Sunday, October 31, 2010
Psi Upsilon honors Berwanger
On Saturday, the Omega chapter of Psi Upsilon, of which Jay Berwanger was a brother, commemorated the 75th anniversary of Berwanger's selection for the first Heisman Trophy.
The fraternity was kind enough to invite me to the brunch and ceremony, which was attended by about 20 members of the Berwanger family, including two of his three children. The alumni members marked the occasion by presenting a plaque for display in the fraternity house that Berwanger called home for three years.
It was at the fraternity house that a telegram arrived for Berwanger. It was early December 1935. The message was from the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City inviting Berwanger to New York, all expenses paid, to receive the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy, honoring him as the best college football player east of the Mississippi.
The award was renamed the John Heisman Memorial Trophy the next year, and the sponsors eventually dropped the geographic limits on nominees.
The Heisman did not always enjoy the status it does today. Berwanger's biggest thrill in winning the award involved taking his first-ever airplane ride. He didn't have a place for the trophy, and for years it resided in the home of an aunt, who used what is today the most recognized of U.S. sports awards as a doorstop.