Desmond Howard to participate in autograph session on Saturday

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By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 4, 2013

Michigan football fans were expecting to see Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard on ESPN's College GameDay in Ann Arbor on Saturday before the Notre Dame game, but fans might not have anticipated being able to meet the legend. Thanks to a new ad campaign, they will.

Teamed up with Nissan, Howard will appear at a variety of events for the company’s “Heisman House” campaign, which creates ad spots centered around the idea of every Heisman winner living in the same house. Because of his national TV presence, Howard is prominently featured in many of the commercials.

On Saturday, the Wolverine legend will be at Michigan’s FanFest on the southwest corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard across from the Big House participating in a “Chalk Talk” session with ESPN anchor Neil Everett from 5-5:15 p.m., followed by an autograph session with fans from 5:15-6:15.

Former Michigan and NFL player Dhani Jones will also be in attendance, doing a Chalk Talk from 3:00-3:30 followed by a 3:30-4:30 autograph session.

“When we go to these tour stops, the lines are always out the door to get autographs,” said Josh Clifton, the public relations manager for Nissan, in a phone interview with the Daily. “Usually there’s a great response and the home team gets fired up during the Chalk Talk session. Desmond is more of a prominent player in the public eye because of GameDay and his on-air stuff, but as these other schools bring some of these players back, it might be one of the first times they are back in the public eye in a long time.”

This is the third year of the advertising campaign, but the first time that Nissan is rolling out a physical “house” for fans to interact in. The structure is built to resemble the house that the commercials were shot in, and the interior is filled with pictures of former Heisman winners, as well as the actual Heisman trophy.

There will be challenges, prizes and giveaways in the house, but the main draw will be Howard, one of the program’s most famous alumni. The GameDay schedule fluctuates week to week, so it wasn’t certain that Howard would participate in the Heisman House activities until the GameDay stop was announced last weekend.

But with a bit of foresight and planning from Nissan and its partner, ESPN, it worked out for Michigan fans who want to get an autograph and meet Howard.

“GameDay changes on the fly, so we try to align ourselves with what we think are going to be big stops and where College GameDay will be,” Clifton said. “We knew this would be a big one.”

Nissan will be bringing the house to 10 stops this year, including the Rose Bowl and National Championship both in Pasadena, Calif.

The campaign spots mock the idea of all the Heisman legends living together, but ended up being a good way to get the players to actually spend time together. They had seen each other at Heisman ceremonies every year, but in a club that’s adding new players every year, many of the younger players hadn’t ever met the older players in the group.

“This Heisman House has brought an elite fraternity of players together,” Clifton said. “They had never really met and didn’t really have a gateway to interact and share stories. That’s been kind of cool to see — Nissan facilitate bringing together some of these elite football players.”