This week, the Big Ten Network unveiled 10 nominees for the Mount Rushmore of Wisconsin Football. We listed each nominee and their spectacular qualifications right here.
You, the fans, can decide which former Badgers should have their faces on this mountain* of Badgers' glory and lore by voting below. Our own writers came together for a spirited roundtable as to whom they would choose. Among our writers:
So, Ron Dayne -- he's instantly on this mountain of Wisconsin glory, right? Are there any others on the list that are instant picks?
Louis: I don't know if anyone can or ever will be more involved in an athletic program than Pat Richter. He was the shiniest of Golden Boys in an era defined by them. He was a two-time All-American as a tight end, and led the nation in receiving his junior year. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a first baseman for Wisconsin's now defunct baseball team. And he did all that on a BASKETBALL scholarship. In total, he earned nine varsity letters, becoming the last Badger to do so.
But that's not the end of it, no sir. Richter's accomplishments as Wisconsin athletic director can't go unmentioned. He was Wisconsin's longest-tenured AD, serving from 1989 to 2004. In that time, he oversaw construction of Camp Randall and the Kohl Center, hired Barry Alvarez and helped turn Wisconsin into one of the most profitable athletic department's in the country.
He was born in Madison, got his law degree in Madison, and basically devoted his life to making Wisconsin athletics kick ass. And to top it off, he's 73 and STILL has a thick head of hair.
Drew: Yeah, I guess Ron Dayne was pretty good in college. We'll let him be on here. Since current players aren't considered for inclusion on this Mount Rushmore, my instant selection of Rafael Gaglianone will have to wait a few years. After looking over Big Ten Network's 10 selections, one name stood out to me, and honestly it kind of shocked me. I think Jamar Fletcher should be an instant pick for Wisconsin's Mount Rushmore. In his three seasons in Madison, guess how many 1st-team All-B1G teams he made? If you guessed less than three, you are wrong. In two of those three seasons he was also named 1st-team All America. In Wisconsin's storied (?) history only 11 players have ever done that, and that's is using UWBadgers.com's lenient list of which institutions can select 1st-team All America. He was also the best defensive player in the B1G in 2000 as well as the Jim Thorpe Award winner. Oh yeah, he also scored the game winning touchdown to beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl and has the B1G record for pick sixes, with five.
Greg: Much like any real life football team, this Mount Rushmore needs a solid foundation; a rock, if you will. That rock is Joe Thomas. Since Barry-ball was incepted back in 1990, some real corn-fed, barrel-chested lineman have donned the cardinal and white. None more notable than Brookfield Native, Joe Thomas. Thomas protected the blind side of the likes of Brooks Bollinger and John Stocco. He cleared holes for P.J. Hill, Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis. Thomas was a monster for the Badgers and a consensus All-American. Lineman are hard to boast about with stats, but Thomas paved the way for two 1,500 yard rushers in consecutive years, and registered 311 pancake blocks in his time in Madison. The Badgers aren't #RunningBackU without the likes of Thomas.
Jake: Good points all around on Thomas and Fletcher. Especially good points on Richter, Louis. Richter lived, breathed and accelerated Wisconsin athletics. I will say, however, that per the Big Ten Network's set criteria to pick these nominees, I'll look at his football statistics and on-the-field accomplishments only.
Saying that, though, Richter's football career makes him deserving of being up there. Along with Louis' points above on the football field, he's eighth all-time in career receptions with 121, tenth in career receiving yards and touchdown receptions...and he finished his collegiate playing career 52 years ago.
As highly as I regard Richter, I have to go with Ameche as a lock down pick. He was Wisconsin's first Heisman Trophy winner ever, ended his career as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher, and won the Walter Camp and Chicago Tribune Silver Football awards in his collegiate career. Along with consensus All-American honors, he was a very, very special player for Wisconsin in the 1950s. As Greg will mention later in this article, there's a reason why the best running back of each season receives the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year award.
Who are your four nominees to grace the Mount Rushmore of Badgers football? Why?
Louis: My first three are Dayne, Richter and Joe Thomas. Then you may have to point a gun at me to choose between Alan Ameche and Montee Ball.
Greg laid out the case for Thomas beautifully. Even if you take away his individual accomplishments, we can consider him a stand-in for Wisconsin's greatest tradition: Home-growing all-world offensive lineman and plucking them off the vine for a vintage perfectly suited for close-quarter viking combat.
There may not be a Wisconsin player dearer to my heart than Montee Ball. Unlike Dayne or Melvin Gordon, he didn't have an obvious physical attribute that put him head and shoulders above his peers. He earned everything he got, slowly crafting himself into a touchdown machine -- dropping weight, adding muscle, fiercely competing playing time -- until, after four years, no one could deny that he was the best running back in college football. Ball is a living testament to pure force of will. It's silly that his name hasn't already been placed on the inside of the stadium.
But...I don't think I can put him ahead of Ameche. And that's agonizing for me to say, but then again I didn't see Ameche play. If I had, this decision might have been easier. There's no arguing Ameche's ability to ball. He set a then-NCAA record with 3,212 career rushing yards before going off to the NFL, where he became perhaps the most successful Wisconsin rusher ever in the pro ranks (thus far). He was Wisconsin's first four-year superstar running back. Even if Dayne, Ball and Gordon (and White, Bennett, Davis, Moss, Calhoun...) aren't direct disciples, they still play at the alter of Ameche.
So that's it: Dayne, Richter, Thomas and Ameche get their faces carved in stone. But just to be clear, this Montee Ball cutback is replaying over and over in my head as I type this.
