Monday, April 24, 2006

Nile Kinnick Was Larger Than Life As Iowa's Heisman Trophy Football Player in 1939. Now, 63 Years After His Death, His Story Will Be On Stage

The University of Iowa athletic department and Iowa City's resident professional theatre company, Riverside Theatre, are partnering to create a new theatrical production to be performed at Hancher Auditorium.

"Kinnick," a play that will add another layer of excitement to the start of the 2006 college football season for the nationally-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes and the celebration of the completion of the two-year, multi-million dollar renovation of the stadium named in honor of arguably the university's most famous student-athlete.

"Kinnick" will run Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2 at 5 p.m., and Sept. 3 at 2 p.m. The Saturday performance will feature an optional pre-performance tailgate at Hancher, which will begin after the football game.

Tickets will go on sale May 1 and will be available for purchase at the Hancher Auditorium box office, (319) 335-1160 or 1-800-HANCHER. Tickets will also be available on-line at www. Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for children/students.

Nile Kinnick was the University of Iowa's most decorated student-athlete and the only Hawkeye to win college football's most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy. He was also considered to be an accomplished student and charismatic leader who gained national attention -- first as the "Cornbelt Comet" and then as an almost symbolic "All American Boy."

The Riverside Theatre and the university will present the new, multi-media, play that documents his achievements and illuminates the turbulent historical period, 1939-1943, during which he both thrived and died.

Iowa native and Iowa graduate Jackson Doran has been cast in the title role. Doran has been a long time favorite with Riverside audiences, having appeared in numerous productions with the company over a 10-year period. He now resides in Chicago.

The production of "Kinnick" imagines a live, old-time radio broadcast honoring him just after his death. It juxtaposes scenes recreated from Kinnick's own diaries and letters with extravagant commentaries from sportscasters and gossip columnists of the time interspersed with singing jingles and advertisements as well as images and popular music from the period.

The original script is by Riverside Theatre co-founder, Bruce Wheaton.

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I like this idea. The more I researched my book, "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," the more I realized what an unbelievable person Nile Kinnick was as a University of Iowa student and football player in the late-1930s. With the leadership of coach Eddie Anderson, Kinnick brought Hawkeye football back to life in a 1939 season that saw him win the Heisman Trophy. I'm glad "Kinnick" is coming to the Iowa City stage 63 years after Nile's death. The man led a storybook life, and I'm glad to see the university is remembering him again].

* * *

Jon Miller, publisher of Hawkeye Nation, writes:

Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye...or so the adage goes. To say it is one thing, but to see it is another. That love and spirit was on full display Sunday in Ottumwa as several Iowa basketball legends gathered together and played a game to benefit another Iowa great, Kenny Arnold.

Jon Miller was the master of ceremonies for this event and he has filed a diary of his experiences, plus some information on how you can lend a Hawkeye hand to Kenny Arnold.

There have been times in my nearly eight years of marriage to my wife when she has asked me why Iowa fans have such a strong bond and identity with their favorite team and school. She is not from this state, so I can understand where she is coming from. I have met many a sports fan from other states around this country and have rarely seen the level of loyalty, devotion and love that Iowa fans show to their beloved Hawkeyes.

The easiest way I know how to describe the bond is to say that it’s almost like the Hawkeyes are a member of your own family; you love them all the time, they can irritate you some of the time, but at the end of the day, family is family and those bonds last forever.

Such an outpouring of loyalty, devotion and love was on display Sunday in Ottumwa as the Second ‘Because We Can for Kenny Arnold’ Legends Game took place on a near picture-perfect Iowa spring day.

This event is set up to raise funds for the Kenny Arnold Trust, an account that helps Arnold battle through the after effects of a brain tumor that reduced him from 200 pounds down to 125 pounds in recent years.

Arnold is not in great health even today, but the man’s spirit seemed unbreakable as he was laughing throughout the two-hour event. Read more about Arnold's plight and the efforts to help him HERE.

Arnold arrived at the Indian Hills Community College gymnasium shortly before tipoff, and he was eagerly sought after by most in attendance.

Though there were more heralded Hawkeye greats from the past on hand, such as Bobby Hansen and Greg Stokes, this was Arnold’s day.....

Many of you have e-mailed me asking how to contribute to Kenny Arnold’s Trust. You can certainly do this, and it would be greatly appreciated. Send your check or money order to the following address:

Kenny Arnold Trust
c/o US Bank
270 West Seventh Street
Dubuque, IA 52001