"I was just looking at the trophy the other day. It has to be the realization of a goal every football player has." Doc Blanchard, Army, 1945 Heisman winner
Doug Flutie is big enough to pick up the Heisman trophy he's favored to win today.
The trophy is only 13 1/2 inches high, 25 pounds.
It seems as if it's one of the few things Flutie's bigger than.
Being a scrambler could help Boston College's 5-foot-9 quarterback keep his schedule today: If he wins the award given annually to college football's outstanding player, he's scheduled to be named on national television at 7:50 or so this evening in New York after playing a game against Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., this very afternoon.
Cutting it close? For some time now, people have been saying, Flutie can't do this, or Flutie can't do that, and then he does it.
And today he'll have a charter plane and a helicopter.
If all goes right, he'll land at La Guardia at 5:30, then be set down by helicopter in lower Manhattan near the Downtown Athletic Club, which sponsors the trophy, with plenty of time on the clock for the announcement (WRC-TV-4, following a Heisman special at 7). Compared to beating Miami with 0:00 remaining, he should have all the time in the world.
The flight of Flutie for the naming of the 50th Heisman winner is just the latest example of ballyhoo surrounding the national prize. A half-century of Heisman awards has produced -- besides history and myth, Miss America-like schmaltz and unmitigated hype by provincial lobbyists -- a microcosm of real life: successes and failures, a special few who shunned pro football and walked gloriously into sunsets, a war casualty, a man recommended for sainthood, a star who tragically died young, a hero in prison.
"Being number one, I've become a trivia question," said Jay Berwanger, a millionaire businessman who won the first Heisman trophy, in 1935, after his triple-threat days at the University of Chicago. "I didn't know about it until I got a telegram from the Downtown Athletic Club and a ticket to fly to New York. I was thrilled about flying for the first time."
Berwanger still returns to New York from Chicago annually for the formal Heisman dinner presentation, this year's to be held Thursday. Though he was the first player taken in the first National Football League draft, Berwanger never signed. "There wasn't very much money, frankly," he said. "My timing was wrong."
Lately, winning the Heisman has helped pad huge pro contracts for a long line of superb running backs, in inverse order beginning with last year: Mike Rozier, Herschel Walker, Marcus Allen, George Rogers, Charles White, Billy Sims, Earl Campbell, Tony Dorsett, Archie Griffin twice, John Cappelletti (known for his acceptance speech, in which he dedicated the trophy to his dying little brother, Joey) and Johnny Rodgers. The last quarterback to win the Heisman was Auburn's Pat Sullivan, in 1971.
"The older you get the more special it becomes," said Sullivan, a Birmingham businessman. "I think it's something the university can be proud of and something my teammates can be proud of and Alabama, being the football-crazed state that it is, can be proud of."
The words Sullivan heard, when he received the trophy, are fixed in his mind. " 'You're in select company,' and, 'It will mark you for the rest of your life.' That's been true -- you're always known as a former Heisman trophy winner."
The '60s produced a veritable American parade, including: service academy winners Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach of Navy; Oregon State's Terry Baker, Notre Dame's John Huarte and UCLA's Gary Beban, all of whose pro careers -- excepting Staubach's -- were far less illustrious than subsequent successes off the field; Syracuse's Ernie Davis, who died of leukemia and whose headstone reads, "Ernie Davis, 1961 Heisman Trophy;" USC's Mike Garrett, a little guy who made good in the pros, and O.J. Simpson, last seen running through airports.
In 1951, Princeton's 169-pound Dick Kazmaier was a bona fide milk-drinker, do-it-all tailback and Time cover boy -- a hero so esteemed as to be set apart from the many heroes of his day. (Another of the greatly revered Heisman winners, 1941's Bruce Smith of Minnesota, who died of cancer in 1967, was suggested among Catholics as a possible saint; and still another, 1939's Nile Kinnick of Iowa, died in World War II in 1943.)
"The Heisman was one reason I did not go on to professional football, a very definite reason," said Kazmaier, who lives in Concord, Mass. "There's no further height you can aspire to."
Yet Kazmaier, like Sullivan, has come to appreciate the award even more in recent years. "I went to graduate school (Harvard Business). Went into the service. Worked hard for a number of years. Had six children. The last 10 years, I've had time to look around."
For Frank Sinkwich, the Georgia running and passing star of the early '40s and now a beer and wine distributor in Athens, Ga., the Heisman has provided "incentive to be the best you can."
"It puts you on guard, to do the good things in life," said 1942 winner Sinkwich, whose Heisman award received attention "in the movies -- on the newsreels. The Heisman makes you work a little harder to do your best."
Yet another famous running back did not share Sinkwich's thinking. Billy Cannon, the 1959 Heisman winner whose 89-yard, last-quarter touchdown run that year for LSU against Mississippi is part of Southern football lore, was arrested in 1983 for his part in a $6-million counterfeiting operation and sentenced to five years in prison. He began serving his sentence in September 1983.
Talk about this year's winner focuses on Flutie, who, among other things, conjures up images of the 1938 Heisman winner, the late Davey O'Brien, TCU's 5-5 passer who played briefly in the pros.
"This being the 50th anniversary, the recipient this year means something very special," said Vic Janowicz, 1950 winner from Ohio State who still lives in Columbus.
As a Heisman winner, Janowicz has a vote. "I'll have to say I voted for Flutie. He's brought enjoyment to a large segment of the country, and I'm sure he'll play against Holy Cross in the same fashion he has. But how can you top last week's performance?"