The 1997 race for the Heisman Trophy will be explored in an installment of the 14th season of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series.”
Titled “The Great Heisman Race of 1997,” the ESPN Films docu will debut on Dec. 9 on ESPN immediately following the broadcast of the Heisman Trophy Ceremony, which will air on the network.
The doc will focus on the race between Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson. Manning stunned the sports world in 1997 by deciding to return for his senior season at the University of Tennessee and spurning the NFL, making him the Heisman front-runner as he set his sights on an SEC Championship. But while Manning was the preseason favorite, other candidates arrived during the season including Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf, Marshall University’s wide receiver Randy Moss and Woodson (University of Michigan). The docu, directed by Gentry Kirby, will use archival footage to examine and unpack the race for the hallowed honor.
“As a long-time college football fan, the 1997 Heisman race is one I will never forget,” says Kirby. “The debate that surrounded it stayed with me over the years and I’m thrilled to now be able to tell this story with an archival approach that highlights the passion from that season.”
ESPN Films and “30 for 30” VP and exec producer Marsha Cooke calls out the archival style of this offering. “makes this one of the most unique films we’ve done. “The dynamic use of footage gives a strong sense of time and place and truly takes you back to 1997,” she says.
ESPN Films has been in documentary space since its inception in March 2008. Bill Simmons co-created the wildly successful “30 for 30” docuseries for ESPN a year later. The series has attracted celebrated documentarians including Steve James, Barbara Kopple, and Marina Zenovich. In 2017, Ezra Edelman’s “30 for 30″ film “O.J.: Made in America” won the Academy Award for best feature doc.
“The Great Heisman Race of 1997” will be available on ESPN+ immediately after its network debut. See trailer below: