How the Owners of All 32 NFL Teams Made Their Money

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Getty Images

Has the return of football season inspired you to pursue your dream of NFL franchise ownership? Here's how someone—or, in many cases, someone's parents or grandparents—becomes wealthy enough to buy a team. 

Arizona Cardinals: Bill Bidwill

Owner Since: 1972

The Numbers: Forbes estimates the Cardinals are worth $1 billion, making them the 25th most valuable team in the NFL. 

Moving Man: Bidwill moved the team from St. Louis after his demands for a new stadium weren’t met.

How He Got Rich: Bidwill inherited the Cardinals from his father, Charles. Charles was a wealthy Chicago lawyer, and according to the book From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: The National Football League, 1920-1967, he had connections to Al Capone.

Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Blank

Owner Since: 2002

The Numbers: The Falcons are estimated to be worth $1.125 billion, placing them 21st in the NFL franchise financial rankings. Blank reportedly bought the team for $545 million.

More Teams on the Way?: Blank has expressed interest in bringing an MLS team to Atlanta.

How He Got Rich: In 1978, Arthur Blank co-founded Home Depot. Story has it that during Home Depot’s early days, Blank and his business partner would stand in the parking lot handing out dollar bills to entice customers to browse the store. Blank is now worth an estimated $2.5 billion, meaning he could lure the entire population of China into a Home Depot if he wanted to.

Baltimore Ravens: Stephen Bisciotti

Owner Since: 2004

The Numbers: Bisciotti was a minority owner of the Ravens from 2000 until he bought the whole dang team through a $325 million deal with Art Modell in 2004. The Ravens are now worth $1.5 billion.

Young Gun: Bisciotti is the second youngest sole owner of an NFL franchise behind Dan Snyder. Bisciotti is the first youngest if you don’t count owners who are despised by their own fans.

How He Got Rich: Bisciotti founded Aerotek in a basement office with his cousin. This later turned into the parent company the Allegis Group, which owns both Aerotek and TEKsystems. Despite what they sound like, these companies are not fronts for a Bond villain’s plot for world domination, but rather staffing firms for engineering and technology companies.

Buffalo Bills: Terry Pegula


Owner Since: 2014

The Numbers: The Buffalo Bills are worth $935 million, according to Forbes. Ralph Wilson founded the team in the then-AFL in 1959. The league eventually merged with the NFL in 1970, where the Bills went on to define small-market success in the early '90s—before doing the exact opposite of that for the following two decades. 

How He Got Rich: After Wilson's passing in 2014, Pegula bought the Bills for a reported sum of $1.4 billion. His fortune comes from the sale of his natural gas drilling and fracking company.

Carolina Panthers: Jerry Richardson

Owner Since: 1993

The Numbers: The Panthers are worth a little over $1.2 billion.

Experience: Richardson actually played in the NFL for two seasons. He was a receiver for the Baltimore Colts in 1959 and 1960. Maybe he could throw on the pads for one more go and give Cam Newton another downfield target! (Disclaimer: Jerry Richardson is 79 years old and would likely be severely injured or even killed.)

How He Got Rich: Richardson owned Hardee’s franchises in South Carolina before going on to become the CEO of food services company Flagstar, which ran every Denny’s in the country. The company flirted with financial unrest until it was purchased by a private equity group in 1992. Richardson retired in 1995.

Chicago Bears: Virginia Halas McCaskey

Owner Since: 1983

The Numbers: Virginia McCaskey owns 80% of the Bears, who are valued at $1.7 billion. Nearly $1 billion of that money is spent reminding people the 1985 Bears won the Super Bowl.

Football Money: It’s hard to find any Halas family holdings or enterprises that don’t have to do with the T-formation, linebackers, or angry, mustachioed head coaches. The family’s fortune grew with the NFL, which is to say it grew a lot.

How She Got Rich: She inherited the team from her father, George Halas, who took a starch company’s rec-league squad and essentially turned it into the NFL. He was a founder, player, coordinator, coach, and owner of the Bears—hence his nickname, “Mr. Everything.”

Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Brown

Owner Since: 1991

The Numbers: Mike Brown took over the Bengals after his father’s death in 1991. The team is worth an estimated $990 million.

Total Control: Mike Brown works as the general manager of the Bengals, and is one of only two owners in the NFL to do so. The Cowboys’ Jerry Jones is the other, which doesn’t help Brown in deflecting any criticism that he’s a control freak.

How He Got Rich: Mike Brown’s father, Paul Brown, was the namesake and first coach of Ohio’s other team, the Browns. He went on to co-found and own the Bengals before leaving the team to his son. Like the Halas family, the Browns’ money comes from football. Should football one day cease to exist, the Browns would be penniless and confused, wandering through the Midwest wondering where their publicly-funded stadiums and fortune went. Luckily for them, football has continued to exist and looks relatively stable.

Cleveland Browns: Jimmy Haslam

Owner Since: 2012

The Numbers: In 2012, Jimmy Haslam bought the Cleveland Browns from Randy Lerner for a reported $1 billion.

Serial Buyer: Haslam had to sell a minority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers that he held since 2008 in order to buy the Browns. NFL rules state that owners aren’t allowed to have ownership stakes in multiple teams. In fact, that’s pretty much the only rule the NFL has for its owners.

How He Got Rich: Jimmy Haslam is the CEO of the Pilot Flying J truck stop company, a nationwide chain founded by his father. Pilot Flying J is the largest such company in the country and sells more over-the-road diesel fuel than anyone else. Haslam and Pilot Flying J are currently under federal investigation for allegedly scheming customers and shortchanging them on fuel rebates.

Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones

Owner Since: 1989

The Numbers: The Cowboys are worth an estimated $3.2 billion, making them the number one team on Forbes’ list of the most valuable NFL franchises. Jerry Jones bought them in 1989 for $140 million and has been one of the most visible owners in all of pro sports. In 2009, Jones opened the new $1.3 billion Cowboys Stadium, now named AT&T Stadium. Remember to call it that—AT&T paid an estimated $500 million and would appreciate it.

How He Got Rich: Jones is an oilman, naturally. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Jones made his fortune wildcatting with Jones Oil and Land Lease, drilling all the way to the Cowboys’ owners box. Jones’ estimated net worth now sits at $4.2 billion, or roughly 35 debatable Tony Romo contract extensions.

Denver Broncos: Pat Bowlen

Owner Since: 1984

The Numbers: Pat Bowlen became the majority owner of the Denver Broncos in 1984 after his family purchased the team from Edgar Kaiser. The Broncos are now worth $1.45 billion which, adjusted for altitude, is still $1.45 billion. Bowlen also owns the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse.

How He Got Rich: Pat Bowlen achieved success as a lawyer in Edmonton before becoming an executive for his family’s oil drilling and exploration company, Regent Resources. The lesson here seems to be that if you can strike oil and buy a sports team before the league’s popularity explodes, you might be able to make a buck or two.

Detroit Lions: Martha Ford

Owner Since: 2014 (Inherited team from late husband William Clay Ford, Sr.)

The Numbers: William Clay Ford, Sr. bought the Detroit Lions in 1963 for $4.5 million. The team is now worth $960 million. Since buying the team, Ford’s Lions have won exactly one playoff game. 

How He Got Rich: Bill was Henry Ford grandchild and the Ford Motor Company’s single largest stockholder. According to a 2011 calculation, Ford’s shares in the motor company were estimated to be worth about $500 million.

Green Bay Packers: Green Bay Packers, Inc.

This One's Different: The Packers are a very special case. They are a publicly traded non-profit company owned by their 360,760 shareholders. If they ever need to raise money for a stadium or something else expensive, they just sell more shares. To prevent anything even resembling a majority owner from coming into existence, there’s a limit on how many shares you can buy.

It’s a remarkably effective and successful model that goes directly against the NFL’s runaway capitalist ideal. Naturally, it’s long been banned by the league—the Packers have been grandfathered in.

