Book Review: Kinnick: The Man and the Legend (D.W. Stump)

Available from Amazon for Kindle

Reviewed by The Rev. Dr. Derald W. Stump - retired

Nile Kinnick, Jr. won the 1939 Heisman Trophy during the Golden Age of American Sports, beating out such superstars as Joe DiMaggio and Joe Louis to be named AP's Athlete of the Year. Kinnick was also named to Sports Illustrated's All-Century team in the year 2000, sharing the defensive backfield with Deion Sanders, even though he hadn't played in over 70 years.

But as you'll discover in this engaging read, Kinnick was different from Sanders and the sports stars we know today. Kinnick was a son of the Midwest and the unique farm-based work ethic created during the Depression, as well as a brilliant student headed to law school and one of the best athletes of his generation.

He was virtually ignored by colleges after a stellar high school career ... too small and slow according to legendary Minnesota coach Bernie Bierman ... he headed to Iowa and suffered through losing seasons and a junior year riddled with injury. But it was his magical senior year of 1939 when Iowa's "Ironmen," led by an enthusiastic new coach and Kinnick's birth as a star, finished 6-1-1 and 9th in the country even beating famed Notre Dame.

Kinnick won the Heisman and Maxwell trophies as college football's best while also capturing America's attention and admiration after one of the best Heisman acceptance speeches ever. One that identified the looming menace of World War II and sought to warn America from war.

However, when war came, Kinnick was among the first to join, leaving law school to become an officer and a pilot. Kinnick's plane went down on a training run in 1943 off the coast of Venezuela, taking with it one of our country's best and brightest. The grandson of an Iowa Governor, it was clear that Kinnick would eventually make his mark on the public stage and even at his age many were predicting the White House.

D.W. Stump's biography takes you inside Kinnick's life, and allows you to follow his innermost thoughts in his own words through his diary entries. Stump, a cousin of Kinnick, was just 9  years old during Kinnick's Heisman season, and his book offers family and personal insight that only someone like him could provide.

For those who love sports and still believe that the character revealed on the field can inspire and create leaders off of it, this book is for you. It's an inspiring read and one that will leave an indelible mark on those who get to know Kinnick in its pages.