Commentary

New York has football's biggest apple

What city lacks in top college gridiron action it makes up for in Heisman presentation

Updated: September 22, 2011, 2:53 PM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

New York City is far from being a hotbed of college football, but it does serve as the home of college football's most prestigious individual honor -- the Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman, officially speaking, is presented to "the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." And it's been awarded every year since 1935.

[+] EnlargeHeisman
Kelly Kline/Getty ImagesThe Heisman Trophy speaks for itself, and its star power has put New York City among college football's biggest stages.
But did you know that it originally had a different name?

It was dubbed the DAC Trophy in its first year of existence (won by the University of Chicago's Jay Berwanger) because it was presented by the Downtown Athletic Club in New York. The following fall, John Heisman -- the legendary former coach at Georgia Tech and the first athletic director of the Downtown Athletic Club -- passed away and the award was renamed in his honor.

The Heisman ceremony took place at the Downtown Athletic Club near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan until 2001, when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced its permanent closure. Since then the award has continued to be presented in Manhattan at various venues, most recently in Times Square at what is now called the Best Buy Theater.

The actual trophy is as ubiquitous as its name and has a New York connection, as well. The iconic stature atop the award depicts a football player side-stepping and straight-arming a would-be tackler.

The bronze is the work of Frank Eliscu, a New York sculptor who had asked friend Ed Smith, a starter for the New York University football team, to serve as his model. The design was later approved by Jim Crowley, then the coach at Fordham University in the Bronx who earlier had become part of football lore as one of "Four Horsemen" in the backfield of Notre Dame's 1924 national championship team.

The 2011 Heisman Trophy presentation will take place Dec. 10 -- once again in New York, at Best Buy Theater -- with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck the early favorite to take it home.

But there are a lot of games left to play. Over the next few weeks, we will delve more deeply into the many connections between the Big Apple and the biggest award in college football.

Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
Follow Kieran on Twitter »

EDITORS' PICKS