December 9 - 1935 - The First Heisman Trophy
Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago Maroons was honored by the Downtown Athletic Club as the best collegiate football player east of the Mississippi for the 1935 season, which makes him stand as the very first Heisman Trophy winner. Although this would seem to place Berwanger in a line with subsequent winners and NFL legends, really Berwanger stands out to modern eyes for the difference between his game and the modern game. Berwanger didn't even, technically, win the Heisman, as the trophy only was named after John Heisman after his death the next year. Berwanger was known as the "one man football team" for being not just a capable runner at halfback, but also a passer, kicker, punter, and notable defensive player. Berwanger played before face masks, racial integration, or even a significant pro football culture. Although he was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles as the first selection in the first NFL draft, Berwanger never played in the NFL, even after being traded to the Bears. Instead, going into business and seeking to compete in the decathlon in the Olympics, Berwanger would end his football career with winning the Downtown Athletic Club's honor.