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John Heisman

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John Heisman
Heisman in his late forties at the Georgia Institute of Technology
Heisman at Georgia Tech c. 1918
Sport(s) Football, basketball, baseball
Biographical details
Born (1869-10-23)October 23, 1869
Cleveland, Ohio
Died October 3, 1936(1936-10-03) (aged 66)
New York, New York
Alma mater
Playing career
1887–1888 Brown
1889–1891 Penn
Position(s) Center, tackle, end
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1892 Oberlin
1893–1894 Buchtel
1894 Oberlin
1895–1899 Auburn
1900–1903 Clemson
1904–1919 Georgia Tech
1920–1922 Penn
1923 Washington & Jefferson
1924–1927 Rice
1908–1909 Georgia Tech
1912–1914 Georgia Tech
1894 Buchtel
1901–1903 Clemson
1904–1917 Georgia Tech
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1904–1919 Georgia Tech
1924–1927 Rice
Head coaching record
Overall 186–70–18 (football)
9–14 (basketball)
199–108–7 (baseball)
Accomplishments and honors
1 National (1917)
7 SIAA (1900, 1902–1903, 1915–1918)
1 SIAA (1906)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1954 (profile)

John William Heisman (October 23, 1869 – October 3, 1936) was a player and coach of American football, baseball, and basketball, as well as a sportswriter and actor. He served as the head football coach at Oberlin College, Buchtel College (now known as the University of Akron), Auburn University, Clemson University, Georgia Tech, the University of Pennsylvania, Washington & Jefferson College, and Rice University, compiling a career college football record of 186–70–18. In 1917, Heisman's Georgia Tech Golden Tornado were recognized as the national champion.

Heisman was also the head basketball coach at Georgia Tech, tallying a mark of 9–14, and the head baseball coach at Buchtel, Clemson, and Georgia Tech, amassing a career college baseball record of 199–108–7. He served as the athletic director at Georgia Tech and Rice. While at Georgia Tech, he was also the president of the Atlanta Crackers baseball team.

Sportswriter Fuzzy Woodruff dubbed Heisman the "pioneer of Southern football".[1] He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1954. His entry there notes that Heisman "stands only behind Amos Alonzo Stagg, Pop Warner, and Walter Camp as a master innovator of the brand of football of his day".[2] He was instrumental in several changes to the game, including legalizing the forward pass. The Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the season's most outstanding college football player, is named after him.

Early life and playing career[edit]

Heisman was born on October 23, 1869 in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Bavarian German immigrant Johann Michael Heissmann and Sara Lehr Heissman.[n 1] He grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania near Titusville and was salutatorian of his graduating class at Titusville High School.[6] His oration at his graduation entitled "The Dramatist as Sermonizer" was described as "full of dramatic emphasis and fire, and showed how the masterpieces of Shakespeare depicted the ends of unchecked passion."[6][7] Although he was a drama student, he confessed he was "football mad." He played varsity football for Titusville High School from 1884 to 1886.[6] Heisman's father refused to watch him play at Titusville, calling football "bestial".[8]

Heisman went on to play football as a lineman at Brown University[9] and at the University of Pennsylvania.[10][11][12] On Brown's football team, he was a substitute guard in 1887, and a starting tackle in 1888.[11] At Penn, he was a substitute center in 1889, a substitute tackle in 1890, and a starting end in 1891.[11] Sportswriter Edwin Pope tells us in 1889 Heisman was "a 158-pound center ... in constant dread that his immediate teammates—guards weighing 212 and 243—would fall on him."[13] He had a flat nose due to being struck in the face by a football, when he tried to block a kick against Penn State by leap-frogging the center.[13] He also played baseball at Penn.[14] He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1892.[12] Due to poor eyesight, he took his exams orally.[15][16]

Coaching career[edit]

In his book Principles of Football, Heisman described his coaching strategy: "The coach should be masterful and commanding, even dictatorial. He has no time to say 'please' or 'mister'. At times he must be severe, arbitrary, and little short of a czar."[17][18] Heisman always used a megaphone at practice.[19] He was known for his use of polysyllabic language.[9] "Heisman's voice was deep, his diction perfect, his tone biting."[13] He was known to repeat this annually, at the start of each football season:[20]

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.

