(Des Moines, IA) -- In Iowa City, standing on the south side of the stadium named in his honor is a 16-foot-tall bronze statue of Nile Kinnick.
Starting at 7pm on August 24th, Iowans can watch "Kinnick: The Documentary", a 92-minute unpacking of the legend. Diving into the story of a man becoming myth, the feature-length film gives Iowans an in-depth look into the life of The University of Iowa's only Heisman Trophy winner, who died in World War 2.
Executive producer Scott Siepker says the idea for the documentary started 10 years ago.
"It was after the original 'Iowa Nice Guy' videos had come out, which changed the course of my career forever," says Siepker. "We were trying to figure out what were we going to do as follow ups. We threw around a couple of ideas and, in that summer of 2012, I thought to have a documentary about Jack Trice and Nile Kinnick to explore who our heroes are."
Siepker says creating a feature-length film wasn't possible for him in the early to mid-2010's, but the research process was underway. He says quickly, the amount of material on Kinnick and Trice became too much for one project. The Jack Trice project was placed on pause, as Kinnick's story took center stage.
The discovery of Kinnick's last living first-cousin opened the documentary to stories and information never previously known.
"We're so fortunate to discover Nile's only remaining first cousin. He's a guy in his 90's, his name is Don Bice," says Siepker. "Don is able to give us vivid, first-hand accounts. Don was there with Nile, catching passes from Nile. He helped Nile practice. He watched Nile devour prodigious breakfasts."
Iowans familiar with the story of Nile Kinnick will likely have much to learn from Kinnick: The Documentary.
"Whether you know a lot about Nile, or you know nothing, you're going to learn a lot in this film. If you think you're familiar with the story of Nile, I think 80 of the 90 minute run time will be filled with new information for you. We oftentimes boil down historic figures to a few bullet points," says Siepker.
Bice helps fill in stories around Kinnick's historic 1939 senior season. The Iowa Hawkeyes team became know as the "Ironmen", as Kinnick led the team to a 6-1-1 season record. Over the season, he threw for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns on 31 passes, while running for another 374 yards.
The Ironmen finished the season ranked 9th in the AP Poll, as Kinnick was named a consensus First-Team All-American and won nearly every major award in the country. In accepting the Heisman Award, Kinnick made the following statement:
"Finally, if you'll permit me, I'd like to make a comment which in my mind, is indicative perhaps of the greater significance of football, and sports emphasis in general in this country, and that is; I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country would much more, much rather struggle and fight to win the Heisman award than the Croix de Guerre."
After declining several offers to play professional football, including being drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Kinnick elected to enter the University of Iowa College of Law. Kinnick declined a $10,000 contract from the Dodgers, a contract that would now be worth roughly $210,000.
Leaving law school after one year, Kinnick enlisted in the Naval Air Reserve and reported for induction 3 days before Pearl Harbor. Training to be a fighter pilot, he was deployed with the USS Lexington in the late-spring of 1943.
On June 2nd, 1943, a routine training flight from the USS Lexington off the coast of Venezuela in the Gulf of Paria turned hazardous after his Grumman F4F Wildcat began to leak oil. Kinnick was unable to reach land or the Lexington. Following a water landing, his body was never found.
"It's an extraordinary life that he lived," says Siepker. "I'm looking forward to people being reminded of how full of a person Nile Kinnick was."
Siepker says Kinnick: The Documentary is more than a biography or a summary of events. Instead, the film humanizes the legend, filling in the gaps between events with stories, seen through the eyes of first-hand accounts. The University of Iowa played a part in amassing the photos, videos, information, and contacts needed for the project.
"The University of Iowa has been indispensable. I am so grateful for all of the access that they gave us," says Siepker. "Shoutout to the archives team over at the university. They've done a wonderful job of preserving all of those materials and being so helpful. They saved us hours and hours and hours, just from their knowledge."
People can experience Kinnick: The Documentary at The Palms Theatres and IMAX in Waukee starting Thursday, August 25th, running through next week. Siepker says an Iowa City run for the film is in the works as well, but a majority of Iowans will likely watch the documentary via Vimeo.
"I know that most people, obviously, aren't close to Waukee. Our main mechanism of people watching this is on Vimeo," says Siepker. "Vimeo is now baked into a lot of smart TV's. You can stream it through your Roku, your Chromecast, or whatever you stream through."
People can stream Kinnick: The Documentary starting August 24th at 7pm on Vimeo. Further information about the film or future projects from Siepker can be found at scottsiepker.com or on his Facebook page.
"Nile was an entire human being who had a lot of experiences. In the first couple minutes of the film, there's gonna be a couple things where you're just like, 'What?' For instance, there is a high school in Japan named after Nile Kinnick. He's on the coin that they flip before every Big Ten football game. There's just so much to his story," says Siepker.