Drew: I've already got two spaces filled with Dayne and Fletcher. My other two spots are going to Alan Ameche and Montee Ball. As much as I wanted to pick former dorm-mate Joe Thomas (10th Floor Ogg East 4 Lyfe), Ball's resume is just too impressive. When one holds multiple NCAA rushing records (career touchdowns, rushing touchdowns in a season and total points in a season) at a school that prides itself on running the dang ball, one makes a hypothetical Mount Rushmore of said school, wouldn't one think? Hackneyed pronoun use aside, Ball deserves to be on here. He won the Doak Walker award in 2012 and scored 83 (!) career TDs. He also scored a touchdown in three consecutive Rose Bowls, which no one has ever done.
Alan Ameche, who was called "The Horse" (which is awesome), attended Kenosha Bradford (which is a school Wisconsin has had some success at with running back recruits) and is one of six Badgers to have his number retired. Besides kicking ass at fullback, Ameche also played linebacker because men were men in the 1950s. He led the Badgers to their first bowl game in 1953 where he rushed for 133 yards. The very next year he won Wisconsin's first Heisman Trophy. Ameche is the precursor (albeit took a while) to Wisconsin's status as Running Back U, and despite playing before many (all?) of us were born he is a mandatory selection for this project.
We all know Dayne's exploits, so no need to list them here. Dayne, Ball, Ameche and Fletcher are all ideal candidates for Wisconsin's Mount Rushmore and the only person left off the list is a little guy by the name of Robert "Butts" Butler. An All-American from 1912 who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972. HIS NICKNAME WAS BUTTS! WHY DOESN'T HE HAVE A STATUE AT THE 50-YARD LINE OF CAMP RANDALL?!?!?
Greg: So many Badger greats, so few spaces on the Mount. I'm going with Dayne, Thomas, Ball and Ameche. It was tough to leave Richter off, considering he led the nation in receiving (at a time when passing wasn't all the rage it is now) but at the heart of Badger football history is the running back. I touch on my reasoning for Joe Thomas above, so I'd rather devote my attention to the running backs now. Ameche, Dayne and Ball symbolize just how important running backs have been to the B1G as well as to the Badgers. We have a trophy named after Ameche and Dayne for the best running back in the B1G.. Montee holds NCAA records for most career touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and points in a season. Each one dominant at the position, yet distinctly different in how they gained their status. Dayne was a brusier, 250 pounds and able to do it all. He ran people over with intensity and was Gronkian (or Gronk is Daynian?) in his degree of difficulty to bring down. He looked like someone you design in Madden when you're 8 years old and you want to create the perfect team while destroying the boundaries of reality.
Montee took a slightly different approach to climbing his way onto the Mount Rushmore of Badger football. Buried on the depth chart, and considering a position change, a sophomore Montee left a conversation with his Dad with a renewed vigor to become the greatest running back Wisconsin has ever seen. He didn't disappoint. Montee's stats and numbers are considerably impressive since he wasn't technically the full-time back when he played at Wisconsin. His heart and determination to succeed made him so much fun to watch, and he holds a special place in my collegiate memory since I got to seem him shine during my time in Madison. Moneyball carved up defenses like a butcher the day before Christmas.
Alan Ameche was nicknamed "The Iron Horse" which is right up there with "Old Hickory" and "The Bull Moose" in terms of badass nicknames. He finished his career as the leader in NCAA rushing yards (3,212) in a time where the average lineman was the size of Tim Tebow. He ran for 200 yards against Minnesota in 1951, he had 17 career 100-yard rushing games and won Wisconsin its first Heisman Trophy in 1954. Oh, not to mention he also played linebacker full-time. He required special shoulder pads because he was so big. He was and is a legend.
These three men embody what it means to be an outstanding collegiate running back. Their blood, sweat and tears earn them a place in this Badger fan's Mount Rushmore.
Jake: Dayne and Ameche are No. 1 and No. 2 on my Mount Rushmore easily.
It's tough to keep Fletcher and Thomas off of my Mount Rushmore. Fletcher was a phenomenal cornerback, and with everything Drew said about Fletcher, I almost replaced Ball with him. Joe Thomas' impact on the program during his time in Madison cannot be understated -- first Outland Trophy winner in school history, among other All-American attributes. Linemen do not get enough credit to open holes for the Daynes, Ameches, and Balls of the world.
However, I'm going with Ball and Richter as the other two on my mountain. Ball ran for 100 yards or more 26 times in his Wisconsin career, and is second all-time in career rushing yards and third all-time in school history in all-purpose yards. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011, and came close to rushing for 2,000 yards in his last two seasons. That -- along with the records mentioned earlier of all-time career total touchdowns, rushing touchdowns in a career, and touchdowns in single season -- solidifies his spot in Badgers' lore.
Richter, as mentioned earlier, was ahead of his time. Looking specifically at football, he's still in the top 10 in all-time career receptions and career receiving yards. He was a two-time consensus All-American and led the nation in receiving in 1961.
Here's where I think these four nominees all stand out -- the mark they left when they played in the "Granddaddy of Them All," the Rose Bowl. Dayne was a two-time Rose Bowl MVP in the back-to-back years from 1998-1999. Ameche ran for 133 yards in the 1953 Rose Bowl, while Richter set a bowl record with 11 receptions for 163 yards against USC (Ron Vander Kelen also had a heck of a fourth quarter in that 1963 Rose Bowl to help out the cause, but Richter was dominant throughout his collegiate career). Of course, there's Ball, who scored in three consecutive games played in Pasadena. All shined in California.
Quick note on my end: It was amazing to look back and research the history of Wisconsin football. Pat O'Dea helped put Wisconsin on the map and was its first true superstar, Elroy Hirsch and Dave Schreiner both helped guide the 1942 Badgers to an upset win over No. 1 Ohio State, and Vander Kelen's emergence and great season in 1962 helped UW get back to the Rose Bowl.