Early coaching career: Oberlin and Buchtel[edit]

Heisman first coached at Oberlin College.[6][11] In 1892, The Oberlin Review wrote: "Mr. Heisman has entirely remade our football. He has taught us scientific football."[21] He used the double pass, from tackle to halfback,[22] and moved his quarterback to the safety position on defense.[23] Influenced by Yale and Pudge Heffelfinger, Heisman implemented the now illegal "flying wedge" formation.[24] It involved seven players arranged as a "V" to protect the ball carrier.[25] Heisman was also likely influenced by Heffelfinger to pull guards on end runs.[26][27]

1892 Oberlin football team. Heisman on the left in the middle row.

On his 1892 team, Heisman's trainer was Clarence Hemingway, the father of author Ernest Hemingway[28] and one of his linemen was the first Hawaiian to play college football, the future politician John Henry Wise.[29][30] The team beat Ohio State twice, and considered itself undefeated at the end of the season.[29] However, the outcome of its game against Michigan is still in dispute. Michigan declared it had won the game, 26–24, but Oberlin said it won 24–22. The referee, an Oberlin supporter, had ruled that time had expired. The umpire, a Michigan supporter, ruled otherwise. Michigan then ran for a touchdown with no Oberlin players on the field. The Michigan Daily and Detroit Tribune reported that Michigan had won the game, while The Oberlin News and The Oberlin Review reported that Oberlin had won.[28]

In 1893, Heisman became the football and baseball coach at Buchtel College. A disappointing baseball season was made up for by a 5–2 football season.[31] It was then customary for the center to begin a play by rolling or kicking the ball backwards, but this proved difficult for Buchtel's unusually tall quarterback Harry Clark.[32][n 2] Under Heisman, the center began tossing the ball to Clark, a practice that eventually evolved into the snap.[34] Buchtel won a single game against Ohio State at the Ohio State Fair[35] before Heisman returned to Oberlin in 1894, posting a 4–3–1 record, including losses to Michigan and undefeated Penn State.[25][36]


Portrait of Heisman in his mid- to late twenties at Auburn University
Heisman at Auburn

After his two years at Oberlin and possibly due to the economic Panic of 1893, Heisman began working as a tomato farmer in Texas. It was hard work in the heat and Heisman was losing money.[37][38] He was contacted by Walter Riggs, then the manager of the Auburn University football team. Auburn and Riggs were looking for a football coach, and Heisman was referred to them by his former player at Oberlin, Penn's then-captain Carl S. Williams.[37] In the fall of 1895, Heisman became the fifth head football coach at Auburn. Heisman "railed and snorted in practice, imploring players to do their all for God, Country, Auburn, and Heisman. Before each game he made squadmen take a nonshirk, nonflinch oath."[39] Due to his fondness for Shakespeare, he would sometimes coach the team with a British accent.[40]

Heisman's first game as an Auburn coach took place that November, when his team played Vanderbilt. Heisman had his quarterback Reynolds Tichenor use the "hidden ball trick" to tie the game at 6 points.[41][42][n 3] However, Vanderbilt answered by kicking a field goal and winning 9–6, making it the first game of Southern football decided by a field goal.[45]

Earlier that season Heisman witnessed one of the first illegal forward passes when Georgia faced North Carolina in Atlanta. Georgia was about to block a punt when UNC's Joel Whitaker tossed the ball out of desperation, and George Stephens caught the pass and ran 70 yards for a touchdown.[46][47] Georgia coach Pop Warner complained to the referee that the play was illegal, but the referee let the play stand because he did not see the pass.[47] Later, Heisman would become one of the main proponents of making the forward pass legal.

