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John W. Heisman
John W. Heisman
John W. Heisman
Title Head Coach
Sport Football
Born October 23, 1869(1869-10-23)
Place of birth Cleveland, Ohio
Died October 3, 1936 (aged 66)
Career highlights
Overall 185-70-17 (71.1%)
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
Playing career
Position Center / Tackle
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Buchtel College (Akron)
Georgia Tech
Washington & Jefferson
College Football Hall of Fame, 1954

John William Heisman (October 23, 1869 – October 3, 1936) was a prominent American football player and college football coach in the early era of the sport and is the namesake of the Heisman Trophy awarded annually to the season's most outstanding college football player.[1]


Early life

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but grew up in Titusville, Pennsylvania,[2] 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.[1] He coached at Oberlin College in 1892, went to Buchtel College in 1893, and returned to Oberlin the next year. In 1895, he became the fifth coach at Auburn University, where he stayed for five years. To this day, Auburn is the only school to have a Heisman Trophy winner where he coached.

Later coaching career

In 1900, Heisman went to Clemson University , where he coached four successful seasons. A street on the campus bears his name today to honor him.

He moved from Clemson to Georgia Tech in 1904, whose athletic teams had performed poorly. While at Tech, Heisman coached football and baseball, and 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.[3] Heisman eventually also coached basketball and track, became the head of the Atlanta Baseball Association and the athletic director of the Atlanta Athletic Club.[3] He cut back on these expanded duties in 1918, when he only coached football between September 1 and December 15.[3]

In football, Heisman put together 16 spectacular seasons, including three undefeated seasons and a 32-game undefeated streak. In his first year, his team had satisfying victories over Tennessee, Florida, and Cumberland; a tie with his last employer, Clemson; and an important 23-6 win over Georgia. He was coaching the Georgia Tech Engineers when they defeated the Cumberland College Bulldogs 222-0 in a game played in Atlanta in 1916, in the most one-sided college football game ever played. Heisman's running up the score against a totally outmanned opponent was supposedly motivated by revenge against Cumberland's baseball team running up the score against Tech 22-0 the previous year with a team primarily composed of semi-pro players, and against sportswriters who were too focused on numbers.[1]

After a divorce in 1919, he left Atlanta to prevent any social embarrassment to his former wife, who chose to remain in the city.[4] He went back to Penn for one season in 1920, then to Washington and Jefferson College, before ending his career with four seasons at the Rice Institute.

Death and Burial

Heisman died October 3, 1936 in New York City.[5] 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.[6][7]


He 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.[8]

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,[5] and is now given to the player voted as the season's best nationwide collegiate 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 Yale Club.


Head Coaching Record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing
Oberlin: 8-0-0
1892 Oberlin 7-0-0
1894 Oberlin 1-0-0
Buchtel (Akron): 6-2-0
1893 Buchtel 5-2-0
1894 Buchtel 1-0-0
Auburn: 13-3-2
1895 Auburn 2-1-0
1896 Auburn 3-1-0
1897 Auburn 2-0-1
1898 Auburn 2-1-0
1899 Auburn 4-0-1
Clemson: 19-3-2
1900 Clemson 6-0-0
1901 Clemson 3-1-1
1902 Clemson 6-1-0
1903 Clemson 4-1-1
Georgia Tech: 102-29-6
1904 Georgia Tech 8-1-1
1905 Georgia Tech 6-0-1
1906 Georgia Tech 5-3-1
1907 Georgia Tech 4-4-0
1908 Georgia Tech 6-3-0
1909 Georgia Tech 7-2-0
1910 Georgia Tech 5-3-0
1911 Georgia Tech 6-2-1
1912 Georgia Tech 5-3-0
1913 Georgia Tech 7-2-0
1914 Georgia Tech 6-2-0
1915 Georgia Tech 7-0-1
1916 Georgia Tech 8-0-1
1917 Georgia Tech 9-0-0
1918 Georgia Tech 6-1-0
1919 Georgia Tech 7-3-0
University of Pennsylvania: 16-10-2
1920 Penn 6-4-0
1921 Penn 4-3-2
1922 Penn 6-3-0
Washington & Jefferson College: 7-1-1
1923 Washington & Jefferson College 7-1-1
Rice: 14-18-3
1924 Rice 4-4-0
1925 Rice 4-4-1
1926 Rice 4-4-1
1927 Rice 2-6-1
Total: 185-66-16
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.


  1. ^ a b c "John Heisman". Tech Traditions: Ramblin' Memories. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Retrieved 2007-05-21.  
  2. ^ "Heisman Trophy". Retrieved 2007-05-19.  
  3. ^ a b c McMath, Robert C.; Ronald H. Bayor, James E. Brittain, Lawrence Foster, August W. Giebelhaus, and Germaine M. Reed. Engineering the New South: Georgia Tech 1885-1985. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.  
  4. ^ "Tech Timeline: 1910s". Tech Traditions. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Retrieved 2007-05-21.  
  5. ^ a b "Heisman John William". Heisman's Bio. Retrieved 2007-09-23.  
  6. ^ "Gravesite Still Draws Visitors". Heisman's gravesite. Retrieved 2007-09-23.  
  7. ^ "Your Hometown". Wisconsin Places to Visit. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2007-09-23.  
  8. ^ Britannica Online, John Heisman

External links


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