Rockaway Parishioner Coordinates Heisman

Tim Henning has plenty on his plate.

The third-generation parishioner and former sacristan and altar server at St. Camillus-St. Virgilius parish, Rockaway Park, is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and lector; on the board of directors at St. Camillus School; the chairman of the parish’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Dance; a member of the County Cork Pipe Band; and expecting his first child with his wife Kelly.

Sounds like a busy schedule, right? Well, imagine doing all this while serving as the coordinator of one of the most historic awards in all of sports: the Heisman Trophy.

Despite all his other responsibilities, Henning’s full-time job is coordinator of the Heisman Trophy Trust. This weekend marks the 79th awarding of the Heisman Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding player in college football.

“The traditions make college football what it is,” Henning said. “Undoubtedly, the Heisman is one of the most valued traditions.”

Henning is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Heisman office located in Lower Manhattan; coordinating the logistics of the annual four-day Heisman weekend, including the national press conference and the dinner gala; overseeing the Heisman electorate and balloting system; directing all media relations; and assisting with marketing and sponsorship opportunities.

Heisman Trophy Coordinator Tim Henning, right, is pictured with 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, center, and Heisman Trophy Executive Director Rob Whalen, left. (Photo courtesy Tim Henning)
Heisman Trophy Coordinator Tim Henning, right, is pictured with 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, center, and Heisman Trophy Executive Director Rob Whalen, left. (Photo courtesy Tim Henning)

Henning was born and raised in Rockaway Beach and went to St. Camillus School before transferring into St. Francis de Sales Elementary School, Belle Harbor, for sixth through eighth grade. He played basketball intramurals at St. Camillus and swam on the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Youth Organization swim team.

He continued to swim at Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, before attending college for sports management at New York University (NYU) in Manhattan.

While at NYU, one of Henning’s professors worked at the Downtown Athletic Club – the former location of the awarding of the Heisman – so Henning volunteered to work at Heisman weekend in 2000. He came back the following year as an intern and then the following year as an employee. For the past seven years, he has been a full-time employee of the Heisman Trophy Trust.

During Heisman weekend, Henning is mostly stationed behind-the-scenes, making sure everything is running smoothly. He said he is extremely grateful for his team of over 25 volunteers working 24/7 to assist with one of the most exciting nights in sports.

Henning said that one of his favorite aspects of his job is being able to show the Heisman finalists and their families around New York City. For many of the student-athletes, it is their first time experiencing the Big Apple.

“There is something unique about getting to witness the awe that these celebrity athletes have when they first look at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree or the countless lights of Times Square,” Henning said. “I have been fortunate over the years to get to know the new Heisman winners and their families, and I am proud to call many of them friends.”

In addition to sharing his New York roots with the finalists, Henning is just as proud of the charitable aspect of the Heisman Trust – something he said many people might not know about. The Heisman Trust is a 501(c)(3) charity organization, and all the money from the sponsors, beyond staff stipends and running the main office, is donated to nonprofit organizations to help underprivileged kids.

“That actually is really the most rewarding to me when you see the impact that our donations have on the great work that these organizations are doing,” Henning said.

The first six months of the year are dedicated to charitable work, while Henning and his team then spend the second half of the year focusing on the logistics of Heisman weekend. For the fourth straight year, the Heisman Trust has donated over $1 million to charities nationwide.

“He (Henning) really can handle anything that’s thrown his way; you can throw anything at him, and he will develop it,” said Rudy Riska, the former executive director of the Heisman for over 40 years and a parishioner at Our Lady of Angels Church, Bay Ridge. “The amount of money being raised for charities is unbelievable.”

When Hurricane Sandy struck the Rockaways, it hit close to home for Henning. In the immediate aftermath of the storm and with the help of the Rockaway W.I.S.H. Foundation, he coordinated the delivery of three tractor-trailers full of supplies and materials to be dispersed among those in dire need.

The kindergarten classroom of St. Camillus School was totally wiped out in the storm, so Henning encouraged then-Principal Sister Agnes White, C.S.J., to apply for a grant from the Heisman Trust. The proposal was approved, and the kindergarten was rebuilt with over $15,000 worth of furnishings.

“The expertise and the skill he (Henning) brings in organizing the Heisman Trophy and carrying that out each year, he brings that to the parish,” said Father Richie Ahlemeyer, pastor of St. Camillus-St. Virgilius. “The parish benefits greatly from his skill and expertise.”

Even with his year-round responsibilities for the Heisman Trust, Henning’s Catholic identity has never wavered, as evidenced by his parish involvement.

“Timmy always had leadership ability, even at an early age,” said Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, who baptized Henning at St. Camillus. “He was always connected to the faith.”

Just as he respects the tradition of the Heisman Trophy, Henning has the utmost respect for his faith.

“St. Camillus has always been a big part of my family life,” Henning said. “It’s always been that way, and I don’t foresee that changing in the near future.”