If the Stanley Cup is the most prestigious trophy in American sports, then the Heisman Trophy is likely second. Awarded annually to the best player in college football, it’s so difficult to win that only one player has earned it twice. Since it’s an individual award, does the Heisman winner get to keep the trophy?
Heisman Trophy history
The award is named after John Heisman, a player, coach, and innovator from football’s early days. (He came up with the idea of having the center snap the ball.) After his coaching career ended, Heisman was the athletic director of New York’s Downtown Athletic Club in 1935. That year, the organization decided to start awarding the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy.
In 1936, Heisman died of pneumonia before the second trophy was bestowed on a player. So the club voted to rename it to the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award, now commonly called the Heisman Trophy.
Do the Heisman winners keep the trophy?
Each year, the Heisman Trust commissions two bronze trophies, each weighing 45 pounds. One goes to the winner, and the other goes to his school. The schools often erect shrines for their copies of the prestigious award. USC, for example, has a kneeling Trojan surrounded by the school’s Heisman trophies.
But for the players, it’s not as easy to determine what to do with their hard-earned Heisman Trophy. Some past winners display them proudly in their homes, while others prefer to keep them out of sight for safekeeping.
The strangest Heisman Trophy stories
Not all players keep their trophies safely in a display case. Here are some weird stories involving players’ trophies over the years.
Matt Leinart, who won the award in 2004, knows where his trophy is but hasn’t seen it in years. He says his Heisman is at his “parents’ house in a closet. It’s tucked away in the corner … a towel is covering it.” Leinart takes the Heisman out for kids’ camps and public appearances, but in general, he says he’s “not the type of guy to have my Heisman Trophy displayed as soon as you walk into my house.” He likes to have it “hibernating.”
Then there’s the story of O.J. Simpson’s 1968 Heisman Trophy. USC’s copy was stolen in 1994, shortly after the double murder of Simpson’s ex-wife and her friend. The school received a replacement, but the stolen trophy was recovered more than 20 years later — in three pieces, according to USC sports information director Tim Tessalone.
Simpson was forced to sell his personal trophy to help cover part of the multimillion-dollar judgment against him in the 1997 civil case brought against him by the Goldman family. His Heisman Trophy sold for $255,000 in a 1999 auction. That isn’t the only Heisman sold. These days, winners “have to sign an agreement stating that they understand they cannot sell their trophies,” according to Heisman Trust spokesman Tim Henning.
Eric Crouch won the Heisman in 2001, and the former Nebraska quarterback has not removed it from its steel case since. He said he “like[s] to preserve it a little bit,” but he gets a little more interested in displaying it with each passing year — he just doesn’t know where to display it. Actually Crouch hasn’t displayed any football memorabilia in his home. “It’s all family pictures,” he says.