New Film Documents How Nile Kinnick Became the Only Hawkeye to Win the Heisman Trophy


Landon Griffin

Nile Kinnick Documentary Review

Landon Griffin, Reporter

If you are an Iowa fan, Nile Kinnick is a notable name, but what do Hawkeye fans really know about him? I found it very cool that the production found a living relative of Nile. His first cousin tells stories from when they were kids, like playing football in the backyard. 

The Nile Kinnick documentary starts back in his early life, as a child Nile always loved playing football with his dad and siblings. In high school Nile was 1st team all-state in football and basketball he did this in Iowa and his senior year in Nebraska. He also played baseball in highschool.

In Nile’s freshman year at Iowa, he made the choice to play football, basketball, and baseball. That year, the football team played poorly; only winning three games. Entering sophomore year, Nile dropped baseball and Iowa hired a new football coach. However, they only got worse; winning a single game. Even with a bad season Nile achieved 1st team all Big Ten, 3rd team All American and led the nation in punting. His Junior year he played on a broken ankle almost all year and the team ended with another disappointing one-win season. Nile then announced he will not be playing basketball his senior year. 

Senior year, with new head coach Eddie Anderson, Nile and the Iowa Hawkeyes had a record of 6-1-1 and were ranked number 9 in the nation. This couldn’t have happened without Nile Kinnick, who threw for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns, and ran for 374 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was responsible for 16 of the 19 total touchdowns and played for 402 minutes of a possible 420 minute season. He also broke 14 records, 6 of which still stand today. Nile won every major award he could, including the most sought after Heisman Trophy, making him the only Hawkeye ever to have won this prestigious award. 

Nile was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers but declined the offers to play professional football,  instead choosing to attend law school. After a single year of law school he enlisted in the Naval Air Reserve. Unfortunately, in 1943 on a routine training flight, a discovery that his aircraft had an oil leak caused a crash landing into the Gulf of Paria of which he did not survive. 

Overall, I would give the documentary a rating of 8/10. It is a little slow, but filled with facts and information about Nile which provided me the opportunity to learn a lot about his life growing up and what he and his family went through. I recommend this documentary to anyone interested in learning more about Nile Kinnick’s life, whether a hawkeye fan or not. This film is 90 minutes and showing at the Film Scene and is also available on the app Vimeo.