“The Way of Nile C. Kinnick Jr.”: Iowa Sports Hero is Brought into Sharper Focus

Iowa City author Mark Wilson has compiled a book of inspirational quotes by Hawkeye hero Nile Kinnick.

Mark Wilson will read from The Way of Nile C. Kinnick on December 5 at 7 p.m. at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City.

Longtime Iowa City resident, educator, and Hawkeye fan Mark D. Wilson is a great admirer of Nile Kinnick, namesake of the University of Iowa’s football stadium. Wilson spent a decade poring through Kinnick’s writing and public utterances to create The Way of Nile C. Kinnick, Jr.: Insights, Images, and Stories of Iowa’s 1939 Heisman Trophy Winner.

The book mirrors the structure of many a religious devotional book. Wilson has divided the calendar year into four “quarters” and provided an inspirational, humorous, or thought-provoking quote from Kinnick for each day of the year. Taken together, these quotes establish Kinnick as a young man who thought deeply, competed fiercely, and pursued honor steadfastly. His early death in a fighter-plane training accident no doubt cemented his legend, but Wilson’s collection of quotes reveals a man of rare quality who was committed to understanding what was right and then working to do it.

The book also includes four short chapters in which Wilson examines his own fascination with Kinnick and the ways he has been inspired by the quarterback throughout his own life. These chapters add to the book’s quasi-religious tone as Wilson explains what amounts to a “go and do likewise” devotion to his hero.

“Having Kinnick as a role model is a blessing to me because of his passion, character, values, and outlook on life,” Wilson writes. “I find Nile especially inspiring because of our shared Iowa upbringing and the work ethic both of our parents modeled for us. Nile was a serious, persistent, and intense man. I was, too, and still am.”

The book closes with an epilogue by former Congressman Jim Leach, whose family has been connected to Kinnick’s for generations. Leach provides a satisfying coda to Wilson’s exploration of Kinnick’s life.