CHICAGO -- Wisconsin has boasted two Heisman Trophy winners in its program history -- Alan Ameche in 1954 and Ron Dayne in 1999 -- but the Badgers also had another prolific running back finish as a finalist, Montee Ball, in 2011.
Ball, now a member of the Denver Broncos and the likely starter at running back there -- was a two-time consensus All-American, earning the honors in his final two seasons on campus (2011, 2012). Not to be forgotten is Ball's place in history, as the Missouri native sits atop the FBS record books in career touchdowns (83) and career rushing touchdowns (77).
After Ball decided to pass on the NFL following his junior year and returned to Madison, the UW athletic department and public relations staff went all-in on a Heisman campaign. "This Fall Belongs to Ball" was plastered across campus-area buses and a video presentation was developed to garner the national attention that undeniably plays a critical role in determining the winner of the Heisman.
Entering 2014, Melvin Gordon hasn't quite put up the gaudy numbers that Ball did in terms of touchdowns, but most agree that Gordon is as impressive as his predecessor, if not better. That surely warrants a similar campaign for the Kenosha (Bradford) product, and that's exactly what head coach Gary Andersen and UW's PR staff plan to do for the upcoming season. Andersen was, of course, mostly tight-lipped about what the campaign will entail.
"There needs to be, and there is," Andersen acknowledged during Tuesday's roundtable session at Big Ten media days. "They're doing a lot for it. They're building that up as we go, and I think you'll see that as we continue through the next few weeks."
Gordon's body of work in 2013 puts him in viable contention for the award, at least from a preseason hype perspective. He ranked 10th in the country and second in the Big Ten with just over 1,600 yards on the ground, while also leading college football in yards per attempt, with 7.8.
That all was in a split role with former running back James White, and Gordon isn't expected to take every snap with the talented Corey Clement right behind him on the depth chart. Nonetheless, Gordon will get his carries and you can bet he'll make the most of them.
"In my opinion, he's well deserving of being on the [Heisman] list and being in that situation," Andersen said. "We need to make sure that we do everything we can to help out."
Heisman winners typically come from a team with a top-end record for that particular season, save 2011 winner Robert Griffin III, who led the Baylor Bears to a 9-3 record and, eventually, a 67-56 victory over Washington in the Alamo Bowl. It was an outstanding season for the Bears, but it, pales in comparison to the records of BCS-bound teams year in and year out.
Altogether, Andersen is a firm believer that Gordon's play and numbers will take care of themselves, no matter how successful the team is in 2014.
"A lot goes into the Heisman and what it is," Andersen said. "We'll see how he plays, and Melvin will sit here right now and say the same thing. He's honored to be in the mix; I'm honored to be his coach, and have him be a kid that has a opportunity to even be in that mix. Hopefully, his team helps him get to where he wants to head."