What You Don’t Know About the Heisman

This is a guest post by Dennis Phoenix. Dennis is an avid sports fan and writer. He writes on a variety of topics from sports to business for Able Trophies, a supplier of business awards.

There is no other college football award as prestigious as the Heisman Trophy. Even being considered for it is an accomplishment. Having your name come up in the same conversation with the Heisman gives you instant credibility.

Each year in early December before the post season bowl games begin, after the best players in college football are compared and vetted, the best is presented with the Heisman Trophy. The competition is stiff and many previous winners have gone on to lead very successful careers in the NFL.


But for all the attention and growing tradition of the Heisman Trophy, many aren’t aware of the roots of this coveted award. Like all great icons, this trophy has a story of its own to tell. First let’s start with how the winners are chosen.

The Voting Process

Choosing the best player in college football is a difficult task in itself. Figuring out who was to do the choosing was no easy task either.  The judges come from three categories.

Early on, it was determined that the best judges would be those closely associated with the game, sports journalists. They seemed a natural fit, as they were informed and impartial. There are six regions throughout the country. The regional representatives appoint state representatives which choose voters from their states. Larger states with larger populations and more media outlets have more voters than smaller states. But each region is given a total of 145 media votes. That brings the grand total of media votes to 870.

The second category consists of former Heisman Trophy winners. Currently 58 former winners are eligible to vote.

The third category is made up of the viewing public. It wasn’t until 1999 that the public got a vote. And that is all they get, one vote. Every year ESPN.com takes a public survey and the winner is added to the 870 media votes and the current 58 former trophy winners. That brings the total to 929 voters.

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But that’s not all. Each voter makes their three top selections, ranking each one in order. Their first place vote gets 3 points. Second place receives 2 points and their third place vote gets one point. A separate accounting firm then collects and tallies the votes. The player with the most points receives the Heisman Trophy.

The History

The Heisman Trophy was first awarded in 1935 by the Downtown Athletic Club of lower Manhattan, New York City. Originally the trophy was named the Downtown Athletic Trophy. But after the death of the original athletic director of the Club, John Heisman, the trophy was renamed in his honor.

Heisman was associated with college football for much of his career before taking over the reins of the Downtown Athletic Club as its first director. After earning his law degree in 1892, he immediately went into coaching football and continued doing so until his retirement in 1927. He is known to have made a number of contributions to the game of football throughout his coaching career. His proudest achievement was the inclusion of the forward pass which became legal in 1906.

The Trophy

The trophy is made of cast bronze and weighs in at 25 lbs. It stands 13.5 inches tall. It was the creation of sculptor Frank Eliscu, who modeled the trophy after the likeness of Ed Smith, a star player for the 1934 New York University football team. Interesting enough, although he remembered posing for a sculpture, Ed Smith didn’t realize until 1982 that it was his likeness on the most coveted collegiate football award.

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.