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Heisman 1986 Vinny Testaverde
AP Photo/Susan Ragan

Hurricane Vinny

1986 Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde

While working as a construction foreman in Manhattan, Al Testaverde occasionally took his lunch breaks on the steps of the Downtown Athletic Club. One day, he dreamed, my kid will be here to win the Heisman Trophy. When the Heisman ceremony would be on TV every December, Testaverde would watch it with his son and they'd talk about him being there someday. Improbably, that day came to pass. On Dec. 6, 1986, Vinny Testaverde of Elmont, N.Y., was given the stiff-armed statue while his father rejoiced. Vinny directed much of his acceptance speech toward his father, saying that they won the trophy together. Indeed, Al had been instrumental in guiding Vinny to Fork Union Prep School in Virginia after college, and it was there that Vinny flourished into a prospect worthy of joining the quarterback tradition at Miami. He didn't just follow in the footsteps of Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar; he did what they could not -- he won the Heisman. That came at the end of an '86 regular season in which the Hurricanes were a seemingly invincible juggernaut, rolling to an 11-0 record and the nation's No. 1 ranking. Along the way Testaverde shined, never more so than when the Canes knocked off then-No. 1 and defending national champion Oklahoma 28-16 in late September. After that game, Sooners coach Barry Switzer declared Testaverde the best quarterback he'd seen in 21 years of coaching. But Miami could have learned from the history it helped shape three years earlier, when the Hurricanes shocked seemingly unbeatable Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to win the national title. Playing Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl, Miami was beaten 14-10. Testaverde went on to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and had a lengthy pro career. But for Al Testaverde, the football highlight of his life might have been watching his son come back home to win the Heisman they'd dreamed about years before.
-- Pat Forde

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