When Southern California's Mike Garrett won the Heisman Trophy in 1965, the story goes, he said, "The award's wonderful. But who's Heisman?"
To answer your question, Mike -- although countless people have probably playfully told him by now -- Heisman played for Brown from 1887 to 1889 and at Penn from 1890 to 1891, coached Clemson and Georgia Tech in the early 20th century and was on the board of the Downtown Athletic Club after he ended his coaching career. He started an award, the DAC Trophy, which was renamed for him posthumously in 1936.
Garrett probably knows all that by now. Things that he probably doesn't know: Heisman was a Shakespearean actor and a public speaker. He is said to have invented the sweep and the center snap -- previously, the center would roll or kick the ball to the quarterback -- and was an early proponent of the forward pass. He also coached Penn, from 1920 to 1922.
Heisman's three years at the University were not perfect. They might have been, actually, a little disappointing.
Heisman's record in four years at Clemson was 19-3-2, and his Georgia Tech squad had a 32-game unbeaten streak, outscoring opponents 1,592-62 during that stretch. That included the most lopsided win in football history, a 222-0 defeat of Cumberland College. Up 126-0 at halftime, Heisman is said to have told his troops, "Men, we're in front, but you never know what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. So in the second half, go out and hit 'em clean and hit 'em hard. Don't let up."
When the University agreed to a three-year contract with Heisman on Feb. 2, 1920, they were probably expecting similar success. At the time, the Penn Athletic Council compared his football innovation to that of Glenn "Pop" Warner.
At Penn, Heisman's record was a mere 16-10-2. His finest season was in 1922, when Penn went 6-3, beating both Navy and Penn State. His squads did lose, however, two out of three times in what was then an annual Thanksgiving game against Cornell.
His first season, Heisman ran practices in the same way he had at his previous schools: clad in brown stockings, sport shoes, knickers and a cap, shouting out instructions in his giant brown microphone.
The Pennsylvanian, what the student paper was called at the time, said that "Coach Heisman never leaves his megaphone behind, and it is the dread of any player who happens to slacken in his work."
Using the Heisman shift, a jump by members of the defensive line that is now illegal, Penn won its first four games by a combined score of 70-0, but then dropped four straight, including a 44-7 shellacking at the hands of Dartmouth. The Red and Blue finished 6-4.
The 1921 season saw another fast start, with Penn routing Delaware, 89-0, before beating Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg and VMI and tying Swarthmore. Pitt and Lafayette both routed Penn, and Cornell shut out Heisman's team on Thanksgiving, 41-0. Penn finished 4-3-2.
Also in 1921, Heisman penned three columns in The Pennsylvanian, drumming up support for the "gridders," as the paper called the Penn football team at the time.
"What a football machine needs is not merely theoretical instruction by coaches, and not merely men who weigh 200 pounds and can run the hundred in 10 seconds," he wrote in the first of his three columns. "An eleven worth while cannot be composed of flesh and blood alone... the ingredients that still must be added are love and loyalty."
Heisman was known as a stickler for clean morals and clean play from his gridders, and he also addressed this in his columns.
"We expect you not only to refrain from throwing temptation in the way of our football men, but to administer a 'ducking' or a 'horsewhipping' to any student who does so far forget," he wrote. "We look for it from the various officers of the various classes... from every friend of the University, from the newspaper and from every citizen of Philadelphia that has the welfare of the University at heart.... Let's make it ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE."
Penn again blanked several weaker opponents in the early 1922 season, and then stunned powerful Navy, 13-7, on Oct. 28. Penn captain Poss Miller led three cheers for Heisman in the dressing room after the game, which The Pennsylvanian said "brought tears to [Heisman's] eyes."
The following week, Penn was in turn upset by Alabama, 9-7, and then lost to Pitt, 7-6. Penn did rally to upset Penn State, 7-6, the following week.
In the final game of the year, Penn lost to Cornell on Thanksgiving Day, 9-0, ending Heisman's tenure as coach. And although his record was not incredible in University City, he does hold a lasting place in Penn football history.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.