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HEISMAN, JOHN WILLIAM

HEISMAN, JOHN WILLIAM

HEISMAN, JOHN WILLIAM (23 Oct. 1869-3 Oct. 1936), innovative college football coach for whom the Heisman Trophy is named, was born in Cleveland, to Michael and Sarah Heisman, but his family moved to Titusville, Pa. during the 1870s. Heisman entered Brown University, playing FOOTBALL in 1888; then transferred to Pennsylvania, playing football in 1890 and 1891 and receiving a law degree in 1892. Heisman began coaching as a player and coach at Oberlin College in 1892, with a perfect 7-0 season, twice shutting out Ohio State University (40-0 and 50-0). In 1893 he coached at Buchtel College (later the University of Akron), encountering faculty opposition toward his competitive approach to football. He coached at Oberlin (1894), Alabama Polytechnic Institute (later Auburn) (1895-99), Clemson (1900-03), Georgia Institute of Technology (1904-19), Pennsylvania (1920-22), Washington & Jefferson (1923), and Rice Institute (1924-27). His innovations changed football. He proposed legalizing the forward pass; used guards to lead interference on sweeps; and introduced the direct snap from center. In 1898 his teams began using audible signals to begin each offensive play. He also introduced a special shift that was the forerunner of the T and I formations. After his retirement, Heisman became an organizer and first president of the New York Touchdown Club and director of athletics at the Downtown Athletic Club of New York which, in 1935, began awarding an annual trophy to the nation's best college football player, named in Heisman's honor after his death. Heisman married Evelyn McCollum Cox in 1903 whom he divorced in 1918. In 1924 he married Edith Maora Cole. Heisman died in New York City and was buried in Rheinlander, Wisconsin.