1939 – The Year of The IronmenMain article: 1939 Iowa Hawkeyes football team See also: Nile Kinnick
Iowa football was clearly struggling as 1939 began, and the entire athletic department was in poor financial shape. The debt on Iowa Stadium grew by the year, and Iowa had finished among the worst three teams in the league standings every year in the 1930s except 1933. Iowa's new coach, Dr. Eddie Anderson, felt the Hawks, lacking depth, could still be a good team in 1939, but only if the starters played all sixty minutes. Thus, the 1939 Hawkeye football team, nicknamed the Ironmen, became one of the greatest teams in school history and certainly the most romanticized.
Much of the sentimentality surrounding that team is due to Nile Kinnick. Kinnick was an all-Big Ten selection as a sophomore, when he led the nation in punting average, but he struggled through an injury-riddled junior season. Kinnick personified Anderson's Ironman mentality for the team. Kinnick played halfback (though he did most of the passing for the team), defensive back, kicker, punter, kick returner, and punt returner.
Iowa finished the year with a 6-1-1 record and was ranked ninth in the final Associated Press (AP) poll. Postseason honors rolled in for the Ironmen, most of them going to Kinnick. The climax of the season occurred when Nile Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy, becoming the only Iowa Hawkeye to receive college football's most prestigious honor.
Nile Kinnick was an intelligent, well-spoken, and likeable young man. Kinnick graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa scholar and was elected president of the senior class. When world war seemed inevitable, he signed up for the Navy, wanting to become a fighter pilot. On June 2, 1943, on a routine training flight in the Caribbean, Kinnick was forced to make an emergency landing in the water. His body was never found. Nile Kinnick was 24.
The Ironmen revived the spirits of a depressed fan base and turned Iowa's financial fortunes around. A few short years later, the athletic department would be out of financial danger, and the debt on Iowa Stadium would finally be paid off.
Read more about this topic: History Of Iowa Hawkeyes Football
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