The Story Behind O.J. Simpson’s Heisman Trophies Being Stolen, Buried In A Backyard And Sold Around L.A. Is A Wild One

oj simpson heisman trophy

Getty Image / University of Southern California/WireImage

There are obviously a number of bizarre stories involving O.J. Simpson and while you think you may know them all, there is a story about his Heisman Trophies that may be lesser-known, but the story stretched out over 25 years is a wild one.

Simpson won the Heisman in 1968 and while he was awarded a trophy of his own a second Heisman was also made and given to the school. One trophy sat in Simpson’s home he called ‘Rockingham’ while the other was placed in Heritage Hall on USC’s campus.

All was fine with Simpson and the two trophies for many years until June 12, 1994. This is the day Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered and the infamous Bronco chase happened. During the slow-speed chase, LAPD requested that the trophy on campus, along with a game-worn Simpson jersey, be removed amid everything going on.

After everything cooled off the items were placed back inside Heritage Hall. All seemed right again until eight days later the trophy was stolen by burglars.

According to the in-depth story by ESPN’s Ryan McGee, the man in the center of the situation was one Lewis Eugene Starks Jr. While he says he didn’t steal the trophy, he did have it in his possession not long after and bought the trophy for $600 and a used car. ‘Heisman no. 2’ as you’ll read about below is a reference to USC’s trophy while ‘Heisman no. 1’ was Simpson’s personal one.

Today, he is nearly 60 years old and has remained adamant that he was not one of the thieves who burgled Heritage Hall. However, Starks confessed that not long after Heisman No. 2 disappeared from USC, it was in his possession. He says a friend stole it and was keeping it in South Central L.A., only minutes from the USC campus. That friend kept the trophy buried in his backyard so no one could find it, but according to Starks, his pal was much more cavalier with the jersey, routinely wearing it around the house as he took people, including Starks, out back to see the buried treasure.

Starks says he bought Heisman No. 2 from the friend for $600 and a used car. Then, while the Simpson murder trial was shifting into high gear downtown, he tried to sell the convicted football star’s most famous award. There were no buyers. So, he took a different tack, calling USC to see if there was a reward being offered for the trophy’s return. The person who answered the phone at Heritage Hall said there wasn’t. So, Starks was stuck with it.

For the next two decades, Starks was in and out of jail and Heisman No. 2 was in and out of apartments, garages and storage facilities. He removed the nameplate and kept it separated from the trophy so that if a parole search was called and the Heisman was found, it couldn’t be traced back to the USC theft. Heisman No. 2 was with Starks when he was free and with his friends and family when he was behind bars. When harder times forced Starks into the streets, he lugged the 45-pound trophy around with him, sleeping under the streetlamps of Los Angeles with his arms wrapped around an O.J. Simpson 1968 Heisman Trophy.

Back in 1997 after Simpson was found liable for the deaths of Nicole and Ronald in the civil suit, he was forced to auction off his personal items including the Heisman to help pay off the $33.5 million of compensatory and punitive damages.

Simpson, and more specifically a man named Mike Gilbert, didn’t want to auction off the trophy so they attempted to pull off a swap with a replica while hiding the original trophy somewhere.

A year after all of this in February of 1999 the trophy was indeed auctioned off and sold to a man named Tom Kriesmann of Philadelphia.

Tom Kriessman was 47 then. Today, he’s 68. He’s still in Philly. He’s still in the sheet-metal business. And yes, he still has Heisman No. 1. But he hasn’t looked at it in a while. No one has. That day in ’99, when he met with the media, he explained his plans for it, to be displayed on his mantel and at work for a little while and then stuck in a bank safe to hold on to as an investment. That’s what he did. And as the years went by, people forgot about his big purchase. His newer friends had no idea he owned O.J. Simpson’s Heisman until 2013, when The Washington Post wrote a story tracking down every Heisman awarded to that point. He agreed to an interview, said his prize was still in an undisclosed Philadelphia area safety deposit box and admitted, “You just get caught up in things sometimes.”

As for Heisman no. 2, it was returned to Heritage Hall 7,446 days after being stolen, by Starks himself, and in 2016 he was charged with three-years probation after pleading no-contest in a trial about the burglary.

The statutes of limitations on cases of theft run in the three-to five-year range, so after two decades, the most Hrycyk and Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins could pursue was a felony charge of receiving stolen property.

Yet another truly bizarre story involving O.J. Simpson.