Wisconsin's best modern-day running back products: Ron Dayne

Charles Small-USA TODAY Sports

The third installment of our four-part series digs into the professional career of the Heisman Trophy winner. Was he Wisconsin's best modern-day NFL running back product?

Two weeks ago, we began the discussion and debate on Bucky's 5th Quarter as to who was the best modern-day running back Wisconsin has produced. We profiled former San Diego Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher and his eight-year career, and last week's edition featured Wisconsin transfer Aaron Stecker and his long career in the NFL.

Once again, here is a chart detailing famous Badger running backs and their respective NFL careers, stats courtesy of NFL.com:

UW RBs Years Pro Bowls Career Rush Yds Career Rec Yds YPC (RUSH) YPC (REC) Total TD Best Rushing Season
Brent Moss 1 0 90 -3 4.1 -3.0 0 90 yds (1995)
Terrell Fletcher 8 0 1,871 1,943 3.6 7.5 13 543 yds, 3.5 YPC (1998)
Aaron Stecker 10 0 1,526 1,175 4.0 9.1 11 448 yds, 3.9 YPC, 5 TD (2007)
Ron Dayne 8 0 3,722 340 3.8 6.0 28 773 yds, 4.0 YPC, 6 TD (2007)
Michael Bennett 11 1 3,703 1,294 4.4 12.1 19 1,296 yds, 5.1 YPC, 5 TD (2002)
Brian Calhoun 2 0 54 55 3.9 5.0 0 35 yds, 5.0 YPC, 0 TD (2007)
P.J. Hill 1 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 N/A
John Clay 1 0 41 0 4.1 0.0 1 2 games, 41 yds, TD (2011)
Montee Ball? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Ron Dayne


Career Stats (Source: NFL.com)
Years Played in NFL 2000-2007 (New York, Denver, Houston)
Best Year Rushing 2007 - 194 carries, 773 yds, 4.0 avg 6 TD
Best Year Receiving 2007 - 17 catches, 112 yards
Career Rushing Yards/Avg 3,722/3.8
Career Receptions/Receiving Yards 57/340
Total TDs (Rush/Rec/Other) 28 (28/0/0)
Best All-Purpose Yards Year 2007 - 885 yds (773 yds rushing, 112 yds receiving)
X-Factor 3 100 yd rushing games in 8 seasons, 5 of 8 rushing over 500 yds

What else needs to be said about Dayne's Wisconsin career? The chart below says it all:

Heisman Trophy winner, two-time Rose Bowl winner, college football's (FBS) all-time leading rusher, College Football Hall of Famer. He went on to be a part of the now infamous "Thunder and Lightning" combo with former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber and played in Super Bowl XXXV as a rookie. After falling off the radar in 2003 and 2004, he quietly revived his career in his last three seasons in Denver (more precisely, the last five games of 2005) and Houston in 2006 and 2007.

What arguably makes him Wisconsin's best modern-day running back product: Dayne's career rushing stats are the most impressive out of the group. He leads in rushing yards and touchdowns. His touchdown total more than doubles Stecker's and Fletcher's, and his career rushing yards double theirs as well. Bennett, Fletcher and Stecker combined for 31 rushing touchdowns, while Dayne alone had 28. He was also the most consistent, rushing for over 500 yards in five of those eight seasons. Compare that to Bennett, who rushed for over 500 yards only twice in his 11 years in the league.

Why he isn't the best modern-day running back product: Although one can argue he was the best rusher, he wasn't a complete back compared to the others. Dayne was a pure runner, as seen in his Wisconsin career, and was not called upon to be a threat in the passing game out of the backfield. He's last in the group of four in total receiving yards and receptions, with Fletcher's career receiving yards more than quintupling Dayne's.

As a rusher, he's only third in the group with career yards per carry, behind Stecker and Bennett (although one can say he rushed many more times than Stecker and Fletcher). Dayne also did not have the best individual rushing season out of the group (Bennett), and he never saw the beautiful beaches of Hawaii like Bennett did when he was voted to the Pro Bowl after the 2002 season. Bennett also had more 100-yard rushing games than Dayne, with nine to Dayne's three.

Overall thoughts: Dayne was a different type of back compared to Fletcher, Stecker and Bennett. He was one-dimensional, purely a rusher with no real threat as a receiver out of the backfield. He, along with Fletcher, also did not last as long as Stecker and Bennett. Due to his success at Wisconsin, his production failed to live up to his expectations in the NFL. However, the former Badgers great carved out a more solid career than people may know, as he was the most consistent rusher, gained more career rushing yards and found the end zone much more than his peers.

Ranking: No. 2 modern-day UW running back product

Next week: Dayne's replacement, the speedster known as Michael Bennett.

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