Almost every Iowan knows the name Nile Kinnick. Most think of Kinnick Stadium, some might think of the Heisman Trophy. However, to Mark Wilson, Kinnick is a man who not only inspires him, but also a man that challenges him to be a better person.
Wilson, an Iowa City native, authored the book: “The Way of Nile C. Kinnick Jr.: Insights, Images, and Stories of Iowa’s 1939 Heisman Trophy Winner.” The book was released Sept. 1, 2018, which happened to be Nike Kinnick Day at Kinnick Stadium.
While this book covers Kinnick’s life and history, it also intertwines Wilson’s life into the story.
“(The insights) were all the memorable quotes that I researched, compiled over eight, nine years and then a year to supplement those quotes with stories about me and how I connect to Nile Kinnick,” Wilson said.
Wilson first started learning about Kinnick in college. And his fascination with the Heisman Trophy winner only grew from there.
Throughout his many years of life, Wilson has researched Kinnick to learn, not only about his time as a Hawkeye football player, but his upbringing and time as a U.S. Navy Air Corps Reservist, as well.
“The quotes (I put in the book) come from everything I could possibly read about him - from magazines, newspapers, books, special collections at the University of Iowa. Amazing, amazing thoughts about life. Amazing thoughts about when he was a student athlete,” Wilson said. “These quotes - I thought are so relevant during his time period, from 1936-43 - but they are also so relevant today.”
There is one quote from Kinnick that Wilson carries with him everywhere in his billfold: “Learn to coast between all out effort.”
To Wilson, this quote means taking some time to take care of one’s self between moments of life where all-out effort is required. Wilson lived by this quote while teaching at-risk children, and now he lives by on his book tour.
“The Way of Nile C. Kinnick Jr.” took Wilson 10.5 years to write. There were moments of all-out effort in his writing, and moments where he took time off, as well.
The hardest chapter to write, according to Wilson, was the chapter “Admiration.” This is one of four chapters about how Wilson feels he connects to Kinnick.
In “Admiration,” Wilson opens up about how he was diagnosed with a rare form of plasma cell cancer. Through his battle with cancer, Wilson connects to Kinnick through Kinnick’s quotes and journal entries about spiritual fitness, physical fitness, mental fitness and social fitness - all types of fitness Wilson uses to stay healthy.
Once the book was finished, Wilson’s publisher decided to release it on the weekend of the first Iowa football game in 2018. Little did Wilson realize, that weekend was the 100th anniversary of Kinnick’s birth.
All of the profits made from “The Way of Nile C. Kinnick Jr.” are being donated to the six Nile Kinnick student athlete scholarships at the University of Iowa.
The main takeaway Wilson wants readers to learn from his book is that Kinnick was more than just an athlete.
“He was more than a great football player. … He was just a stirring gentleman. He was just a very modest and humble and shy person. And there’s so much more to know about him, other than he was a great athlete and broke so many records and received so many honors.”
To learn more about Kinnick and Wilson, find “The Way of Nile C. Kinnick Jr.: Insights, Images, and Stories of Iowa’s 1939 Heisman Trophy Winner” on www.icecubepress.com or www.amazon.com.