Written by Sarah McCarthy, Multimedia Journalist - email
IOWA CITY (KWWL) -
A rare Iowa Hawkeye football artifact now has a new home in Iowa City.
A ball signed by the 1939 Iowa team, including Heisman trophy winner Nile Kinnick, is now in the possession of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
"I was amazed it had gone undiscovered for this many years," said Brand Newland, a Phi Kappa Psi alum. "Thankfully the legislator who found it recognized what it was and we were able to get a chance to bring it into our collection."
The football was discovered by Iowa representative Josh Byrnes in the basement of a West Des Moines house that he was renting.
Because Kinnick was a member of the Phi Psi house, the fraternity jumped at the chance to place a bid on the item.
"Our offer was not necessarily the highest that the owner received," said John Greenwood, president of the group's alumni association. "But it was with the contingency that we're going to do everything we can to make sure that the rest of the Hawkeye fans can appreciate it."
According to Newland, the fraternity previously had an extensive collection of Hawkeye memorabilia. But an unfortunate house fire caused almost all of it to be lost.
Now, the newly acquired football is the beginning of a new collection for the group.
"Anytime we can get our hands on anything from the past, whether it's something as prominent as this Kinnick autographed football or even something from a closer time, it's still something that we'd like to have," Newland said.
The group has not taken the ball to a specialist for an estimate of it's worth, but they said a Nile Kinnick autograph is valued around $5,000.
"The unique thing about Kinnick's signature, what makes it such a rare find, is that there's a group of Heisman trophy autograph collectors," Newland said. "Because Nile won so long ago, his signature is very rare and very sought after."
Greenwood said that the fraternity will work with university officials to find a public space for the ball to be displayed. He hopes Hawkeye fans will enjoy the history behind the object as much as he does.
"Kinnick is one of the University of Iowa's favorite sons," Greenwood said. "Any way that we can help provide for an opportunity for everyone to appreciate that is something we want to embrace especially as a fraternity brother."
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