Houston Texans: Robert C. McNair

Owner Since: 2002

The Numbers: McNair and his partners bought the expansion Houston Texans for $700 million. In little over a decade, the team’s value ballooned to an estimated $1.85 billion, making them the 5th most valuable NFL franchise according to Forbes, and proving that people from Texas really took to rooting against the Cowboys.

How He Got Rich: Robert C. McNair owned a cogeneration power plant company and sold it to Enron in 1999. After that, it was nothing but smooooooth sailing for Enron.

Indianapolis Colts: Jim Irsay

Owner Since: 1997

The Numbers: The Colts are worth an estimated $1.4 billion, much of which is tied to a sweet stadium deal hashed out with Indianapolis.

How He Got Rich: Jim Irsay’s father, Robert Irsay, built a fortune estimated to be over $150 million through successful heating and air-conditioning companies. In 1972 he bought the Los Angeles Rams for $19 million before trading franchises with Carroll Rosenbloom for the Baltimore Colts. The franchise trade wasn’t the last oddball ownership trick he pulled: Irsay infamously moved the Colts out of Baltimore in the middle of the night in 1984 via a fleet of moving trucks. No one ever gives the movers enough credit. Moving an entire pro football team in one night must’ve been really hard.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Shahid Khan

Owner Since: 2012

The Numbers: The Jaguars are worth an estimated $965 million, which must come as a surprise to the citizens of Jacksonville. Khan also purchased English soccer team Fulham FC for a price estimated to be over $200 million.

How He Got Rich: Bumpers.

Khan arrived in America from Pakistan when he was 16 to study engineering at the University of Illinois. After graduating, Khan found work as an engineering manager at Flex-N-Gate, a nearby autoparts company. Flex-N-Gate made bumpers, and they made them inefficiently. Khan streamlined the process and started his own company, Bumper Works. Soon after, Khan bought Flex-N-Gate and began supplying lightweight bumpers to General Motors. After GM decided to use his methods on their own, Khan shifted his focus to Japanese automakers in the ‘80s, just as the Japanese auto invasion began to storm U.S. shores. Flex-N-Gate is now the sole bumper manufacturer for Toyota, and made $4.5 billion in 2014 alone.

Kansas City Chiefs: Clark Hunt

Owner Since: 2006

The Numbers: The Chiefs are worth a little over $1 billion, and have been in the Hunt family since the team’s inception in the AFL. Clark Hunt is the Chairman of Hunt Sports Group, which operates the Columbus Crew.

How He Got Rich: Clark Hunt is the grandchild of extravagant oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, who was the Platonic ideal for a Texas billionaire (he may have been the inspiration for J.R. Ewing on Dallas). H.L’s son (and Clark’s father) Lamar was a co-founder of the American Football League. He’s also the person who coined the term “Super Bowl,” and had investments in various soccer, tennis, hockey, and basketball ventures (including the Chicago Bulls). When Lamar died in 2006, Clark inherited the Chiefs and has served as chairman and CEO ever since.

Miami Dolphins: Stephen M. Ross

Owner Since: 2009

The Numbers: The Dolphins are worth an estimated $1.3 billion. Not bad for a team whose logo is a porpoise wearing a helmet. Ross increased his share of the franchise from 50% to 95% in 2009.

How He Got Rich: Stephen Ross started his career as a tax attorney before getting into real estate. He started by investing in affordable housing and syndicating and selling these projects as tax shelters to wealthy investors. His real estate ventures eventually grew to include mammoth projects like the Time Warner Center and the sprawling Hudson Yards development site in Manhattan. His estimated net worth is now $6.5 billion. Ross donates a lot to his alma mater, the University of Michigan. A lot: he's given over $300 million so far. For his troubles they went ahead and named the business school after him.

Minnesota Vikings: Zygi Wilf

Owner Since: 2005

The Numbers: Wilf and his partners bought the Vikings in 2005 for a reported $600 million. The team is now worth over $1.1 billion.

How He Got Rich: Wilf’s family, German immigrants and Holocaust survivors, launched their wealth by building and selling single family homes in the ‘50s. The company grew with Wilf and his brothers at the helm, and their business now develops town homes in 39 states. They also have a commercial arm that specializes in shopping malls and owns over 20 million square feet of retail space in the U.S.