Auburn vs. Georgia in 1895

At Auburn, Heisman had the idea for his quarterback to call out "hike" or "hep" to start a play and receive the ball from the center, or to draw the opposing team into an off side penalty.[48] He also used a fake snap to draw the other team off side.[49] He began his use of a delayed buck play where an end took a hand-off, then handed the ball to the halfback on the opposite side, who rushed up the middle.[48]

The 1896 Auburn team lost to Warner's Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) champion Georgia team, which was led by quarterback Richard Von Albade Gammon.[50] The 1897 Auburn team featured lineman John Penton. Out of its three games, one was a scoreless tie against Sewanee, from "The University of the South" in Tennessee.[51][n 4] That season the team finished $700 in debt, in response Heisman took on the role of a theater producer and staged a comedic play David Garrick.[53]

Like the previous season, the 1898 team won two out of three games with its loss coming against undefeated North Carolina.[51] The 1899 team ran an early version of the hurry-up offense. As Heisman recalled, "I do not think I have ever seen so fast a team as that was."[54] Auburn was leading rival Georgia by a score of 11–6 when the game was called due to darkness, lighting not being available at that time, resulting in an official scoreless tie.[55] Auburn lost just one game, 11–10 to the "Iron Men" of Sewanee, who shutout all their other opponents.[56]

Heisman left Auburn after the 1899 season, and wrote a farewell letter with "tears in my eyes, and tears in my voice; tears even in the trembling of my hand".[57]


In 1900 Heisman was hired by Clemson University as football and baseball coach. He was the first Clemson coach who had experience coaching at another school.[58][59] Again Walter Riggs, who moved on from Auburn to coach and manage at Clemson, was instrumental in the hiring. Riggs started an association to help pay Heisman's salary, which was $1,800 per year, and raised $415.11.[60]

Heisman at Clemson.

Heisman coached baseball, from 1901 to 1903, posting a 28–6–1 record. He still has the highest winning percentage in school history in both football and baseball.[61][62] Under Heisman, pitcher Vedder Sitton was considered "one of the best twirlers in the country" and one of "the best pitchers that Clemson ever had".[63][64]

In his four seasons as Clemson football coach, Heisman won three SIAA titles: in 1900, 1902, and 1903.[10][65] By 1900 Heisman was "the undisputed master of Southern football".[66] The 1900 team beat Davidson on opening day by a 64–0 score, then the largest ever made in the South,[67] and finished the season undefeated at 6–0.[68] The 1901 Clemson team beat Guilford on opening day 122–0, scoring the most points in Clemson history, and the next week it tied Tennessee 6–6, finishing the season at 3–1–1.[68]

Heisman would later say that his approach at Clemson was "radically different from anything on earth".[69][70] He was described as "a master of taking advantage of the surprise element."[71] One illustration of this is the 1902 game with Georgia Tech. The day before the game, Heisman sent in substitutes to Atlanta, who checked into a hotel, and partied until dawn. The next day, the varsity team was well rested and prepared, while Georgia Tech was fooled and expected an easy win. Clemson won that game 44–5.[62][72]

The 1902 team went 6–1.[68] Clemson lost 12–6 to the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, for the first time since 1896, when their rivalry began.[73] Several fights broke out that day. As one writer put it: "The Carolina fans that week were carrying around a poster with the image of a tiger with a gamecock standing on top of it, holding the tiger's tail as if he was steering the tiger". Another brawl broke out before both sides agreed to burn the poster in an effort to defuse tensions. In the aftermath, the rivalry was suspended until 1909.[74][75] Last game of the season, Clemson beat Tennessee 11–0, in a game during which Tennessee's Toots Douglas launched a 109-yard punt (the field length was 110 yards in those days).[76][77]

refer to caption
1903 Clemson football team. Heisman in back, second from left with glasses

The 1903 team went 4–1–1, and opened the season by beating Georgia 29–0. The next week, Clemson played Georgia's rival Georgia Tech. To inspire Clemson, Georgia offered a bushel of apples for every point it scored after the 29th.[78] Rushing for 615 yards Clemson beat Georgia Tech 73–0.[78] At the end of the season, in the game billed as the championship of the South the Tigers finished the season by tying Cumberland 11–11.[79] That years's star Clemson players included ends Vedder Sitton and Hope Sadler, and fullback Jock Hanvey.[63]

Georgia Tech[edit]

After the 73–0 defeat by Clemson, Georgia Tech approached Heisman and was able to hire him as a coach and an athletic director.[80][81] A banner proclaiming "Tech Gets Heisman for 1904" was strung across Atlanta's Piedmont Park.[82] Heisman was hired for $2,250 a year and 30% of the home ticket sales,[83] a $50 raise over his Clemson salary.[82][n 5] He would coach Georgia Tech for the longest tenure of his career, 16 years.

