Happy Heisman Day.
Bulldogs fans haven’t celebrated a Heisman Trophy winner since Herschel Walker ran away with the coveted honor in 1982.
But Walker wasn’t the first Georgia football player to earn Heisman honors.
Today, we take a brief look back at the stellar career of 1942 Heisman Trophy winner halfback Frank Sinkwich.
Bulldogs fans might enjoy this particular highlight given this month’s Liberty Bowl opponent: Sinkwich led the Bulldogs to a 40-26 victory over TCU in the Orange Bowl as a junior on New Year’s Day in 1942.
In his three years as a Bulldog, Sinkwich also played in the Rose Bowl. He ran for 30 TDs and threw for 30 TDs in his three seasons with the Bulldogs. He set the then all-time UGA offense record of 2,400 yards in 1942 and fumbled only four times in his entire career.
Between 1943 and 1982 — a span of 40 seasons — no Heisman Trophy winner produced more total touchdowns in a single season (his 26 in 1942) than Sinkwich.
Sinkwich was the first Heisman winner from the SEC. Sinkwich earned 1,059 points, beating Columbia quarterback Paul Governali’s 218 points with ease. Sinkwich won AP Athlete of the Year in 1942, beating out Red Sox Hall of Fame slugger and baseball Triple Crown winner Ted Williams.
Born on Oct. 10, 1920, in Zagreb, Croatia, Sinkwich was also the first Heisman winner born outside the United States.
On Oct. 24, 1942, Sinkwich had his single-greatest day as a Bulldog, combining for 5 TDs and 363 yards of total offense as the Bulldogs downed Cincinnati, 35-13.
Freshmen were not allowed to play on NCAA varsity teams when Sinkwich arrived in Athens in 1939. As a sophomore, he failed to earn All-SEC honors because the 1940 team was selected before Georgia’s final two games. In those games — against Georgia Tech and Miami — Sinkwich was so outstanding the United Press picked him on its All-Southern first team.
Sinkwich was almost unanimous All-America as a junior. He totaled 1,816 yards. In that Orange Bowl victory, Sinkwich gained 139 yards, completed 9 of 13 passes for 243 yards and 3 TDs. By the way, he played most of that season with a broken jaw in a protective mask beneath his leather helmet.
Sinkwich was a unanimous All-American selection as a tailback on a single wing set during his senior season in 1942. His 2,187 yards of total offense that season was an SEC record. He led Georgia past UCLA 9-0 in the Rose Bowl played on New Year’s Day in 1943 — despite playing with two sprained ankles.
His professional career in Detroit began when his success in Athens ended. He was an All-Pro in 1943 and ’44 but saw his NFL career curtailed because of a knee injury suffered in 1945.
Sinkwich was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 1954. He coached a professional team in Erie, Pa., and served as head coach at the University of Tampa. He was inducted into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1967 and University of Georgia Circle of Honor in 1996.
No Bulldog will ever again wear his number 21.
Sinkwich passed away on Oct. 22, 1990.