Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune
July 7, 2011
In November, 1935, University of Chicago's Jay Berwanger was named winner of a new sports award, what was then called the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy. It honored the most valuable football player east of the Mississippi. For the Maroons, Berwanger was a sensation, played several positions on both offense and defense. In 23 games over three seasons he scored 22 touchdowns and kicked 20 extra points. He gained 1,839 yards on 439 rushes for a 4.2 average.
Berwanger won many awards after that 1935 season, but the one he said he was most proud of was the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football. In fact, Berwanger said he didnt have even room for that 25-pound DAC prize in his dorm room, so he gave it to his Aunt Gussie, who lived in North Chicago and used it as a doorstop for many years.
In 1936, the DACs director, John Heisman, died and the trophy was renamed. Eligibility was also expanded to include players from both sides of the Mississippi.
In the NFLs first-ever draft, Berwanger was the first pick. But instead took a more lucrative job as a foam rubber salesman.
It's the most recognizable trophy in college sports, and we are proud to have the first one, Dave Hilbert, the schools director of sports information, said. Many visitors have little or no idea of the role the university played in the early history of college athletics and are therefore surprised to see the Heisman Trophy in our lobby.