Baseball and basketball[edit]

1907 Georgia Tech baseball team. Heisman in center, holding megaphone.

At Georgia Tech, Heisman coached baseball and basketball in addition to football.[84]

The 1906 Georgia Tech baseball team was his best, posting a 23–3 record.[85] Star players in 1906 included captain and outfielder Chip Robert, shortstop Tommy McMillan, and pitchers Ed Lafitte and Craig Day.[86][87] In 1907, Lafitte posted 19 strikeouts in 10 innings against rival Georgia.[88] In 1908, Heisman was also Georgia Tech's first basketball coach.[89] For many years after his death, from 1938 to 1956, Georgia Tech played basketball in the Heisman Gym.[90]

In 1904, Heisman was an official in the Atlanta indoor baseball league.[91] In 1908, Heisman became the president of the Atlanta Crackers minor league baseball team. The Atlanta Crackers captured the 1909 Southern Association title.[92] Heisman also became the athletic director of the Atlanta Athletic Club in 1908, its golf course having been built in 1904.[83][93]


Heisman never had a losing season coaching Georgia Tech football, including three undefeated campaigns and a 32-game undefeated streak.[n 6] At some time during his tenure at Georgia Tech, he started the practice of posting downs and yardage on the scoreboard.[95]

1904 to 1914: Rule changes and the jump shift[edit]

Heisman's first football season at Georgia Tech was a strong 8–1–1 performance, the first winning season for the school since 1893 (the 1901 team was blacklisted).[83] One source relates: "The real feature of the season was the marvelous advance made by the Georgia School of Technology."[96] Heisman's team posted victories over Georgia, Tennessee, University of Florida at Lake City, and Cumberland, and a tie with his previous employer, Clemson. He suffered just one loss, to Auburn. The same season, Dan McGugin was hired by Vanderbilt and Mike Donahue by Auburn. Vanderbilt and Auburn would dominate the SIAA until 1916, when Heisman won his first official title with Georgia Tech.[97] The 1905 Georgia Tech team went 6–0–1, and Heisman gained a reputation as a coaching "wizard".[98][99]

Diagram illustrating Heisman's shift formation

After the bloody 1905 football season, President Theodore Roosevelt intervened and demanded the rules be reformed to make the sport safer. The rules committee then legalized the forward pass, for which Heisman was instrumental, enlisting the support of committee members John Bell and Paul Dashiell.[100][101] Heisman had tried unsuccessfully for three years to get Walter Camp to legalize the forward pass.[22][100]

The 1906 Georgia Tech team beat Auburn for the first time, and in a loss to Sewanee first used Heisman's jump shift offense, which became known as the Heisman shift.[102][103][104] In the jump shift, the backfield would be in a vertical line, as one would in an I-formation with an extra halfback. Then the three backs which would not receive the ball from center would shift all to one side. A split second elapsed, then the ball was snapped and the wall of three blockers charged on.[105][n 7] Stars of this early period for Tech included Lob Brown and Billy Wilson.[106][107]

The 1907 and 1908 teams were led by Chip Robert and "Twenty Percent" Davis, considered twenty percent of the team's worth,[108] who was captain in 1909.[98] Before the 1910 season, Heisman convinced the rules committee to change football from a game of two halves to four quarters, again for safety.[109] His 1910 team went 5–3.[98] The team continued to post winning records but with multiple losses each season.

