Celebrating a Hawkeye Hero

Sept. 12, 2007

by Jeff Smith

Contributor, BigTen.org

Too often in our society today, it takes a tragic event or the loss or near-loss of life for one to identify a hero. It is distinguished courage, the brave deeds and the noble qualities that often define the word.

In sports however, hero is often categorized on a much smaller scale and often used, well, too often. On most occasions, the term is used when referring to the one responsible for the winning touchdown, the buzzer-beater or the walk-off home run.

But at the University of Iowa, Nile Kinnick will forever be etched in Hawkeye lore as a hero. It will be for the distinguished courage he showed as an Ironman on the gridiron. It will be for his brave deeds of playing almost every minute of every game during his senior season. It will be for his noble qualities in turning down an offer to play professional football to enter law school. And sadly, it will also be for the tragic event of June 2, 1943, when the U.S. Navy fighter plane he was piloting during a routine training exercise crashed in the Gulf of Paria in the Caribbean Sea.

But perhaps the most defining moment of Kinnick’s heroism was the result of the crash in which he perished, but in turn saved the lives of his fellow servicemen aboard the U.S.S. Lexington.

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