The Heisman Winners: 1930s
This article appears in the Sports Illustrated Presents 75th Anniversary of the Heisman Trophy issue.
1935 | Jay Berwanger HB, Chicago (Sr.)
Six-foot-one, 195-pound back was one-man gang (577 yards rushing, 405 yards passing, 359 yards returning kicks) for undermanned Maroons, who in those days played in the Big Ten. Was first player chosen in first NFL draft, in 1936, but turned down career in pro football, citing low pay.
Heisman moment: In the final minute of his final college game, against Illinois, Berwanger eluded several tacklers on 49-yard punt return to Illini one-yard line. He then scored TD from scrimmage and kicked the extra point to give Chicago the 7-6 victory.
1936 | Larry Kelley End, Yale (Sr.)
Bulldogs captain made 17 receptions for 372 yards at time when the ball was rarely thrown, and led Yale to 7--1 record in 1936. A two-way end, he was first of only two linemen to win Heisman (the other was Notre Dame's Leon Hart in 1949).
Heisman moment: In 1936 Kelley caught a TD pass in all six games against Ivy League opponents, including one for 54 yards in 14-13 victory over Harvard and one for 46 yards in 26-23 win over Princeton.
1937 | Clint Frank HB, Yale (Sr.)
Combining power and 10-second 100-yard dash speed, Yale's greatest runner rushed for 630 yards and scored 11 TDs in his senior season. (Yale was the first school to field back-to-back Heisman winners.)
Heisman moment: On the first play from scrimmage against Princeton in his senior year, Frank galloped 79 yards through the mud for TD. In all, he carried 19 times for 190 yards and four TDs in the 26-0 Elis victory.
1938 | Davey O'Brien QB, TCU (Sr.)
First true quarterback to win Heisman participated in 400 combined rushing and passing plays in one season, an NCAA record that still stands. Played two seasons of pro football (setting records for passing yards in season and pass attempts in game) before retiring to join FBI.
Heisman moment: The 5' 7", 150-pound O'Brien threw a TD pass and kicked a field goal to beat Carnegie Tech 15-7 in the '39 Sugar Bowl, giving TCU an undefeated season and the national championship.
1939 | Nile Kinnick HB, Iowa (Sr.)
Hawkeyes' best passer, kicker and defensive back, Kinnick was on field an average of 57 minutes per game and played 402 consecutive minutes in 1939. Turned down NFL to attend law school and, in '43, while serving as Navy pilot, was forced to crash land in Caribbean. His body was never found.
Heisman moment: A week after scoring his team's lone TD and kicking extra point to beat No. 2 Notre Dame, Kinnick threw two fourth-quarter TD passes to upset Minnesota in '39.
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