The 1911 team featured future coach William Alexander as a reserve quarterback,[110][111] and was captained by Pat Patterson.[98] Quarterback Alf McDonald made an All-Southern team in 1912,[112] and the team moved to Grant Field from Ponce de Leon Park (where the Atlanta Crackers also played) by 1913.[113] The 1914 team was captained by Wooch Fielder and went 6–2.[98]

1915 to 1919: Four straight SIAA championships[edit]
Hand-painted scoreboard displaying college football's worst blowout
The 1916 scoreboard, showing football's worst blowout

During the span of 1915 to 1918, Georgia Tech posted a 30–1–2 record, outscored opponents 1611–93, and claimed four straight SIAA titles.[65] The 1915 team went 7–0–1 and claimed an SIAA title despite being officially independent, and was immediately dubbed the greatest in Georgia Tech's history up to that point.[114][115] However, the team continued to improve over the next two seasons.

The 1916 team went 8–0–1 and was the first to vault Georgia Tech football to national prominence.[111] According to one writer, it "seemed to personify Heisman" by playing hard in every game on both offense and defense.[116] Georgia Tech 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 motivated by revenge against Cumberland's baseball team, for running up the score against Georgia Tech 22–0 with a team primarily composed of professional Nashville Vols players,[117][118] and against the sportswriters who he felt were too focused on numbers.[119]

Heisman in his late forties wearing a jersey and lower pads, carrying his megaphone.
Heisman, c. 1917, in front of Clemson's Bowman Field..

In 1917, the backfield of Everett Strupper, Joe Guyon, Al Hill, and Judy Harlan helped propel Heisman to his finest success. The team posted a 9–0 record and a national championship, the first for a Southern team.[120] For many years, it was considered the finest team the South ever produced.[121] Relying on the shift formation, Georgia Tech outscored opponents 491–17. Auburn, the SIAA's second place team, was beaten 68–7.[122] The team produced the first two players from the Deep South ever selected All-American: Strupper and team captain, tackle Walker Carpenter.[123]

University faculty succeeded in preventing a postseason national championship game with Pop Warner's undefeated Pittsburgh team.[124] In the next season of 1918, after losing several players to World War I, Georgia Tech lost a lopsided game to Pittsburgh 32–0.[125] Sportswriter Francis J. Powers wrote:

At Forbes Field, the dressing rooms of the two teams were separated only by a thin wall. As the Panthers were sitting around, awaiting Warner's pre-game talk, Heisman began to orate in the adjoining room. In his charge to the Tech squad, Heisman became flowery and fiery. He brought the heroes of ancient Greece and the soldier dead in his armor among the ruins of Pompeii. It was terrific and the Panthers sat, spellbound. When Heisman had finished, Warner chortled and quietly said to his players: 'Okay, boys. There's the speech. Now go out and knock them off.'[126]

Heisman cut back on his expanded duties in 1918, and only coached football between September 1 and December 15.[83] Georgia Tech eclipsed 100 points three different times.[127] Buck Flowers, a small back in his first year on the team, had transferred from Davidson a year before, where he had starred in a game against Georgia Tech.[128] Flowers had grown to weigh 150 pounds and was a backup until Heisman discovered his ability as an open-field runner on punt returns.[129]

Also in 1918, center Bum Day became the first player from the South selected for Walter Camp's first team All-America, historically loaded with college players from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other Northeastern colleges.[130] Flowers and tackle Bill Fincher made Camp's second team.[131]

The 1919 team was beaten by Pittsburgh and Washington & Lee, and in the final game Auburn gave Georgia Tech its first loss to an SIAA school in five years (since Auburn in 1914).[132]

Penn and Washington & Jefferson[edit]

Portrait of Heisman in his mid-fifties at Rice University

With Bill Alexander hired as his successor, Heisman left Atlanta after the 1919 season,[133] going back to Penn for three seasons from 1920 to 1922. Most notable perhaps is the 9–7 loss to Alabama in 1922, the Crimson Tide's first major inter-sectional victory.[134] In 1923 Heisman coached the Washington & Jefferson Presidents, which beat the previously undefeated West Virginia Mountaineers.[135]


Following the season at Washington and Jefferson College, Heisman ended his coaching career with four seasons at Rice. In 1924, after being selected by The Committee on Outdoor Sports, he took over the job as Rice University's first full-time head football coach and athletic director, succeeding Phillip Arbuckle.[136][137] His teams saw little success, and he earned more than any faculty member.[137]

