John Heisman At Clemson
(Photos Uploaded By Alan Cutts)
The above photo is of John Heisman’s last team at Clemson. Unfortunately, Heisman is not in the photo.
Most Tiger fans know that John Heisman coached here, but few really knew much about him. I've often heard that the reason Georgia Tech hired him away from us was because he kept beating them on the field.
Well, I think that's part of it, but not the whole story. Heisman was a masterful strategist both on and off the field. Consider the following true story that Joe Sherman tells. Joe Sherman tell this classic Heisman story:
Over two score years ago, fascinated by the reports of this man, I uncovered a story about him that is to me the all-time classic of Clemson football. The story made the Associated Press feature wires and just may have been the first Clemson story to be printed in detail from coast to coast.
The season was 1903 and if you think betting on football is a johnny-come-lately pastime, you're wrong. Heisman was unconcerned with the betting, of course, but he had every intention of winning the upcoming game with Georgia Tech. The betting is a sidelight of the yarn.
Recall, now, that this was the third year of Heisman-coached Clemson powerhouses. When the Clemson team arrived in Atlanta the afternoon before the game, Tech fans were stunned by the scrawny, anything-but-tough physical appearances of the Tiger players. Tech supporters were pop-eyed when the Clemson players checked into their rooming houses and immediately started dispersing to all of the Atlanta nightspots for a real country come-to-town festival.
After a while Tech folks began helping the Tigers enjoy the occasion by buying them mugs of beer, providing them with dancing partners and generally helping them make a big evening of it.
Meanwhile, those Tech supporters, positive that nobody could live it up like that and play football the next day, placed bets on Tech as fast as they could find suckers, local or foreign.
I have never read a detailed account of the game, so I know not who did what or how brilliantly. But the score is a matter of record. It was: Clemson 44, Georgia Tech 5.
The wily Heisman had rounded up a bevy of willing cadets and shipped them into Atlanta to enjoy themselves-"but be sure to enjoy yourself so the Tech team can't help but hear about it."
Meanwhile, he quartered his real Tigers at the railroad stop of Lula, Georgia, a few miles north of Atlanta, and took them into town on game day, as fresh as the dew "where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness."
Joe's story above has a bit of inconstancy, the 1903 score was 73-0, but be it 1903 or 1902, Heisman clearly impressed the folks in Atlanta. So much so, that they hired him in 1904.
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Scott Rhymer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org