|Sport(s)||Football, basketball, baseball|
October 23, 1869|
|Died||October 3, 1936
New York, New York
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
Washington & Jefferson
|Administrative career (AD unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
College Football Data Warehouse
|Accomplishments and honors|
1 National (1917)
5 SIAA (1900, 1902, 1917–1919)
|College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1954 (profile)
John William Heisman (October 23, 1869 – October 3, 1936) was an American player and coach of football, basketball, and baseball. He served as the head football coach at Oberlin College (1892, 1894), Buchtel College—now known as the University of Akron (1893–1894), Auburn University (1895–1899), Clemson University (1900–1903), Georgia Tech (1904–1919), the University of Pennsylvania (1920–1922), Washington & Jefferson College (1923), and Rice University (1924–1927), compiling a career college football record of 186–70–18.
His 1917 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have been recognized as a national champion. Heisman was also the head basketball coach at Georgia Tech (1908–1909, 1912–1914), tallying a mark of 9–14, and the head baseball coach at Buchtel (1894), Clemson (1899–1904), and Georgia Tech (1904–1917), amassing a career college baseball record of 219–119–7.
Early life and playing career
Heisman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Sara (née Lehr) and Johann M. Heisman. He grew up in Titusville, Pennsylvania, where he played football for Titusville High School, graduating in 1887. He went on to play football at Brown University (1887–1889) and at the University of Pennsylvania (1890–1891). He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1892.
Early coaching career
Heisman coached at Oberlin College in 1892, and went to Buchtel College. There he helped make the first of his many permanent alterations to the sport. It was then customary for the center to begin a play by rolling the ball backwards, but this was troublesome for Buchtel's unusually tall quarterback, Harry Clark. Under Heisman, the center began tossing the ball to Clark, a practice that evolved into the snap that today begins every play.
Heisman returned to Oberlin in 1894. The following year, he became the fifth head football coach at Auburn University. In 1900, Heisman went to Clemson University, where he coached four winning seasons that included 1903's 73–0 victory over Georgia Tech and which led the university to name a street on the campus for him.
Heisman moved from Clemson to Georgia Tech in 1904, where he coached for the longest tenure of his career (16 years). He won 77% of his football games, and had his finest success, winning a national championship in 1917. At Georgia Tech, Heisman also coached basketball and baseball in addition to football. He was paid $2,250 and 30 percent of attendance fees; later in his time at Tech, his salary went up and the percentage of receipts went down. Heisman eventually also coached basketball and track, became the head of the Atlanta Baseball Association and the athletic director of the Atlanta Athletic Club. He cut back on these expanded duties in 1918, when he only coached football between September 1 and December 15.
In football at Tech, Heisman put together 16 consecutive non-losing seasons, including three undefeated campaigns and a 32-game undefeated streak. In his first year, his team posted victories over Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Cumberland, and a tie with his last employer, Clemson. In a game played in Atlanta in 1916, Heisman's Georgia Tech squad defeated the Cumberland College Bulldogs, 222–0, in the most one-sided college football game ever played. Heisman's running up the score against his out-manned opponent was supposedly motivated by revenge against Cumberland's baseball team for running up the score against Tech, 22–0, the previous year with a team primarily composed of semi-pro players, and against sportswriters he felt were too focused on numbers.
After a divorce in 1919, Heisman left Atlanta to prevent any social embarrassment to his former wife, who chose to remain in the city. He went back to Penn for one season in 1920, then to Washington and Jefferson College, before ending his career with four seasons at Rice.
Heisman was also a Shakespearean actor off the field and was known for his use of polysyllabic language in coaching. This is exemplified in his speeches, one of which is given here. He was known to repeat this annually, at the start of each season, in order to encourage his team.
|“||What is this? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football.||”|
Death and burial
Heisman died of pneumonia  on October 3, 1936 in New York City. Three days later he was taken by train to his wife's hometown of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where he was buried in Grave D, Lot 11, Block 3 of the city-owned Forest Home Cemetery.
Heisman was an innovator and developed one of the first shifts, had both guards pull to lead an end run, and had his center toss the ball back, instead of rolling or kicking it. He was a proponent of the legalization of the forward pass in 1906 and he originated the "hike" or "hep" shouted by the quarterback to start each play. He suggested that the game be divided into quarters instead of halves.
Heisman subsequently became the athletics director of the former Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan, New York. In 1935 the club began awarding a Downtown Athletic Club trophy for the best football player east of the Mississippi River. On December 10, 1936, just two months after Heisman's death on October 3, the trophy was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy, and is now given to the player voted as the season's most outstanding collegiate football player. Voters for this award consist primarily of media representatives, who are allocated by regions across the country in order to filter out possible regional bias, and former recipients. Following the bankruptcy of the Downtown Athletic Club in 2002, the award is now given out by the Heisman Trust.
Head coaching record
|Oberlin Yeomen (Independent) (1892)|
|Buchtel (Independent) (1893–1894)|
|Oberlin Yeomen (Independent) (1894)|
|Auburn Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1895–1899)|
|Clemson Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1900–1903)|
|Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1904–1919)|
|Penn Quakers (Independent) (1920–1922)|
|Washington & Jefferson Presidents (Independent) (1923)|
|1923||Washington & Jefferson||6–1–1|
|Washington & Jefferson:||6–1–1|
|Rice Owls (Southwest Conference) (1924–1927)|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
- "Mike Bobinski Bio". ramblinwreck.com. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- "John Heisman". Tech Traditions: Ramblin' Memories. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
- Adrienne DiMatteo (Spring 2007). "Heisman, John William". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Penn State University Libraries. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
- "Heisman Trophy". Heisman.com. Retrieved 2007-05-19.
- "John Heisman (1869-1936)". Penn Biographies. Penn University Archives & Records Center. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
- Schlabach, Mark. Heisman: The Man Behind the Trophy. By John M. Heisman. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 45. Print.
- DiMatteo, Adrienne. "John Heisman Biography". PA Center for the Book. Retrieved 2 July 2008.
- McMath, Robert C.; Ronald H. Bayor; James E. Brittain; Lawrence Foster; August W. Giebelhaus; Germaine M. Reed. Engineering the New South: Georgia Tech 1885-1985. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
- "Tech Timeline: 1910s". Tech Traditions. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
- John Heisman article - petroleumhistory.org
- "John W. Heisman, An Inventor of the Game". Heisman History. Heisman Trophy Official Website. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- "Heisman John William". Heisman's Bio. Answers.com. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- "Gravesite Still Draws Visitors". Heisman's gravesite. ESPN.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- "Your Hometown". Wisconsin Places to Visit. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- Britannica Online, John Heisman
- Georgia Tech football profile
- John Heisman at the College Football Hall of Fame
- John Heisman at the New Georgia Encyclopedia