Rice was his last coaching job before he retired in 1927 to lead the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan, New York.[138] In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club began awarding a Downtown Athletic Club trophy for the best football player east of the Mississippi River.[9]


Fuzzy Woodruff relates Heisman's role in selecting All-Southern teams, an all-star team of players from the South, analogous to All-America teams: "The first selections that had any pretense of being backed by a judicial consideration were made by W. Reynolds Tichenor...The next selections were made by John W. Heisman, who was as good a judge of football men as the country ever produced."[139] Heisman drew much acclaim as a sportswriter, and was regularly published in the Atlanta Constitution,[140][141] and later in Collier's Weekly.[142]

Personal life[edit]

Heisman met his first wife, an actress, while he was participating in theater during his time at Clemson.[143] Evelyn McCollum Cox was a widow with a single child, a boy named Carlisle.[144] They got married during the 1903 season. Carlisle was 12 at the time, and he and Heisman would remain close after John and Evelyn had divorced each other.[143][145] They decided to separate in 1918 when Heisman was coaching at Georgia Tech and he and Evelyn were living in Atlanta.[143] To prevent any social embarrassment to his former wife, who chose to remain in the city, he left Atlanta after the divorce and took the head coaching position at Penn.[113][143] While in Atlanta, Heisman also shared the house with the family poodle named Woo. He would feed the dog ice cream.[146]

In 1924, while living in Washington, Pennsylvania, and coaching at Washington and Jefferson College, Heisman remarried. He first met Edith Maora Cole when she was a student at Buchtel College, where he was coaching football during the 1893 and 1894 seasons.[143] The two were close but decided not to marry due to Edith's problems with tuberculosis.[143] When they met again in their later years, the two decided to marry; this was in 1924, right before Heisman left Pennsylvania and took his last job as a coach at Rice University in Texas.[143]

Acting career[edit]

Poster for the play David Garrick produced and acted in by Heisman. Auburn University 1897

Heisman considered himself an actor as well as coach. He was a part of several acting troupes in the offseason. On May 20, 1898, Heisman appeared in Diplomacy (Dora by Victorien Sardou) with the Mordaunt-Block Stock Company at the Herald Square Theater. Later that summer, he performed in The Ragged Regiment by Robert Neilson Stephens at the Herald Square Theater and Caste at the Columbus Theater in Harlem.[147]

After finishing his job coaching at Auburn, he was in the Macdonald Stock Company, which performed at Crump's Park in Macon, Georgia, including the role of Dentatus in Virginius by James Sheridan Knowles. When the Macdonald Stock Company took a hiatus in June 1899, Heisman joined the Thanouser-Hatch Company of Atlanta. He performed in at least two plays for this company, in Brother John by Martha Morton at the Grand Theater in Atlanta, playing the role of Captain Van Sprague.[148]

In 1901, Heisman joined the Dixie Stock Company, which performed several plays in the Dukate's Theater at Biloxi, Mississippi. In 1902, he managed Crump's Park Stock Company.[149] He started the Heisman Dramatic Stock Company while at Clemson in 1903, which spent much of the summer performing at Riverside Park in Asheville, North Carolina.[150] By 1904 Heisman operated the Heisman Stock Company. His wife's stage name was Evelyn Barksdale. It performed at the Casino Theater at Pickett Springs Resort in Montgomery, Alabama. Their first performance was William Gillette's Because She Loved Him So. The next summer opened with a performance at the Grand Opera House in Augusta, Georgia. In 1906 and 1907, Heisman again performed in Crump's Park in Macon, as well as the Thunderbolt Casino in Savannah.[151]

Death and legacy[edit]

Heisman died of pneumonia on October 3, 1936, in New York City.[9] 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.[152][153] When Heisman died, he was preparing to write a history of football.[154]


A Heisman Trophy

Heisman was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1954, a member of the second class of inductees.[2] Heisman was an innovator and "master strategist".[10] He developed one of the first shifts.[155][156] He was a proponent of the legalization of the forward pass. He had both his guards pull to lead an end run and had his center snap the ball. He invented the hidden ball play, and originated the "hike" or "hep" shouted by the quarterback to start each play. He led the effort to cut the game from halves to quarters. He is credited with the idea of listing downs and yardage on the scoreboard, and of putting his quarterback at safety on defense.[2][157]

