Rudy Riska, the Heisman Trophy’s Guiding Light, Dies at 85

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Rudy Riska, who very first glimpsed the Heisman Trophy on its pedestal at the Downtown Athletic Club in Reduced Manhattan when he was a boy, and who years later on grew to become the priceless guideline, counselor and mentor for the youthful guys who received it, died on Sept. 12 in a Brooklyn healthcare facility. He was 85.

His daughter Elizabeth Briody said the leads to had been dementia and pneumonia.

For much more than 40 yrs, the self-effacing Mr. Riska, ran the firm at the club that awarded the Heisman to the year’s exceptional football player. He oversaw the itinerary of the winners and inspired them to feel critically about what they would say in their acceptance speeches. He purchased tickets to Broadway exhibits for their families, manufactured reservations at leading dining places and arranged the once-a-year Heisman meal in Manhattan, which drew as numerous as 2,000 visitors.

Mr. Riska developed that job as the athletic director of the Downtown Athletic Club, the trophy’s longtime dwelling. He had observed that no one was supervising the winner’s actions when he was in Manhattan for the award ceremony.

“They were being just university little ones plucked from their campuses and out of the blue flown to New York,” he told The New York Situations in 2010. “They ended up usually unsophisticated little ones. Most experienced under no circumstances performed on countrywide television. Several had never been on an airplane until finally they flew to New York. Their heads have been spinning.”

“I got there and Rudy place his arm all-around me and the relaxation was like a magic carpet ride,” Eddie George, the Ohio Point out operating back who received the Heisman in 1995, informed The Instances. “And that was what Rudy wanted. He wished every single winner to try to remember his weekend eternally.”

Mr. Riska labored totally at the rear of the scenes — followers watching the televised once-a-year ceremony would not most likely have regarded his identify or deal with — but the winners understood his relevance.

“I understand how a lot ability he had, but he by no means put it on exhibit,” Desmond Howard, the 1991 Heisman winner, reported by cellular phone. “When everybody defers to you, you must have power, but he carried himself as an individual who served you and took treatment of all your desires.”

Rudolph James Riska was born on Aug. 22, 1936, in Manhattan to Rudolph and Elizabeth (Marecek) Riska. His mom cleaned offices. His loved ones lived for a while near the Downtown Athletic Club, in the economic district, and when he was 11 his father took him to see the Heisman.

“I stared at the names engraved on the trophy,” he advised The Occasions. “How lucky can a dude be to close up in a work in which individuals names occur to lifestyle and they become your friends?”

His athletic target as a youngster was baseball, not football. He threw a no-hitter for Metropolitan High Faculty, which captivated the desire of the Yankees, who signed him to a agreement. He played on small-stage slight league teams in the Yankee procedure from 1955 to 1958 and the Baltimore Orioles’ method in 1959. At the Aberdeen, S.D., affiliate of the Orioles, his supervisor was Earl Weaver, the Orioles’ long run Hall of Famer. He compiled a 36-33 file, but long-term bursitis ended his occupation.

He went to operate as a salesman for the sporting goods company Rawlings, but after two years he approved a career with the Downtown Athletic Club. He was shortly named to the article of athletic director, the situation that John Heisman, the trophy’s namesake, held there right until his loss of life in 1936.

As athletic director, Mr. Riska formulated fitness and athletics packages for club associates and developed occasions that honored renowned athletes. But it was as the executive director of the Heisman Trophy Have confidence in and the Heisman Basis that he was largely identified.

“What I consider I have been able to do,” he instructed The Bay Ridge Paper in 2003, “is guidebook and guard the Heisman from folks who may well attempt to make cash the improper way on it. I like to see myself as the conscience of the Heisman.”

He retired in 2004, 3 many years just after the 9/11 assaults and their aftermath led the club to close forever. The trophy, which is awarded by a vote of associates of the sporting activities media and past winners, was moved to numerous destinations and is now held at the Heisman Trust’s place of work in Manhattan.

In addition to his daughter Elizabeth, Mr. Riska is survived by his spouse, Josephine (Karpoich) Riska, known as Lorraine a different daughter, Barbara Piersiak and 4 grandchildren.

For a time, 15 or 20 of the earlier Heisman winners who traveled to New York City for the yearly anointing of the most recent winner took time off for the duration of the weekend to commemorate their achievements at a Blarney Stone bar around the club.

“People may possibly have been wanting for them, but I’d allow them go off by by themselves for a pair of several hours,” Mr. Riska instructed The Periods. “They would allow their hair down with their wives, rubbing shoulders with these blue-collar design staff. It was a assortment of some of the best college or university football players at any time. But they just desired to cling out with a common group.”