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Memorial Day Remembrance: Nile Kinnick – American Hero 0

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Nile Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy representing the University of Iowa.

Nile Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy representing the University of Iowa.

In honor of Memorial Day, we remember a former Heisman Trophy winner who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and was more than just a football hero; he was an American Hero.

In 1939 with war starting in Europe, but the United States still two years removed from entering the war, Nile Kinnick Jr. led the Iowa Hawkeyes to an improbable run into the national Top 10.

A talented all-around athlete, Kinnick had been a Junior Legion baseball teammate of Bob Feller. He also excelled in both basketball and football first at Adel High School in his hometown and then, after the family moved to Omaha following his sophomore year, at Benson High School.

Choosing to return to his home state and attend the University of Iowa, Kinnick played both football and basketball as a sophomore in 1937.

He earned All-Big 10 and third team All-American honors in football. On the basketball court he ranked 15th in the Big 10 in scoring.

Following an injury-plagued junior season in which he earned honorable mention honors on the gridiron, Kinnick decided not to continue his basketball career and instead looked to concentrate on his senior football season for the Hawkeyes.

After posting a 2-13-1 record on the football field during the two previous seasons, the Hawkeyes and their senior leader looked to change their fortune in 1939.

Dubbed the “Ironmen” because most of the starters played both ways and rarely came off the field, the Hawkeyes posted a 6-1-1 record, finished second in the Big 10 and were ranked ninth in the final AP Poll.

Kinnick was the unquestioned star of the Hawkeyes in 1939.

Known for his late game heroics, Kinnick scored the game winning touchdown against Notre Dame and threw late touchdown passes in wins over Indiana and Wisconsin.

Playing primarily at left halfback, Kinnick rushed for 374 yards and five touchdowns. Though he attempted only 31 passes, he totaled 638 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. He also served as the punter and placekicker while also returning punts and kickoffs. Read the rest of this entry →

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