Nile Kinnick Wins Heisman Trophy

Nile Kinnick is the Hawkeyes' greatest football player of all time.

In his football career, he gained 1,674 yards. In his senior year, he completed 31 passes for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 106 rushes netted 374 yards, and his 71 punts over three years were good for 2,834 yards, an average of 39.9 yards per kick. His kickoff and punt returns totaled 604 yards, and he made 11 of his 17-drop kick attempts. In his acceptance speech at the Heisman Dinner, Kinnick reflected the prevailing isolationist mood of the country, saying that he thanked God he had been born in America "where they have football fields instead of in Europe where they have battlefields." And he added that he knew "the football players of this country had rather battle for such medals as the Heisman Trophy than for such medals as the Croix de Guerre and the Iron Cross." Soon after, Kinnick was a pilot of an aircraft carrier in the Caribbean. In June 1943, he crash landed his fighter in the sea and disappeared forever.

Nile was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1951.

Iowa's legendary Kinnick won in the East and Midwest as a four-man sweep took most of the votes. Harmon, Christman and Cafego were the big vote getters but John Kimbrough of Texas A&M won in the Southwest and UCLA's Kenney Washington was third in the Far West voting. Washington's running mate in the backfield was a young man named Jackie Robinson. Ken Kavanaugh of Louisiana State and Banks McFadden of Clemson also received votes in the South.

No. of registered electors: 700(approximate)
Date of announcement: November 28, 1939
Date of dinner: December 6, 1939

Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr. (July 9, 1918 in Adel, Iowa – June 2, 1943, in the Gulf of Paria, Venezuela) was a student and a college football player at the University of Iowa. He won the 1939 Heisman Trophy and was a consensus All-American. He died during a training flight while serving as a U.S Navy aviator in World War II. Kinnick was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, and the University of Iowa renamed its football stadium "Kinnick Stadium" in his honor in 1972.

efore the 1939 season, Kinnick wrote, "For three years, nay for fifteen years, I have been preparing for this last year of football. I anticipate becoming the roughest, toughest all-around back yet to hit this conference." He also wrote, "I'm looking forward to showing Anderson what a real football player looks like - so hold your hats."[4]
Coach Anderson liked Kinnick immediately. He referred to all of his players by their last names, except Kinnick, who was always "Nile". Anderson favored student-athletes, because he felt that scholars made better players over the long run. He believed the 1939 team could be a good one, but only if the starters played significant minutes. Before the first game, the Des Moines Register had a small note stating that "a set of iron men may be developed to play football for Iowa."[5] The 1939 Hawkeyes, nicknamed the "Ironmen", would become one of the greatest teams in school history. Many of Anderson's players played complete games during that season for the Hawkeyes.
In 1939, Iowa finished the year ranked ninth in the AP Poll with a 6-1-1 record. Kinnick threw for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 31 passes and ran for 374 yards. He was involved in 16 of the 19 touchdowns (11 passing, 5 rushing) that Iowa scored and was involved in 107 of the 130 points that Iowa scored that year. He played 402 of a possible 420 minutes that season. All told, Kinnick set 14 school records, six of which still stand over 65 years later.
At the end of the season, Nile Kinnick won virtually every major award in the country. He was a consensus First-Team All-American, and he appeared on every first team ballot to become the only unanimous selection in the AP voting. He won the Big Ten MVP award by the largest margin in history. He also won the Walter Camp Award and the Maxwell Award. Nile Kinnick even won the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, beating out such notables as Joe DiMaggio, Byron Nelson, and Joe Louis. He was the first college football player to win that award. On November 28, 1939, Nile Kinnick won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the only Iowa Hawkeye to win college football's most prestigious award.

Nile Kinnick, Halfback
Iowa, 1937-1939

Much stock has been put into the legendary aspect of the player and what he meant to his school and to college football. No player in college football history meant more to a whole state than Nile Kinnick meant to Iowa becoming its most popular hero and is still today its most revered icon. If you want the ultimate model of what a student/athlete should be, Kinnick was it as a Heisman winner on the football field and a honor student and class president off of it.

The Iron man of Iron Men: Iowa football wasn't exactly a power in the world of college football in the 1930s as its neighbor to the north, Minnesota, was busy owning the Midwest. After going 2-13-1 and scoring a total of 82 points in 1937 and 1938, Dr. Eddie Anderson took over the head coaching job and Iowa went on to have a season for the ages winning games in dramatic fashion with a group of two way players outlasting several big-time powerhouses with specialists on offense and defense.

Kinnick had a flair for the dramatic making the game-winning play against Indiana choosing to throw for a fifteen yard touchdown pass rather than try the game-tying field goal. After an early 27-7 loss to Michigan, he took care of Wisconsin on a late touchdown pass for 19-13 win. Losing player after player to injury, Iowa had only 14 healthy players late against Purdue in the 4-0 win. Iowa upset No. 1 Notre Dame 7-6 using only 15 players with Kinnick punting 16 times for 731 yards including a 63-yard boot under a heavy rush pinning the Irish on the six-yard line late in the game. Many still consider it the greatest clutch punt in college football history. Kinnick also scored Iowa's only touchdown. The following week the "Iron man" team of Iowa upset the might Minnesota squad 13-9.

The Iron Man of the Iron Man team played 402 consecutive minutes before getting knocked out of the Northwestern game with a separated shoulder. Kinnick was the star of the show all year throwing for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 31 passes and ran for 374 yards. In his career he gained 1,674 yards returning kickoffs for 604 yards. As a kicker, Kinnick punted 71 times in his career for a 39.9 average and hit 11 of 17 drop kicks. In 1939, Kinnick was involved in 16 of the 19 touchdowns (11 passing, 5 rushing) Iowa scored and responsive for 107 of Iowa's 130 points.

The Heisman speech: In perhaps the most eloquent Heisman speech ever given, Kinnick finished with this epic passage. "If you will permit me, I'd like to make a comment which in my mind is indicative, perhaps, of the greater significance of football, and sports emphasis in general in this country, and that is, I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest, and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country, would much more, much rather struggle and fights to win the Heisman award, than the Croix de Guerre."

The "big" man on campus: Along with being the star of the football team, Kinnick was senior class president, a Phi Betta Kappa and a member of the national scholastic honor society.