Northeast Premiere Kinnick The Documentary

TREVOR MEYERS, Photographer

This Thursday, Nov. 3 the University of Northern Iowa will be hosting the Northeast Iowa premiere of “Kinnick: The Documentary” at 7 p.m. in Lang Auditorium. Admission is free and all are welcome.

This documentary features a larger-than-life Iowa native Nile Kinnick, who became a football legend. He died tragically young but has inspired generations of people since his death.

        From his birth in Adel, Iowa, his formative years during the Great Depression, winning the Heisman trophy while attending the University of Iowa, to eventually becoming a naval aviator in World War II, the story of Kinnick is one of family, determination, and striving for excellence. That striving for excellence is exactly what the directors of this documentary were hoping to portray themselves. 

“I’m really looking forward to showing something I’m proud of and to show how I’ve been able to take the skills I was taught at UNI and use them on such a large project,” said Christopher Cook, co-director. Cook is a 2008 UNI graduate who received his B.A. in electronic media. Cook runs Brainroot, his company located in Kansas City, where he spends his time producing creative content and documentary media.

        In 1939, Kinnick won every major award in football and won the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, the first college football player to be given the honor. To top it all off, on Dec. 6, 1939, in New York City, Kinnick accepted the Heisman Trophy award. The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding player in college football of that year. Recipients are supposed to epitomize great athletic ability, along with diligence, perseverance and hard work. 

However, Kinnick did not just accept the award in his speech. He made a statement on what was happening across the Atlantic over in Europe as three months earlier, Hitler had invaded Poland and plunged Europe into war. As Kinnick said in the acceptance speech, “I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest and not on the battlefields of Europe…I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country would much more, much rather struggle and fight to win a Heisman award than a Croix de Guerre.” This speech came to many as a shock, but it showed us the forethought and understanding of the world that Kinnick had. The Heisman Trophy has been awarded 86 times since its creation in 1935. In that time, Kinnick has been the only recipient from the state of Iowa. Sadly, this war that he talked about in his speech would cut Kinnick’s life tragically short.

Just a month shy of what would have been his 25th birthday, Kinnick died on June 2, 1943. It was during a normal training flight when his plane developed severe engine trouble and was not able to return to the USS Lexington, the aircraft carrier he was stationed on. As normal operation, Kinnick ditched the aircraft in the sea near the coast of Venezuela but didn’t survive the following crash.     

The movie showing is sponsored by the UNI Department of Communication and Media and the Iowa Broadcasters Association Foundation. The film is currently available on Vimeo for purchase, and it will be released on Apple TV and Amazon Video to purchase or rent on Dec. 5.