On December 10, 1936, just two months after Heisman's death on October 3, the Downtown Athletic Club trophy was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy, and is now given to the player voted as the season's most outstanding collegiate football player.[9] 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.[9] Following the bankruptcy of the Downtown Athletic Club in 2002, the award is now given out by the Heisman Trust.[158]

Heisman Street on Clemson's campus is named in his honor.[159] Heisman Drive, located directly south of Jordan–Hare Stadium on the Auburn University campus, is named in his honor as well.[160] A wooden statue of Heisman was placed at the Rhinelander–Oneida County Airport.[161] A bronze statue of him was placed on Akron's campus.[162] Heisman has also been the subject of a musical.[163]

Coaching tree[edit]

Heisman's coaching tree includes:

  1. Bill Alexander: played for Georgia Tech (1911–1912), head coach for Georgia Tech (1920–1944)[133]
  2. Bill Fincher: played for Georgia Tech (1916–1920), head coach for William & Mary (1921), assistant for Georgia Tech (1927–1928)[164]
  3. Jack Forsythe: played for Clemson (1900–1903), head coach for Florida State College (1904), Florida (1906)[165]
  4. Charles "Wahoo" Guyon: assistant for Georgia Tech (1917)[122]
  5. Joe Guyon: played for Georgia Tech (1916–1917), head coach for Union College (1919; 1923–1927)[166]
  6. Jock Hanvey: played for Clemson (1902–1903), assistant for Florida State College (1904)[167]
  7. Froggie Morrison: played for Georgia Tech (1914–1916), assistant for Georgia Tech (1933)[168]'
  8. John Penton, played for Auburn (1897), head coach for Clemson (1898).[37]
  9. Pup Phillips: played for Georgia Tech (1916–1917; 1919), head coach for University School for Boys (1923)[169]
  10. Vedder Sitton: played for Clemson (1901–1903), head baseball coach for Clemson (1915–1916).[64]
  11. Everett Strupper: played for Georgia Tech (1915–1917), assistant for Mercer (1922)[170]
  12. Reynolds Tichenor: played for Auburn (1893–1896), assistant for Auburn (1911–1919)[171]
  13. Billy Watkins, who replaced Heisman at Auburn (1900), "an old pupil of Heisman's".[172]
  14. Fay Wood: assistant for Georgia Tech (1918–1920)[173]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing
Oberlin Yeomen (Independent) (1892)
1892 Oberlin 7–0
Buchtel (Independent) (1893–1894)
1893 Buchtel 5–2
1894 Buchtel 1–0
Buchtel: 6–2 (.750)
Oberlin Yeomen (Independent) (1894)
1894 Oberlin 4–3–1
Oberlin: 11–3–1 (.767)
Auburn Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1895–1899)
1895 Auburn 2–1 2–1 3rd
1896 Auburn 3–1 3–1 4th
1897 Auburn 2–0–1 2–0–1 3rd
1898 Auburn 2–1 2–1 4th
1899 Auburn 3–1–1 2–1–1 6th
Auburn: 12–4–2 (.722) 11–4–2
Clemson Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1900–1903)
1900 Clemson 6–0 2–0 1st
1901 Clemson 3–1–1 2–0–1 2nd
1902 Clemson 6–1 5–0 1st
1903 Clemson 4–1–1 2–0–1 T–1st
Clemson: 19–3–2 (.833) 11–0–2
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1904–1913)
1904 Georgia Tech 8–1–1 2–1–1 6th
1905 Georgia Tech 6–0–1 4–0–1 2nd
1906 Georgia Tech 5–3–1 3–3 8th
1907 Georgia Tech 4–4 2–4 10th
1908 Georgia Tech 6–3 5–3 6th
1909 Georgia Tech 7–2 5–2 5th
1910 Georgia Tech 5–3 3–3 11th
1911 Georgia Tech 6–2–1 5–2–1 5th
1912 Georgia Tech 5–3–1 5–3 5th
1913 Georgia Tech 7–2 5–2 4th
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Independent) (1914–1915)
1914 Georgia Tech 6–2
1915 Georgia Tech 7–0–1 T–1st†
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets / Golden Tornado (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1916–1919)
1916 Georgia Tech 8–0–1 4–0–1 T–1st
1917 Georgia Tech 9–0 4–0 1st
1918 Georgia Tech 6–1 3–0 1st
1919 Georgia Tech 7–3 3–1 4th
Georgia Tech: 102–29–7 (.764) 53–24–4
Penn Quakers (Independent) (1920–1922)
1920 Penn 6–4
1921 Penn 4–3–2
1922 Penn 6–3
Penn: 16–10–2 (.607)
Washington & Jefferson Presidents (Independent) (1923)
1923 Washington & Jefferson 6–1–1
Washington & Jefferson: 6–1–1 (.813)
Rice Owls (Southwest Conference) (1924–1927)
1924 Rice 4–4 2–2 T–3rd
1925 Rice 4–4–1 1–2–1 5th
1926 Rice 4–4–1 0–4 7th
1927 Rice 2–6–1 1–3 6th
Rice: 14–18–3 (.443) 4–11–1
Total: 186–70–18 (.712) 83–41–9
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

