‘No Two Are Exactly the Same’: How the Heisman Trophy Is Made


DEL CITY, Okla. — Even among famous awards, the Heisman Trophy stands out.

It lacks the mirrored angles of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the rounded symmetry of the Stanley Cup or the contoured simplicity of the Oscar. The Heisman is gritty verisimilitude. It depicts an athlete in action, dynamically stiff-arming an unseen opponent. It is the color of a scuffed shoe sole, and its chiseled features — deep-set eyes, wrinkled trousers, one bulging calf muscle — are beautiful but not pretty.

So byzantine are its details and so idiosyncratic its coloring that each individual statuette feels unique. In fact, each is, even though the Heisman remains instantly recognizable and its manufacturer takes no creative license.

“No two are exactly the same,” said Jack Nortz, the director of sculpting for MTM Recognition, the company that produces them.

On Saturday in New York, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is the heavy favorite to win the 83rd Heisman Trophy. It will be more special than usual for the employees at MTM Recognition, which has made the Heisman Trophy since 2005: Its headquarters are just south of Oklahoma City, about a half-hour’s drive from the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman. (The other finalists are Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who as last year’s winner already owns one of MTM Recognition’s products, and Stanford running back Bryce Love.)

Jack Nortz demonstrated how alterations on a wax mold of the Heisman Trophy are made. Though the materials have changed, the casting process would have been familiar to the ancient Egyptians. Sarah Phipps for The New York Times

Even when the likely winner is not a Sooner, though, the aura in a workshop that produces dozens of high-profile sports awards is nonetheless distinct when college football’s outstanding player is named.

Suitably for a new statue designed to look old, the process of making a Heisman is both normalized and artisanal. The ancient Egyptians would have known how to make a Heisman: The lost-wax casting method has been used to fashion bronze sculptures for roughly six millenniums.

Source: The New York Times