place to start with all this.

Well, what if the NCAA just stopped caring if student-athletes accepted cash in exchange for autographs, or if a few kids get free tattoos, or if, like with Foster, an insanely-paid head coach provided some of his guys a free meal?

I get the argument that a lot of these kids are getting free rides at some of the top institutions throughout the country, but half (if not more) of them are working towards BS majors while they spend 80-90 percent of their time at practices or on the road for games or out promoting the school and working for “free.” So what if the kids who excel at what they do are able to reap some of the rewards. They don’t have time in their day to hold a job on top of the classes their supposed to be at and the practices and games they have to attend, which, as in Foster’s case, means they don’t have the time to earn money to be able to put food in their fridges. As a former D-I college-athlete, I’ve experienced what it’s like to have multiple practices a day, having to wake up early, go to class, sprint to practice, find time for school work, and get a couple of hours of shut eye, only to wake up and have to do it all over again—and that’s just what it was like for a college wrestler at a school that eventually dropped the program. I never had time to do anything else but go to class, wrestle, and sleep. Forget holding a job during all of that.

Might allowing those extra benefits to be legal breed resentment in some locker rooms throughout the country? Possibly. But it could also make the other athletes work to improve so they can earn some extra incentives themselves.

A recent Time article gets to the crux of the problem fairly well:

According to one study, a season’s worth of Texas A&M home games delivers $86 million in sales to Brazos County, where College Station sits.  The people who deliver the actual product everyone is all excited about — the players — deserve the right to earn more. An athletic scholarship, no doubt, is sweet. But College Station on Saturday resembled any insane NFL game, rock concert or NASCAR event in size and scope. It’s a commercialized carnival. In a fairer world, the college entertainers — just like the NFL players, the rock stars, and the NASCAR drivers — get a fairer cut.

Again, no matter what your feelings are on the matter, something is going to have to give. Too much money is circulating around college sports and the players aren’t being given their fair shake.


Ball State Freshman Hits Half-Court Shot, Wins Free Tuition for a Semester

Ball State University incoming freshman Markus Burden nailed a half-court shot during the school’s Welcome Week to win a semester of free tuition. Including room and board and university fees, that adds up to a little more than $16,000 for the out-of-state student. The school shouldn’t feel too much of a pinch, though, as they still have Burden on the hook for more than $112,000 over the next 3.5 years.

Higher education!

(ht Deadspin)