Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Dec. 20, 1996

A tale of two Heisman shows

by Tom Kroeschell
Officially, I am the athletic media relations director at Iowa State. But I easily could have worked full-time the past two years as the personal media liaison for two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Troy Davis.

One of the perks of my position were two opportunities to accompany the nation's leading rusher to New York City's Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) for the awarding of the Heisman. Conferred annually on the outstanding U.S. college football player, the Heisman selection is based on a vote of approximately 1,000 media across the country.

The hoopla surrounding the award has increased dramatically with expanded television coverage. The proliferation of media outlets, including television, talk radio and the Internet, puts Heisman contenders under a microscope.

The two trips Troy made to New York were completely different. In 1995, Troy was the last person invited by DAC to the ceremony. In 1996, he and Florida quarterback Danny Wueffel were the first. They were joined by two other candidates -- Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer and Ohio State lineman Orlando Pace.

In 1995, the entire weekend was a whirlwind of activity. On Friday night, the finalists attended the Wendy's High School Heisman banquet, then were taken on the town with their families. The event included a trip to Rockfeller Plaza, where ESPN shot footage of the candidates watching the skaters on the famous rink, adjacent to the New York landmark. The shoot ended abruptly when the Heisman contenders were recognized by bystanders. To prevent the finalists from being mobbed, we were hustled into vans and moved to dinner at Manhattan's Hard Rock Cafe. The party returned to the DAC around 2 a.m.

Friday activities were cut back this season because the jet- hopping schedules of Troy and Wuerffel meant they could not arrive in New York until Saturday afternoon. Both were picked up by limousine at the airport and their arrival at the DAC had the trappings of movie stars making an appearance at the Academy Awards. Media from Iowa, Florida and New York crowded around the candidates as each was besieged by a large group of very aggressive autograph seekers.

The DAC, part upscale health club and part hotel, was a fitting backdrop for the occasion. In the lobby sits the original Heisman Trophy. The rooms reflect their age, but have a sense of history, and afford incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and Wall Street.

This year, the finalists had more time to unwind with their families on Saturday. In 1995, the candidates took a morning tugboat ride to Staten Island for visits to area hospitals before returning for a late lunch.

Late Saturday afternoon is dedicated to preparations for ESPN's Heisman Trophy Show. There is a short rehearsal before the candidates dress, eat and move to the 31st floor of the DAC for pictures that include poses with their families and the Heisman Trophy. There is a sense of camaraderie among the families, coaches, candidates and staff. The collective group relaxes and visits before heading downstairs for the climatic show.

The one-hour ESPN show is shot from the 13th floor Heisman Room of the DAC. The room is smaller than it looks on television, and all seats are assigned to former trophy winners, prominent DAC members and the finalists and their entourages. The media is not allowed on the 13th floor during the ceremony and watches the show on TV froma 15th floor work room.

In 1995, I was given a seat behind the announcers' platform, directly behind a pillar that blocked my view of the ceremony. I literally watched the entire ceremony on a television monitor.

After the ceremony, the winner and finalists hold short press conferences.

The weekend is part family reunion, part show biz flash and part a recognition of each candidate's gridiron achievement. Troy did not take home the Heisman, but he (and I) took home memories that we will treasure the rest of our lives.

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