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B5Q Roundtable: A look back at Melvin Gordon's Wisconsin career

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What's your favorite #MelvinMoment? We asked our writers.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What more can you say about (now) former Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon? After a 251-yard, three touchdown performance in the Badgers' 34-31 overtime victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl Thursday, the Kenosha, Wis. native and 2014 Heisman Trophy finalist ended his collegiate career with a bang.

What were his career stats, you ask? Let's take a look:

  • 4,915 career rushing yards -- third all-time in Wisconsin history
  • 7.79 yards per carry, breaking the FBS career mark of 7.32 (minimum 415 carries) gained by USC's Reggie Bush
  • 2,587 yards rushing yards in 2014 alone -- the second-highest rushing total in FBS history and only 41 yards shy of Barry Sanders' record of 2,628 yards
  • Rushed for 200 yards six times in 2014, which broke the school record of five set by Ron Dayne in both 1996 and 1999.
  • Rushed for 100 yards in 12 of 14 games this season, also setting a Wisconsin school record

We can go more and more into stats, but for now, the following B5Q writers will discuss the achievements of Gordon:

What is your favorite #MelvinMoment?

Louis: There was a moment at 2 a.m. a couple years ago talking with a friend about how special we thought Gordon could be, and how different he was from any Wisconsin back we had ever seen.

There was a drunk and delirious moment in a bar in Philadelphia during the 2012 Big Ten Championship game when Gordon was part of the most indulgent offensive onslaught I can recall.

There was a moment in a bar in Manhattan last November when my father, my brother-in-law and I calculated the numbers that Gordon could put up after the first half against Nebraska. Then we went to a wedding. When we turned on our phones on after the ceremony, Gordon had exceeded our wildest dreams.

There was a moment last Thursday when, on 4th-and-1, Gordon burst through the line and toyed with an Auburn defender for most of 53 yards for the biggest play of Wisconsin's biggest non-conference win since 2009. I was surrounded by family I love, and we all went ape shit.

Every one of those moments felt surreal. They are among the slap happiest of my life.

Andrew: When he rushed for 408 yards against Nebraska. It was the most dominant 2 quarters of football I've ever seen. He had 49 yards and a fumble after the first quarter. In the second and third quarters? He rushed for 359 yards and 4 touchdowns. That's a special game if someone does that in 60 minutes. Doing it in 30? That's the ultimate.

Luke: My favorite memory is his run in the 2012 Big Ten Championship game. For me it was almost like his coming out party, because it was the first time he made a big impact on a grand stage. He was the third running back at the time, but from the stands in Indy I remember thinking "Wow that's an impressive run. Hopefully he can do that next year" It was also the run that to me showed he was ready to step in for Montee Ball.

Jake: This'll be the only question I'll answer due to word count and time restrictions, but I felt I needed to answer this one. I was fortunate to cover the Nebraska game back in November. The big-game atmosphere was flowing through the crowd and Camp Randall Stadium. The snow falling on the ground added an ambiance and old-school Big Ten battle feel to the division contest.

This game is my defining #MelvinMoment. Down by two touchdowns early, the team fought back -- with Gordon carrying the team for the second and third quarters in a Herculean feat. Obviously, the offensive line had a day against Pelini's Huskers as well, and Gordon noted that as well selflessly in the post-game press conference -- but he was patient with his runs when needed, and exploded out into the open field when given the opportunity, which was often.

I've never seen a game where one player, every time he touched the ball, would have the ability to break one. It was like playing Bo Jackson on Tecmo Super Bowl on the old 8-bit Nintendo, bouncing off tackles and using his speed to get into the end zone. In fact, someone made an 8-bit simulation after watching the 408-yard performance that was an FBS record for one week.

This will be a game I, along with all the media covering the game and the 80,000-plus in attendance, will be able to tell future generations about the legend of Melvin Gordon.

Amongst running backs in Wisconsin history, is Melvin Gordon the greatest?

Louis: Gordon is the most talented, easy. But they all hold a special place. Ron Dayne was equally supernatural, just on the opposite end of the thunder-lightning spectrum. Montee Ball was the most driven. I loved them all. You can't make me choose one.

Andrew: Short answer? Yes. Long answer? While Ron Dayne is a special talent, he got as far as he did because there was just one dominant aspect to his game. Nothing wrong with that, just that Melvin Gordon is a lot better at the patience and vision. He might have been outscored by Montee Ball, but he also didn't have a supporting cast with Nick Toon, Jared Abbrederis, two high offensive line draft picks in Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz.

Oh, and there was also some quarterback named Russell Wilson.

Anyway, Melvin Gordon's two years getting regular carries with the Badgers were so dominant with regular time that there was only one other back since the 1980's that was able to have back-to-back seasons of 200 carries at seven yards per carry. He was Mike Rozier in 1982-83. He won the Heisman. He got picked second in the NFL draft. Sadly, the game changed for Gordon. But he was, to borrow a phrase from the pro wrestling, that damn good.