New England Patriots: Robert Kraft

Owner since: 1995

The Numbers: Robert Kraft bought the Patriots for $172 million in 1995, and their estimated net worth is now $2.6 billion. In an alternate universe, this number swelled to over $3 billion due to merchandise sales celebrating the Pats’ undefeated season in 2007. But in this universe, there was the helmet catch.

Other Notable Holdings: Kraft is the founder of one of the first MLS teams, the New England Revolution.

How He Got Rich: Robert Kraft got his start working at his father-in-law’s packaging material company. He eventually bought the business and merged it with International Forest Products, a separate packaging and recycling company he started. All his ventures are currently under the umbrella of The Kraft Group, a holding company that also controls various real estate and entertainment ventures. His estimated net worth is $4.3 billion.

New Orleans Saints: Tom Benson

Owner Since: 1985

The Numbers: The New Orleans Saints are worth around $1.1 billion. Benson bought the team in 1985 when he found out they were in talks to be moved to Jacksonville, a city with far inferior zydeco music and gumbo. Benson also recently bought the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

How He Got Rich: Benson owned (and still owns) multiple car dealerships in the New Orleans and San Antonio areas. He began to invest in and purchase local banks and formed Benson Financial, which was a successful enough enterprise to fund his purchase of the Saints. In 1996 he sold Benson Financial to Norwest Banks for $440 million.

New York Giants: John Mara and Steve Tisch

Owners Since: 2005

The Numbers: The Giants, one of the NFL’s first teams, are estimated to be worth around $2.1 billion. But they have to share a stadium with the Jets, which really must bring their property values down.

Familiar Names: That’s Mara as in Rooney and Kate Mara; the actresses are the great-granddaughters of Tim Mara. And the Tisch family might ring a bell because they’re the Tisches of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

How They Got Rich: The Maras' fortune started with the Giants’ original owner, Tim Mara. Tim was a bookkeeper in the horse racing circuit and bought the Giants for $500 in 1925. Story has it that Mara’s buddy, a boxing promoter, was offered the team but passed it along to him. Mara didn’t know much about football, but he ponied up the five hundred bucks anyway.

Steve Tisch is a film producer and inherited his part-ownership of the Giants from his father, Bob Tisch, a former postmaster general and co-owner of the Loews Corporation.

New York Jets: Robert Wood Johnson IV

Owner Since: 2000

The Numbers: Robert “Woody” Johnson IV bought the Jets in 2000 for a reported $635 million. They are now worth an estimated $1.8 billion, but if you ask the New York tabloids, they’d list the team as “priceless.”

How He Got Rich: Woody Johnson is an heir to the Johnson & Johnson company, which was co-founded by his great-grandfather.

Oakland Raiders: Mark and Carol Davis

Owners Since: 2011

The Numbers: The Raiders are worth $970 million, so they should be able to afford a football field that doesn’t have a baseball diamond sitting in the middle of it. This isn’t Pop Warner, folks.

Warring With The NFL: He could be a clueless blowhard at times, but former owner Al Davis loved to stick it to the powers-that-be, something that’s always enjoyable. Davis quit as the AFL commissioner because he was so against the move to the NFL. As owner, he went on to annoy every NFL commissioner who stood in his way.

How They Got Rich: Mark Davis and his mother, Carol, inherited a controlling interest in the Raiders from Mark’s father, Al. The elder Davis began as a coach and general manager of the Raiders before becoming the team’s owner by shouldering out Wayne Valley, the man who'd originally hired Davis, when Valley was out of the country. The moral of the story: Don’t go on vacation when Al Davis is around.

Philadelphia Eagles: Jeffrey Lurie

Owner Since: 1994

The Numbers: Jeffrey Lurie bought the Eagles in 1994 for $195 million. The team is now worth around $1.75 billion.

