Rudy Riska, who first glimpsed the Heisman Trophy on its pedestal at the Downtown Athletic Club in Lower Manhattan when he was a boy, and who years later became the invaluable guide, counselor and mentor for the young men who won it, died on Sept. 12 in a Brooklyn hospital. He was 85.
His daughter Elizabeth Briody said the causes were dementia and pneumonia.
For more than 40 years, the self-effacing Mr. Riska, ran the organization at the club that awarded the Heisman to the year’s outstanding football player. He oversaw the itinerary of the winners and encouraged them to think seriously about what they would say in their acceptance speeches. He bought tickets to Broadway shows for their families, made reservations at top restaurants and organized the annual Heisman dinner in Manhattan, which drew as many as 2,000 guests.
Mr. Riska developed that job as the athletic director of the Downtown Athletic Club, the trophy’s longtime home. He had noticed that no one was supervising the winner’s activities when he was in Manhattan for the award ceremony.
“They were just college kids plucked from their campuses and suddenly flown to New York,” he told The New York Times in 2010. “They were often unsophisticated kids. Most had never played on national television. Many had never been on an airplane until they flew to New York. Their heads were spinning.”