What can we learn from John Heisman?… My Heisman vote…Sunday Point Guard … thoughts on Harbison’s departure

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Who was John Heisman?

We did our best to offer a glimpse of him in Saturday’s newspaper.

What can we learn from Heisman? What can we learn from the man who has perhaps the most iconic award in sport named is his honor?

What can we learn about Heisman (pictured circa 1891)? For starters, the stiff arm never goes out of fashion

Though he last walked the Clemson campus 109 years ago some lessons are timeless.

For instance, people who are great at what they do tend to have an uncanny ability to focus.

Said Clemson historian Jerry Reel of Heisman: “He was an intense man. Everyone says he was intense. You look at pictures of him and those eyes were just laser-like when they are looking at you from the page.”

We can learn that while success, I think, is mostly tied to players  – and Clemson was 6-0 in 1900 in Heisman’s first year in part because it was a military college with tough athletic players to choose from – one man, one coach, can make a difference.

Just read the newspaper accounts….

From The Akron (Ohio) Beacon during Heisman’s first year coaching Oberlin College in Ohio:

“Trainer Heisman has shown what can be done with a new man, even in one short month of training. The advancement of the men has been remarkable.”

And if one man can make a difference, schools shouldn’t hesitate in changing the direction of the program in search of the correct leader if they doubt a program’s direction.

The SEC has been criticized for having $27 million in buyouts to pay after making five coaching changes since last season. This seems like a disgusting amount of money being paid to people not to work and it is. But this is the world we live in. The rewards of a successful program outweigh the cost of a buyout. Alabama’s football revenues have increased by some 30 percent since Nick Saban’s arrival. Saban is a coaching bargain. Really. The best thing Clemson ever did was perhaps paying Bowden’s buyout. We call these sunk costs.

The reward of finding the right coach is great. The reward for Clemson finding the right coach in 1900 meant putting Clemson – then a small, backwoods school – on the football map. It changed the culture of the school.

“He did something for Clemson,” Reel said. “This little, nothing school up in the backwoods of South Carolina, on no one’s main track, goes blazing through seasons beating Georgia Tech, Georgia all kinds of teams like that, pretty fair teams, it caught the eye of people. People began associating Clemson with very manly athletics. It became a place where people wanted to send their young men.”

Where would Clemson be if it had moved more quickly to find a replacement for Tommy Bowden? The program suffered through 18 years of mediocrity under three coaches following Danny Ford’s in 1990. Hiring good personnel is key. It’s a timeless lesson.

What has changed?

For starters the money …

Heisman made $815.11 in 1902. If a coach makes $2 million in salary he makes $641 per hour (based upon 60 hour work week) in 2012.

This has also changed regarding football coaches:

Heisman was something of a renaissance man. He loved theater, dancing, the opera. He acted and sang. He had multiple interests. Football wasn’t his only passion. Perhaps our coaches are too one-dimensional, too football-focused, too afraid to be themselves. And after all, they are supposed to be educators and the molders of young men.


I am one of about 900 Heisman voters. As a voter you select three players: your first place vote receives three points, second place receives two points and third place receives one point.

My vote:

1 Johnny Maziel

2 Jadeveon Clowney

3 Braxton Miller

My biggest issue with the Heisman is everyone seems to have their own criteria, like Major League Baseball umpires have with their strike zones. I try to be objective as possible by posing these questions: which players added the most wins to a team and if you had a college draft who would be your first three picks?

In the end I voted for Manziel because he added incredible value with his arm and legs to Texas A & M. The Aggies were picked to finish ninth in the SEC by some in their first year in the conference. They finished ninth in the BCS. This was mostly because of Manziel and a talented offensive line. Manziel broke Cam Newton’s SEC yardage marks. He was an efficient passer and rusher and he had a signature win at Alabama.

I thought about voting Clowney first. If I was building a college team for 2012, Clowney is in consideration for the top overall pick, but in the end Manziel was too impressive. I think Clowney is a Heisman sleeper in 2013. Impact DL win national titles.

Some accused me of being an Ohio homer for giving a vote to Braxton Miller – but this was the first time I voted for an Ohio State product in my fourth year as a Heisman voter. Miller is an elite athlete, the best player on an undefeated Ohio State, and a player I think would be a top five pick if building a college team.

I was part of a select group – 14 percent of voters – that did not place a single vote for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. But I don’t believe Te’o was the best defender on his own team. He didn’t finish in the top 50 of tackles or tackles for loss. I would argue former Boston Colllege Luke Kueckly is a better linebacker.


Clemson has now been competitive with two  top 20 teams in Gonzaga and Arizona, impressive stuff. Brad Brownell can coach.

*Adonis Filer has a chance to be really, really good. He is the program’s most confident player since Domentez Stitt and also the program’s best shot-creator since Stitt. But the freshman has a better jump shot than Stitt and is already physically mature.  Filer was fearless in attacking the basket when coming of the bench against Arizona and really opened up things for teammates. He was key in 13-2 run to close the first half. Clemson has lacked confident players since the Stitt-Grant-Rivers-Trevor Booker teams. Players like Filer, K.J. McDaniels and Jaron Blossomgame give this Clemson program a chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

*Speaking of McDaniels, Arizona coach Sean Miller raved about his athleticism. This guy is a rare athlete for Clemson. He might be the best shot-blocking small forward in the country. He had four more blocks against Arizona and he leads the ACC in blocked shots this season.

*Shocking stat: Clemson had 12 blocked shots against Arizona. That’s a statistic that speaks to athleticism. I think the team’s overall athleticism is much improved this year.

*McDaniels held talented Arizona small forward Solomon Hill to 2 of 16 shooting.

*Clemson coach Brad Brownell said the next step for McDaniels is to get better off the dribble, become a better shot-creator, not just a finisher. He’s made some progress there this year but he still needs to become better with the ball. He has star-level ceiling.

*Blossomgame is redshirting, but he has a the best combination of talent/size/polish on the team. He’s looked great in recent workouts.

*The only time I can remember Littlejohn Coliseum being louder in my four years on the Clemson beat was in 2009 vs. Duke

*Now as intriguing as Saturday night was Clemson still has some big concerns: No. 1 is the Tigers lack shot-makers. Clemson shot just 38 percent from the floor. Clemson doesn’t have efficient outside shooters. Damarcus Harrison has struggled. The Tigers were also outrebounded 44 to 33 by Arizona. Clemson will graduate two of its three bigs in Devin Booker and Milton Jennings this offseason.  It means Landry Nnoko has to be a player.


Clemson DB coach Charlie Harbison is off to Auburn and this might be an addition by subtraction. Yes, Harbison wasn’t working with future Pro Bowlers in the secondary but the unit seemed to regress every year since his arrival in 2009. Harbison is a solid recruiter but he was being paid like an elite DB coach at $375k per season. Clemson might be better off with whoever replaces him.

One thought on “What can we learn from John Heisman?… My Heisman vote…Sunday Point Guard … thoughts on Harbison’s departure

  1. I am impressed every tine I have been around

    Coach H. However I am dissapointed in
    the future was
    not done in 2009 for futher years. I wish he and his family GOD SPEED at AUburn.



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