Eagles Are Green: In 2010, Lurie and the Eagles announced a plan to make Lincoln Financial Field the first major sports stadium to generate its own renewable energy. Though, that’s pretty easy when the fans are throwing batteries on the field. (Lay off, Eagles fans; at least we didn’t go the Santa-booing route.)

How He Got Rich: The Lurie family fortune started with a chain of movie theaters founded and built by Jeffrey Lurie’s grandfather. The family wealth blossomed after acquiring other ventures like bottling companies and clothing retailers. In 1985, Jeffrey founded Chestnut Hill Productions, which produced a slew of pretty forgettable films including Blind Side. No, not the movie about football, but rather the steamy 1993 thriller starring Ron Silver.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Dan Rooney

Owner Since: 1988

The Numbers: The Steelers are worth $1.35 billion, making them the richest towel manufacturer in the world. They also run a football team on the side.

Steeler Nation Envoy: In 2009, President Obama named Rooney the U.S.’s ambassador to Ireland. He resigned in 2012.

How He Got Rich: Lore has it that Art Rooney, Dan’s father, got the $2500 needed to purchase Pittsburgh an NFL franchise in 1933 after he won a parlay at the horse track. There is some dispute over the validity of this story, but no matter how he earned the money, Art managed to turn the Steelers into one of the NFL’s wealthiest franchises. Gambling never left the family’s blood, either: Dan Rooney’s brothers own various horse and greyhound tracks across the country.

San Diego Chargers: Alex Spanos

Owner Since: 1984

The Numbers: The Chargers are worth an estimated $995 million, which is one dollar for every day of sunshine San Diego gets a year.

How He Got Rich: Spanos’ business career began in 1951 when he started a catering company with an $800 loan. He threw his catering profits into real estate and rolled those investments into the A.G. Spanos Companies, a construction business specializing in apartment and commercial buildings.

San Francisco 49ers: Jed York

Owner Since: 2009

The Numbers: Forbes estimates the 49ers to be worth about $1.6 billion.

How He Got Rich: Jed York is the nephew of Edward DeBartolo Jr., who was the 49ers’ remarkably successful owner for 23 years. The DeBartolo fortune came from construction and real estate: they built some of the first suburban shopping malls in the country.

Seattle Seahawks: Paul Allen

Owner Since: 1997

The Numbers: The Seahawks are worth an estimated $1.33 billion [cut to footage of people throwing sturgeon in the Pike Place Fish Market].

Other Notable Holdings: Allen also owns the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Sounders of the MLS. If you live in the Pacific Northwest and play sports recreationally, chances are Paul Allen owns your after-work softball team.

How He Got Rich: In 1975, Paul Allen founded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He is now worth $17.4 billion, making him the NFL’s richest team owner (by far). And in the 1999 made-for-TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, Allen was portrayed by Josh Hopkins, who played Courteney Cox's love interest on Cougar Town.

St. Louis Rams: Stan Kroenke

Owner Since: 2010

The Numbers: The St. Louis Rams are worth an estimated $930 million, making them the "poorest" team in the NFL.

Other Notable Holdings: Kroenke heads Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which owns or holds considerable shares of the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Colorado Rapids. He had to turn over operational control of these teams upon becoming the owner of the Rams, as per the NFL’s rules on owning teams in multiple markets.

How He Got Rich: Stan Kroenke is a real estate magnate who owns developments around the country, many of which are anchored by Wal-Mart locations. His wife, Anna Walton Kroenke, is the daughter of Bud Walton, co-founder with his brother Sam of Wal-Mart. What a coincidence!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Glazer Family

Owners Since: 1995

The Numbers: Malcolm Glazer bought the Bucs for $192 million in 1995, which was a record at the time. He died in 2014.

Other Notable Holdings: The Glazer family bought Manchester United in 2005. The soccer club is the third-richest in the world.

How They Got Rich: When he was 15, Glazer inherited his father’s watch business. In the ‘70s, Glazer began buying trailer parks and soon developed that real estate venture into First Allied Corporation, a holding company that owns and rents shopping centers across the country. The company took a huge hit during the recession, and his current wealth is mainly due to his sports franchise ownerships.

