Today is the 80th anniversary of Iowa’s Nile Kinnick being presented the Heisman Trophy.
The only Hawkeye to receive college football’s highest honor accepted the award on behalf of his teammates at a banquet during what he described in his acceptance speech as a “fine trip’’ to New York City.
Here is today’s Hawkeye 10@10:
1. The acceptance speech Nile Kinnick gave as he received the Heisman Trophy on Dec. 6, 1939 at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City reflected both Kinnick’s personality and the times in which they were delivered.
Combining college football and the war that was underway in Europe, Kinnick received a thunderous ovation following his speech.
“I thank God I was born on the gridirons of the middle west and not on the battle fields of Europe,’’ Kinnick said, following with, “I can say confidently and positively that football players in this country would rather fight for the Heisman award than the Croix de Guerre.’’
In addition to receiving the Heisman, Kinnick also was chosen as the recipient of the Walter Camp and Maxwell trophies that season as the nation’s top player.
A consensus all-American, Kinnick also was selected as the most valuable player in the Big Ten in 1939.
2. The senior season Nile Kinnick enjoyed was Heisman worthy.
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound senior had a part in 109 of the 130 points scored by Iowa’s legendary Ironmen, throwing 11 touchdown passes and leading the nation that season with eight interceptions.
Kinnick’s work included throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Erwin Prasse on the final play of a 32-29 win over Indiana and running one yard off left tackle through a group of four Notre Dame defenders for the deciding score in a 7-6 win over Notre Dame.
He also threw two touchdown passes, including one in the final minutes to rally Iowa from a 9-0 deficit to beat Minnesota 13-9.
3. A 7-7 tie against Northwestern in the final game of the season cost Nile Kinnick and Iowa a chance to share the Big Ten championship that season.
Kinnick, who had played 402 consecutive minutes on both sides of the ball, exited the Northwestern game in the third quarter with a separated shoulder and the Hawkeyes settled for second place in the conference.
But, the win over Notre Dame helped Iowa finish ranked ninth nationally and ahead of Big Ten champ Ohio State.
4. The Ironmen team that was led by Kinnick produced one of the greatest turnaround stories in Iowa football history.
The Hawkeyes finished 1-7 in 1938 before first-year coach Eddie Anderson watched a team with limited depth craft a 6-1-1 season.
From his spots at halfback and in the defensive backfield, Kinnick averaged nearly 57 minutes per game for a team that earned its nickname because Anderson played no more than 18 players in any game that season.
In his Heisman speech, Kinnick credited Anderson with orchestrating the turnaround.
5. Nile Kinnick received 651 votes in balloting for the 1939 Heisman Trophy.
Legendary Michigan running back and 1940 Heisman recipient Tom Harmon was second with 405 votes, edging Missouri Quarterback Paul Christman and his 391 votes. Tennessee running back George Cafego finished fourth in the voting with 296 votes.
Iowa has had three players finish as the runner-up in Heisman voting since, Randy Duncan in 1959, Chuck Long in 1985 and Brad Banks in 2002.
Iowa’s football stadium, known as Iowa Stadium, was renamed in Kinnick’s honor on Sept. 23, 1972 and the 12-foot bronze statue of his likeness has stood outside of the facility’s south entrance since 2006.
The statue features Kinnick wearing a letter jacket with academic books in his arms and a helmet at his feet. It has become a tradition for Hawkeye players to touch the helmet as they enter the stadium.
6. Nile Kinnick was born on July 9, 1918 in Adel, Iowa, the son of Nile Kinnick Sr. and Frances Clarke Kinnick.
The eldest of three boys, his father played football at Iowa State for three years and worked as a farm manager.
His maternal grandfather, George W. Clarke, was once a governor of Iowa.
7. A star athlete at Adel High School, Nile Kinnick also played American Legion baseball where his roles included working as a catcher for future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller.
The Kinnick family moved to Omaha prior to his senior year of high school, where he played football and basketball at Benson High School.
After high school, Nile Kinnick tried out for the football team at Minnesota, a two-time national champ in the 1930s, but coach Bernie Bierman told him he had no room on the roster for the halfback.
8. Nile Kinnick was a multi-sport athlete at Iowa, participating in football, basketball and baseball as a freshman.
He dropped baseball after one year and left the basketball program after lettering in 1938 to concentrate on football and academics.
Elected as the senior class president, Kinnick was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the national scholastic honor society, and was a 3.4 student while earning a degree in commerce in 1940.
He was enrolled in the Iowa College of Law before enlisting in the United States Naval Air Corps Reserves in 1941.
9. NFL opportunities did exist for Nile Kinnick following the completion of his college career.
But, he turned down a $10,000 offer considered lucrative at the time to enter law school, with one eye on a potential political future.
Kinnick actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie in 1940 and was a popular figure at Willkie’s rallies.
10. Nile Kinnick reported for active duty in the United States Naval Air Corps Reserves on Dec. 4, 1941, three days before Pearl Harbor.
He died on June, 1943 when airplane he was piloting crashed into the Caribbean Sea off of the coast of Venezuela days after he had been deployed on the U.S.S. Lexington.
Shortly after leaving the carrier’s deck on what was to be a routine training flight, the Grumman F-4 that Kinnick was piloting began to lose oil.
He executed an emergency landing into the waters of the Gulf of Paria, but by the time the Lexington rescue crew reached the plane’s position 10 minutes after the crash, both Kinnick and his plane had vanished.