Luke: I know I was pretty young when Ron Dayne won the Heisman, but I still remember his time at Wisconsin. While he was an unbelievable running back and was part of the modern lineage of great backs to grace the turf of Camp Randall Stadium (Brent Moss and Terrell Fletcher previously, then Michael Bennett, Anthony Davis, Brian Calhoun, P.J. Hill, John Clay, Montee Ball and James White to follow). Gordon brought a unique skill set that I haven't seen at Wisconsin. He combines the power of Dayne with the speed of Calhoun, and the shiftiness of a Bennett or White in the open field.

One thing that many overlook is his vision. I will argue until the cows come home that this year's offensive line was not as good as the last three years have been. It always strikes me how great his patience is while waiting for a whole to develop and then his ability to see the hole astounds me. Once he finds a hole -- good luck! Despite that fact, he may have been even better running outside of the trenches. You get that man into the open field and it's his world and you're just living in it.

If I had to rank them, I would say Gordon, Dayne, Ameche, Ball, Davis.

The Big Ten Network did their "BTN's Mount Rushmore of Wisconsin Football" in December. They excluded current players. Now that Gordon's collegiate career is done, is he up on your Mount Rushmore?

Louis: I may have to leave off Gordon for the same reason I left off Ball -- symbolically, his impact is lower than that of Dayne, Alan Ameche, Pat Richter and Joe Thomas. Gordon didn't establish a tradition, at least none that we know of yet. We'll have to wait and see what his legacy is -- becoming Wisconsin's most successful professional running back would be a good start.

If you asked me to remove any context from my selections, however, then yes, I think Gordon easily makes my Mount Rushmore. Keep Thomas and Dayne on it, then let Russell Wilson and Jamar Fletcher fight for the last spot. Gordon was better than any player I've seen play at Wisconsin. If our Mount Rushmore criteria is considered in a vacuum, Gordon makes it.

Andrew: Yes. I know there's a recency bias that some fans like to paint the average Badger rooter with, and perhaps you're putting a player who had a dominant career off the list. But the fact remains that Melvin Gordon is the best player from the best era of Badgers football to be on the Badgers for his entire career. And if that doesn't earn him a place at the table? You're incorrect, trolling, or some kind of monster.

Luke: My final spot for the Mount Rushmore of Wisconsin Football is Melvin Gordon for what he means to the future. Already we have seen the impact of Melvin and the success he has had with the recent commitments of Jordan Stevenson and Antonio Williams. Their number one reason for coming to Wisconsin wasn't the coach (as you can see by Williams staying committed to the Badgers after the Andersen leaving and Stevenson committing after he left), but rather to chase Gordon's records and get some of their own. He is not just continuing a legacy but adding to it and that will go a long way in the future. In 10 years, when we look back on Gordon's career, he will be a player that you tell others "I was lucky enough to see him do [insert huge game here] against this team when he was at Wisconsin. He was one of a kind."

What is the influence of Gordon on Wisconsin football going forward?

Andrew: You saw the Badgers get in on a higher class of running back prospect this year. Jordan Stevenson was committed to Texas. I know Texas didn't have the same sort of cachet as its had in previous seasons. But to go into Dallas and flip a prospect with offers from Alabama and Ohio State? That's something that the Badgers just haven't done.

And that's without considering Antonio Williams. The top 2016 prospect from New London, North Carolina came in with offers from Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, among others. Now getting a better class of running back prospect is no guarantee of future results. But the fact that the Badgers are now considered a go-to school if you're a young running back interested in an NFL future? That's an influence that while not completely ascribable to Gordon, gets taken to the next level because Melvin Gordon looks like he's going to have a quality NFL career ahead of him.

Louis: Rosin nailed it. Gordon got the attention of every high school running back in the country, and Wisconsin's last two commits, regardless of class, were both top-flight 4-stars.

If Gordon has success in the NFL, it will only continue that trend. Imagine that -- Gordon becoming a superstar at the same time one of the best quarterbacks, and perhaps THE best defensive end and offensive tackle in the game are also from Wisconsin? God, why the hell aren't we recruiting like Bama yet? (Joking. Kinda.)

Luke: I covered it well in the previous question, but I think he can have the biggest impact of any running back to come through Wisconsin if he has a successful NFL career. If you look back at the recent tailbacks going back to Dayne, none of them have had long NFL careers and made an impact. Offensive linemen want to come to UW because they know guys like Joe Thomas, Travis Fredrick and Rick Wagner went there. Tight ends want to come there because guys like Owen Daniels and Lance Kendricks went there. Defensive linemen can look to J.J. Watt, and I would argue that quarterbacks like Gillins and Kafentzis look to a guy like Wilson and see that they can have success. I know that Ball and White need time before we can fully assess them, but the moral of the story is there hasn't been a great running back from UW in the NFL recently. Incoming players have big dreams of going to the NFL and they want to see what you have done to get players there recently, not in the past, which is why teams like Alabama, LSU, Miami, USC, etc always recruit well no matter what type of a season they are having. If Wisconsin wants to continue to recruit well they need Gordon to join the ranks of Russell Wilson, Joe Thomas, and J.J. Watt as current NFL players to carry the Wisconsin torch. I wish him all the best at doing so and breaking the UW running back curse. I think he has the best chance since Michael Bennett to do so.