Tennessee Titans: KSA Industries (A Holding Company Established by Former Owner Bud Adams)

Owner Since: 2013

The Numbers: The Titans are estimated to be worth $1.161 billion.

How He Got Rich: Bud Adams was a wildcatter in the ‘50s and ’60s and made his money in oil. Hence the Titans original identity: The Houston Oilers. Adams died in 2013.

Washington Redskins: Dan Snyder

Owner Since: 1999

The Numbers: The Redskins are worth $2.4 billion.

Other Notable Holdings: Snyder owns three sports radio stations in the DC area, as well as a production company with Tom Cruise. He also purchased Dick Clark Productions, hoping it would provide rockin’ returns.

How He Got Rich: Snyder started a marketing and advertising company with his sister. They specialized in doctors' offices and hospitals. According to a report in the Washingtonian, “When new mothers were sent home from the maternity ward, they were given goodie bags of creams and diapers—through Dan Snyder’s company.” This direct marketing proved successful and the business took off and started to branch out to include telemarketing and other methods. That call you got during dinner last night? Probably Dan Snyder.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images. An earlier version of this post appeared in 2013.

Tom Molineaux: The Ex-Slave Who Became America’s First International Boxing Superstar

George Cruickshank (NYPL), via Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
George Cruickshank (NYPL), via Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

Tom Molineaux found freedom with his fists.

Regarded as America's first great prizefighter, very little is known about Molineaux’s early life. The most common account, however, says that he was born a slave in Virginia sometime around 1784. The local plantation owners took amusement in pitting their enslaved people against each other in bare-knuckle boxing matches, and Molineaux showed a knack for the sport. One day, he won a match that earned his master a huge sum in bets, and was consequently granted his freedom.

(There’s an unsubstantiated rumor that George Washington, a neighboring plantation owner, might have given Molineaux a few pointers in the ring. While that is almost certainly a fabrication, Washington did in fact know a great deal about combat sports such as wrestling; Sports Illustrated called him “a master of the British style known as collar and elbow.”)

After gaining his freedom, Molineaux moved north to New York City around 1804 and began honing his bare-knuckle boxing skills. Details are scarce, but it’s obvious that the young pugilist carved out a name for himself, as he soon earned the title of “Champion of America.”

After five years, Molineaux decided to take his talents across the pond to England. “He was the first American to rise to the eminence of an international challenger,” journalist Paul Magriel wrote in a 1951 edition of the journal Phylon [PDF].

But Molineaux wasn't just hungry for new competition. In Britain, there was big money in boxing. Though the sport was technically illegal, it was well-respected and well-attended. It also had a set of well-defined rules, which Brian Phillips wrote about in a fantastic piece for Grantland:

"Bouts were held outdoors, on bare ground, in rings marked off from fields. The fighters wore no gloves, which probably made them safer. (Gloves were introduced to protect the hands, not the head, and allowed fighters to punch harder.) But rounds didn’t end until one man or the other went down. And there was no limit to the number of rounds that could be fought. After a fall, fighters had 30 seconds to return to the scratch, a mark in the middle of the ring."

Arriving in England, Molineaux had one goal: To fight Tom Cribb. Cribb, who was born near Bristol, England, was considered Europe’s best boxer and routinely drew tens of thousands of spectators to his matches. He was also incredibly tough. According to Phillips, “he reportedly trained by punching the bark off trees.”

In London, Molineaux met a fellow American boxing aficionado—and ex-slave—named Bill Richmond. Richmond, who was considered one of the world’s first black sporting celebrities, was also a highly in-demand trainer. And he agreed to take Molineaux under his wing.

The duo was a perfect fit. With Richmond’s help, Molineaux began to vanquish his opponents fight after fight after fight. In one match, he beat a man so badly that it was impossible to discern his facial features. “The amateurs were completely astonished at the improvement exhibited by Molineaux, and the punishment he dealt out was so truly tremendous, and his strength and bottom so superior, that he was deemed a proper match for the champion, Tom Cribb,” wrote Pierce Egan, a celebrated journalist of the time, in his book Boxiana.

