Nile Kinnick is the Hawkeyes' greatest football player of all time. In his football career, he gained 1,674 yards. In his senior year, he completed 31 passes for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 106 rushes netted 374 yards, and his 71 punts over three years were good for 2,834 yards, an average of 39.9 yards per kick. His kickoff and punt returns totaled 604 yards, and he made 11 of his 17-drop kick attempts.
In his acceptance speech at the Heisman Dinner, Kinnick's Heisman Trophy acceptance speech, which was made approximately two years before the United States entered World War II, is remembered as one of the most eloquent and moving ever given.
Below is the famous 1939 Heisman Trophy Speech:
December 6, 1939
"Thank you very, very kindly, Mr. Holcomb. It seems to me that everyone is letting their superlatives run away with them this evening, but nonetheless, I want you to know that I'm mighty, mighty happy to accept this trophy this evening.
Every football player in these United States dreams about winning that trophy, and of this fine trip to New York. Every player considers that trophy the acme in recognition of this kind. And the fact that I am actually receiving this trophy tonight almost overwhelms me, and I know that all those boys who have gone before me must have felt somewhat the same way.
From my own personal viewpoint, I consider my winning this award as indirectly a great tribute to the new coaching staff at the University of Iowa, headed by Dr. Eddie Anderson, and to my teammates sitting back in Iowa City. A finer man and a better coach never hit these United States, and a finer bunch of boys and a more courageous bunch of boys never graced the gridirons of the Midwest than that Iowa team in 1939. I wish that they might all be with me tonight to receive this trophy. They certainly deserve it.
I want to take this grand opportunity to thank collectively all the sportswriters, and all the sportscasters, and all those who have seen fit, have seen their way clear to cast a ballot in my favor for this trophy. And I also want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Prince and his committee, the Heisman award committee, and all those connected with the Downtown Athletic Club for this trophy, and for the fine time that they're showing me. And not only for that, but for making this fine and worthy trophy available to the football players of this country.
Finally, if you will permit me, I'd like to make a comment which in my mind, is indicative, perhaps, of the greater significance of football and sports emphasis in general in this country, and that is, I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country would much more, much rather, struggle and fight to win the Heisman award than the Croix de Guerre.
Iowa's legendary Kinnick won in the East and Midwest as a four-man sweep took most of the votes. Harmon, Christman and Cafego were the big vote getters but John Kimbrough of Texas A&M won in the Southwest and UCLA's Kenney Washington was third in the Far West voting. Washington's running mate in the backfield was a young man named Jackie Robinson. Ken Kavanaugh of Louisiana State and Banks McFadden of Clemson also received votes in the South.
Jay Berwanger | Larry Kelley | Clint Frank | Davey O'brien | Nick Kinnick
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