The award is presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust in early December before the postseason bowl games. It is the oldest of several overall awards in college football, including the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and the AP Player of the Year. The Heisman and the AP Player of the Year are the only awards to honor the most outstanding player, while the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award recognize the best player.
The trophy itself, designed by sculptor Frank Eliscu, is modeled after Ed Smith, a leading player in 1934 for the now defunct New York University football team. The trophy is made out of cast bronze, is 13.5 inches (34.3 cm) tall and weighs 25 pounds (11.3 kg).
Eliscu had asked Smith, his former George Washington High School classmate, to pose for a commissioned sculpture of a football player. Smith did not realize until 1982 that the sculpture had become the fabled Heisman Trophy. The Downtown Athletic Club presented Smith with a Heisman Trophy of his own in 1985.