The momentous match was arranged for December 18, 1810. Immediately, the bout's implications were freighted by racism and nationalism. “Some persons feel alarmed at the bare idea that a black man and a foreigner should seize the championship of England, and decorate his sable brow with the hard earned laurels of Cribb,” one media outlet claimed, according to the book Pugilistica.

On the day of the fight, rain poured down. More than 5000 people attended anyway, including a gaggle of the first professional sportswriters. Long before the first punch was thrown, the pro-Cribb crowd began hurling racist invectives at the black American fighter.

Molineaux seemed undeterred. Round after round, he knocked the English champion down. At one point, Molineaux held Cribb in a legal headlock, and the fight's action stalled. Dozens, possibly hundreds, of impatient fans stormed the ring. The scrum injured—and possibly broke—a few of Molineaux’s fingers.

The American continued to dominate anyway.

By the 28th round, the afternoon’s wagers—which had started at 4 to 1 in Cribb’s favor—were now even. According to Egan, “In the 28th round, after the men were carried to their corners, Cribb was so much exhausted that he could hardly rise from his second's knee at the call of 'Time.'" It was clear that Molineaux was on pace to win.

In fact, many people believe he should have already been declared the victor. In the 27th round, Cribb fell and failed to get back up after the required 30 seconds. By all means, Molineaux should have been celebrating. But Cribb’s minders distracted the refs and managed to buy enough time for Cribb to regain both his consciousness and his composure. Whether they were complicit or just clueless, the refs let the time violation slide and the fight continued [PDF].

Shortly after, the momentum shifted.

Cribb landed a few lucky punches. Molineaux, whose eyes had swollen over, began to stagger. After 44 rounds, the American quit and Cribb was declared the winner. The crowd went nuts, leading Pierce Egan to call the whole event, "[T]he most dreadful affront to British sportsmanship ever witnessed."

A few days later, Molineaux sent Cribb a letter blaming the loss on the weather and asking for a rematch. A second fight, which occurred approximately nine months later on September 18, 1811, was attended by more than 15,000 people. This time, Cribb out-trained the American and defeated Molineaux in 11 rounds.

But history had already been made. The first match had secured Molineaux a hallowed place as one of the sport’s top athletes, and in 1997, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Who Was Heisman and Why Does He Have a Trophy?

Lonnie Major, ALLSPORT
Lonnie Major, ALLSPORT

Before anyone brings home the hardware, let's answer a few questions about John Heisman and his famous award.

Who Exactly Was John Heisman?

His name is mostly associated with the trophy now, but Heisman was a player, coach, and hugely successful innovator in the early days of football. After playing for Brown and then Penn as a collegian from 1887 to 1891, Heisman became a coach at a series of schools that included Oberlin, Buchtel, Auburn, Clemson, Penn, Washington & Jefferson, Rice, and, most notably, Georgia Tech.

For What Football Innovations Does Heisman Get Credit?

Just some little trivial stuff like snapping the ball. Centers originally placed the ball on the ground and rolled it back to their quarterbacks, who would scoop it up and make plays. When Heisman was coaching at Buchtel (which later became the University of Akron), though, he had a 6’4” QB named Harry Clark. Clark was so tall that picking the ball up off the ground was wildly inefficient, so Heisman invented the center snap as an easy way to get the ball in Clark’s hands. Heisman also innovated the use of pulling guards for running plays and the infamous hidden-ball trick.

Any Other Shenanigans on Heisman's Resume?

You bet. When Heisman found a way to gain an edge, he jumped on it no matter how ridiculous it seemed. When Heisman was coaching at Clemson in 1902, his team traveled to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech. Although Heisman was known for being a rather gruff disciplinarian, the Clemson team immediately started partying upon their arrival.

When Georgia Tech’s players and fans heard that the entire Clemson squad had spent the night before the game carousing, they prepared to coast to an easy win. When the game started, though, Clemson roared out of the gate en route to a 44-5 stomping.

