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College Football Preview 2001

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Smith was first to strike the pose
By Joe Goldstein
Special to ESPN Classic


For 47 years the identity of the person who posed for the most famous award in sports was unknown.

It remained a mystery from 1935 to 1982 until Ed Smith, an NYU football player, was incontrovertibly revealed as the sculptor's model for the Heisman.

Heisman Trophy
First awarded to Jay Berwanger in 1935, the Heisman Trophy remains the most notable award in college sports.
Bud Greenspan, the sports documentarian, was producing a yearly series on the Heisman, and some old time residents of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan remembered that Ed Smith, a neighbor and friend in Washington Heights, had posed for the trophy for sculptor Frank Eliscu.

The old time residents of Washington Heights were the last sports columnist of the New York News and Post, Dick Young, Leonard Lewin, a sports writer for 50 plus years for the New York Mirror and Post, and Stan Saplin, long time university public relations official at NYU and a pro-bono publico historian for Washington Heights.

Smith, known as "Heights Ed Smith," played football at George Washington High School and then at NYU before NFL stints in Boston and Green Bay.

A friend from the neighborhood high school, Eliscu was a sculptor of merit.

Eliscu asked his friend Smith to come to his studio near the NYU campus on Washington Square (with his football uniform and a football) to pose for him. Costumed in the leather helmet, canvas pants and high-top cleated shoes of the era, with his right arm extended and his left arm cradling the football, "Heights Ed" posed for his high school friend.

Smith received nothing for his modeling. "I was just doing a favor for a friend," he said. He never asked and Eliscu never volunteered what Smith was posing for in his studio. "Heights Ed Smith" had several sessions with Eliscu and forgot the incident.

Located in 1982, Smith was interviewed by Joe Gergen, a columnist for Newsday. Smith was found in Lynbrook on Long Island through his brother-in-law Bob Pastor, an NYU footballer who later boxed Joe Louis twice.

Eliscu, then living in Sarasota, Fla., confirmed the details. The trophy for which Smith posed was called the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy in 1935. It was renamed The Heisman the next year in honor of the DAC's athletic director (and a noted football coach at several schools), John Heisman. The trophy, then and always, is 14 inches long, 13 inches wide, and weighs 25 pounds.





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