† While officially independent, Georgia Tech claimed an SIAA title in 1915.


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Buchtel (Independent) (1894–1894)
1894 Buchtel 8–5
Buchtel: 8–5 (.615)
Clemson Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1901–1903)
1901 Clemson 10–2–1 3–1–1
1902 Clemson 9–3 1–2
1903 Clemson 9–1 4–0
Clemson: 28–6–1 (.814) 8–3–1
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1904–1917)
1904 Georgia Tech 15–7 9–6
1905 Georgia Tech 13–4 7–4
1906 Georgia Tech 23–3 16–2 1st
1907 Georgia Tech 10–5–1 10–5–1
1908 Georgia Tech 9–12 7–10
1909 Georgia Tech 13–8–1 7–7–1
1910 Georgia Tech 11–5–1 11–5–1
1911 Georgia Tech 7–6 6–5
1912 Georgia Tech 8–10 8–9
1913 Georgia Tech 9–8 9–7
1914 Georgia Tech 12–8 10–8
1915 Georgia Tech 7–8–2 6–7–2
1916 Georgia Tech 14–6 11–5
1917 Georgia Tech 12–7 6–6
Georgia Tech: 163–97–5 (.625)
Total: 199–108–7 (.645)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Georgia Tech (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1908–1909)
1908–09 Georgia Tech 1–6 1–5
Georgia Tech: 1–6 (.143) 1–5
Georgia Tech (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1912–1914)
1912–13 Georgia Tech 2–6 2–6
1913–14 Georgia Tech 6–2 5–2
Georgia Tech: 8–8 (.500) 7–8
Total: 9–14 (.391)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


  1. ^ Born Johann Wilhelm Heisman, the name John William was later adopted in order to obscure the fact that he was the son of immigrants. His father was ostensibly the estranged son of German aristocrats.[3][4] His mother's grandfather had been an aide-de-campe to Napoleon.[5]
  2. ^ Former Yale center Pa Corbin described how one used to snap the ball with his foot: "By standing the ball on end and exercising a certain pressure on the same, it was possible to have it bound into the quarterback's hands."[33]
  3. ^ At Georgia, Warner copied the trick[43] and in 1903 his Carlisle team famously used it to defeat Harvard.[44]
  4. ^ Tichenor transferred to Georgia, and Gammon died in the game against Virginia.[52]
  5. ^ Later in his time at Georgia Tech, his salary went up but the percentage of receipts went down.[83]
  6. ^ Georgia Tech selected an "All-Heisman Era" team; in the line: Al Staton, Walker Carpenter, Bob Lang, Pup Phillips, Dummy Lebey, Bill Fincher, Jim Senter, and in the backfield: Al Hill, Joe Guyon, Everett Strupper, and Tommy Spence.[94]
  7. ^ If needed, the center could also snap it to one of the other backs.[104]


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External links[edit]