How did Clemson crush Tech when by all rights they should have been ridiculously hungover? The “team” that everyone had seen partying the night before wasn't really Heisman's Clemson squad at all. He had sent his junior varsity players to Atlanta the night before to serve as drunken decoys, then quietly slipped his varsity team in on a morning train right before the game.

What Kind of Coach Was He?

Heisman worked as an actor in community stock theater during the summer—he consistently received rotten reviews—and allegedly spoke in a brusque, yet bizarrely ostentatious manner. Georgia Tech’s website relates a story of one of Heisman’s speeches he would break out on the first day of practice while describing a football: "What is this? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere—in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football."

How Did His Name Get on the Trophy?

After leaving his head-coaching job at Rice in 1927, Heisman became the athletic director at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. In 1935 the club began awarding the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy to the nation’s top college football star. (Chicago's Jay Berwanger won the first trophy.) Heisman died of pneumonia the following fall before the second trophy could be awarded, and the club voted to rename the prize the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.

Did He Ever Really Throw that Iconic Stiff Arm?

Possibly, but Heisman didn't have the ball in his hands all that much. Even though he was a fairly small guy at just 5’8” and 158 pounds, he played as a lineman throughout his college career.

The famous “Heisman pose” is actually based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934. Interestingly, Smith went years without knowing that he’d modeled for the famous trophy. His sculptor buddy Frank Eliscu had just needed a football player to model for a project, and Smith volunteered.

Smith figured Eliscu was just doing some little personal sculpture and remained totally oblivious to his spot in football history for the next 48 years until a documentary filmmaker called Smith to interview him about the Heisman in 1982. Smith initially had no idea what the guy was talking about, but he eventually remembered his modeling days. In 1985, the Downtown Athletic Club gave Smith his own copy of the Heisman, and in 1986 he even received recognition on the televised ceremony. He looked at the four finalists—Vinny Testaverde won that year—and quipped, "Whoever wins the award, I feel sorry for you, because you're going to be looking at my ugly face for a long time."

What's a Heisman Trophy Worth on the Open Market?

Quite a bit. A number of Heisman winners have eventually sold their hardware, and the trophies fetch quite a bit of loot. O.J. Simpson got $230,000 for his, and several others have gone for six-figure prices. The most expensive trophy that’s changed hands was Minnesota back Bruce Smith’s 1941 award; it fetched $395,240.

How Did Steve Spurrier Change the Process?

Steve Spurrier playing quarterback in 1966, the year he won the Heisman Trophy.
Steve Spurrier playing quarterback for the University of Florida in 1966, the year he won the Heisman Trophy.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

SEC fans are going to be floored by this one, but the Ol' Ball Coach did something really classy when he won the Heisman in 1966. Instead of taking the trophy for himself, Spurrier gave it to the University of Florida so the school could display it and let the student body enjoy it. Florida's student government thought Spurrier's generosity was so classy that they paid for a replica for Spurrier so he'd get to have his own trophy, too. Since then both the school and the player have received copies of the trophy.

So Heisman Must Have Been the World's Greatest Sportsman, Right?

Well, not really. Heisman was on the victorious side of possibly the most gratuitously run-up score in sports history. In 1916 tiny Cumberland College canceled its football program and disbanded its squad, but it had previously signed a contract to travel to Atlanta to play Heisman's Georgia Tech team. If Cumberland didn't show up, they had to pay Georgia Tech a $3000 penalty, which was quite a bit of cash in 1916.

Rather than forfeiting the money, Cumberland scraped together a team of 16 scrubs and went to take their walloping from Heisman’s boys. For reasons that still aren't totally clear—some say it was to avenge an earlier baseball loss to Cumberland, while others claim Heisman wanted to make a statement about the absurdity of the old system of using total points scored to determine the national champion—the legendary coach showed Cumberland’s ragtag band no mercy. Tech went up 63-0 in the first quarter, but Heisman kept attacking until the final score was 222-0. There are tons of hilarious stats from the game, but the funniest is Georgia Tech rushing for 1620 yards while Cumberland only squeaked out negative-96 yards on 27 carries.

This article originally appeared in 2010.

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