An Immigrant's Dream
1950 Heisman winner Vic Janowicz
The late Pat Harmon wrote this story about Ohio State tailback Vic Janowicz, the 1950 Heisman Trophy winner, on more than one occasion. The anecdote reveals more about immigrants and their children, the first-generation Americans who fueled the country's emergence as a worldwide beacon of personal and economic freedom, than a hundred textbooks ever could. It is the story of 20th-century America.
Felix Janowicz immigrated to this country from Poland in 1913. He moved to Ohio, got a job in a steel mill and married a Polish girl. The eighth of their nine children, Vic, became a three-sport star at Elyria High. He went to Ohio State and became a star there as well.
In 1950, Janowicz did everything for the Buckeyes but dot the "i" in Script Ohio. He threw 11 touchdown passes, rushed for five more, punted, returned punts and kicked 26 extra points and three field goals. That's how you win the Heisman for a 6-3 team.
The Downtown Athletic Club, home of the Heisman, stood almost at the southwestern tip of Manhattan. Out the windows, many floors high, one could see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the harbor. When Felix Janowicz came to see his son presented with the Heisman, he laid eyes on the lady he had first seen upon arriving in his adopted country 37 years earlier.
The father grabbed his son's arm and began to cry.
"When I came to this country 37 years ago, I made a prayer right there," Felix said. "I prayed that something good would happen to me in America. And here I am today, with my son, who is being honored as the best college football player in America."
That bootstrap life is the self-image that America carried for a long time. Vic Janowicz exemplified it on the football field.
-- Ivan Maisel