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Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins
Seth Davis
August 25, 1997
NOVEMBER 24, 1958
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August 25, 1997

Heisman Trophy Winner Pete Dawkins

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NOVEMBER 24, 1958

In the fall of 1959 Bill Carpenter, West Point's Lonesome End, was named captain of the Army football team. As the story goes, Carpenter, upon hearing the news, climbed to the top of Lusk Reservoir on the West Point campus and began removing his shoes. When asked what he was doing, Carpenter said, "They want me to follow in Pete Dawkins's footsteps. I have to learn how to walk on water."

Technically speaking, Dawkins never walked on water, but he did everything else as a senior at West Point. Not only was he a Heisman Trophy-winning halfback for Army's undefeated team of 1958 who landed on our cover (above, far left), but he was also class president, first captain of cadets and graduated in the top 5% of his class. After three years at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, Dawkins spent 24 years in the Army, serving in Korea and Vietnam. In 1981, at 43, he became the Army's then youngest brigadier general. Along the way he earned a Ph.D. in public policy from Princeton and became a White House fellow while playing a mean jazz trumpet, piano, guitar, clarinet, trombone and French horn. Walk on water? Who has time? "I was, uh, sort of intense," the 59-year-old Dawkins says sheepishly. Indeed, when Dawkins arrived at West Point in 1955, football players were told not to train with weights because the extra muscle was thought to be too cumbersome. So he hid barbells under his mattress and a bar under his bunk and lifted in the dark following taps.

After retiring from the Army in '83, he worked as an investment banker on Wall Street and was soon a millionaire. In 1988 he was handpicked by New Jersey governor Tom Kean to run as the state's Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. Though he lost to incumbent Frank Lautenberg in a bitterly contested race, Dawkins treasured his time on the campaign trail. "I would have hated to have gone to my grave without having taken a shot at it," he says, "but it's a full-contact sport. My daughter [Noël] said, 'You did great, Dad. You got the silver medal.' "

Today Dawkins lives in Rumson, N.J., with Judi, his wife of 36 years, and is the chairman and CEO of the direct-marketing subsidiary of the Travelers Group, a financial services conglomerate. He doesn't plan to run again for public office, but he still seems, uh, sort of intense. "You're a fool if you don't realize there comes a time when you slow down, but I haven't seen that coming yet," he says. "I still get up every morning at 4:50, lace up my shoes and feel like there's important work to be done."