This week across the SB Nation networks it is Marvel Week. The site is running an ultimate Marvel movie bracket and doing some other fun things to connect the wonderful world of superheroes to sports in a way to pass the time with the sporting world we love on a hiatus.
The Wisconsin Badgers athletic program has had a strong tradition of excellence on the playing surface and in the classroom, making us wonder...who would be on the “Wisconsin Avengers.”
Here is a breakdown of some the current or former Wisconsin athletes that fit the mold of each character in the Avengers.
Captain America —> Pat Richter
A nine-time letter winner at Wisconsin in football, basketball and baseball, Pat Richter is the OG of Badger athletics. After an exceptional playing career at Wisconsin, Richter was a first-round pick by the Washington Redskins and played for eight seasons in the NFL.
While his accomplishments as an athlete were out of this world, he would go on greater successes as an athletic director at his alma mater, paving the way for the hirings of Barry Alvarez and Dick Bennett.
Captain America is a do it all man who looks fairly unassuming, and Pat Richter fits the mold perfectly. Add in the fact that Richter was born during World War II, the same time in which Captain America was spawned, and the fit is too good.
Captain America was not only the first Avenger, but he represented much more than just his abilities in combat, just like the tremendous achievements of Pat Richter.
(Honorable Mention: Josh Gasser)
Iron Man —> Mike Webster
Nicknamed “Iron Mike,” Mike Webster is one of the greatest football players of all-time. For a program rich in a tradition of offensive lineman, Webster is one of the players at the top of the heap.
At only 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, Webster earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 1972 as the top center in the conference during a time in which Wisconsin was not nearly the factory for offensive line recruits that they are now.
A 16-year veteran of the NFL, Webster won the Super Bowl four times over the course of his career, and was chosen to the Pro Bowl nine times. A seven-time First Team All-Pro, Webster is routinely included in most Top 100 players of all-time rankings in football history.
His ability and willingness to play through nearly anything gave him his “Iron Mike” nickname. Ultimately, like Iron Man (spoiler alert), his life was cut short due to injuries occurred from his playing days.
(Honorable Mention: Nigel Hayes, his humor is too perfect)
Black Panther —> Jonathan Taylor
Outrageously talented, extremely smart, fierce leader? Jonathan Taylor checks all the boxes.
A three-time first-team All-Big Ten performer, JT nearly rushed for 2,000 yards in all three of his seasons on campus. Taylor is one of only three players to ever win the Doak Walker award given to the best running back in the entire country on two separate occasions.
Taylor holds the record for the most rushing yards as a freshman, and also ran for the most yards in the first three seasons in college. After bursting onto the scene to win the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award, Taylor penciled his name into college football lore as one of the best running backs in college football history.
The rest is still unwritten about his future in the NFL after being selected by the Indianapolis Colts a few weeks ago, but his rare blend of smarts, strength, balance, and speed make him an obvious selection for the Avengers.
(Honorable Mention: Melvin Gordon)
Black Widow —> Lauren Carlini
One of the best female athletes in Badgers history, the 6-foot-1 setter can do it all on the volleyball court. During her four years at Wisconsin she helped elevate the profile of the entire volleyball program. Her senior season she was the Sullivan Award Winner given to the best amateur athlete in any sport in the United States, and was a four time All-American while on campus.
Since her time at Wisconsin, Carlini has been setting the world on fire as a part of Team USA, helping guide the team to two Pan American Cup Gold medals, including MVP honors during the Pan American Cup in 2018.
Like Black Widow she is extremely good at deceiving her competitors with her ability to set, and demonstrates excellent aim to execute anything she attacks.
(Honorable Mention: Dana Rettke)
Thor —> Beau Allen
Look at that hair flow...
Beau Allen earns the spot as Thor in large part because of his flowing locks and brute strength. A three-year playmaker along the defensive line for Wisconsin, Allen has gone on to success in the NFL since being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.
A Super Bowl winning member of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, Allen is now a member of the New England Patriots.
Thor ultimately had to go through some self discovery before eventually earn his crown, much like Beau Allen had to maneuver through multiple coaching changes and scheme changes during his time on campus. Thor went through a long period of binge drinking in Avengers Endgame, and if there is one thing I can only assume Beau Allen could crush the competition at, it would be having a good time with a beer in hand.
(Honorable Mention: Joe Thomas)
Nick Fury —> Ron Dayne
One of the best overall players in college football history, Ron Dayne smashed rushing records during his time at Wisconsin.
A four-year starter, Dayne was a force with the ball in his hands, rushing for an insane 7,125 yards when bowl games are included (DAMN YOU NCAA).
A Heisman Trophy winner, Ron Dayne was one of the featured members of back-to-back Rose Bowl winning teams that completely shifted the way in which Wisconsin was viewed by the national landscape. He later would go on to play in the NFL for seven seasons with the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans.
Like Nick Fury with S.H.I.E.L.D and the Avengers Initiative, Dayne was an integral part in the football programs rise to national relevance, and an iconic member of the Wisconsin football fraternity.
(Honorable Mention: Troy Vincent)
Captain Marvel —> Meghan Duggan
One of the best hockey players on the planet, Meghan Duggan had a phenomenal career at Wisconsin from 2006 to 2011. She left Madison as the all-time leading scorer in program history before going on to win three medals in 2010, 2014, and 2018 Olympics, including her time as the captain of the 2018 gold medal winning women’s hockey team.
She continues to play professionally to this day for the Boston Pride, and like the Captain Marvel she seems to fly over the ice as she zooms around at her forward position, and always seems to be a step ahead of the competition.
(Honorable Mention: Annie Pankowski)
Hulk —> J.J. Watt
A former walk-on, J.J. Watt burst onto the scene at Wisconsin his sophomore and junior seasons in Madison. A force in the backfield and with a knack for knocking down passes, Watt was selected by the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Pewaukee product became an absolute monster in the pros though. In his brief stint thus far in the NFL he has already accrued an insane amount of hardware with five Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections, as well as a whopping three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Like the Hulk, Watt is mild mannered and kind off the field, but he flips a switch when inside the white lines of the football field to unleash his crazy strength.
(Honorable Mention: Tom Burke)
Falcon —> Alando Tucker
Wisconsin’s all-time leading scorer, Alando Tucker, was just different. An explosive athlete that was an exceptional two-way player, Tucker was the complete package.
During his collegiate career he averaged 16.5 points per game, and won Big Ten Player of the Year in 2007. A consensus first-team All-American, Tucker is one of the best players to ever play for the Badgers.
Tucker on to play in the NBA and professionally overseas for 10 years before recently joining Greg Gard’s coaching staff this past season as an assistant.
Falcon’s suit notably has wings to fly, something that Alando Tucker seemed to do regularly as he soared for huge dunks. Tucker is a player in program history that definitely deserves a spot on the Avengers for his super hero like traits.
(Honorable Mention: Al Toon)
Spider-Man —> Chris Chelios
Born in 1962, the same year as the release of Spider-Man, Chris Chelios is one of the best hockey players ever.
During his two-year stint at Wisconsin, Chelios helped the Badgers take home the NCAA National Championship in 1983. A second-team WCHA All-Star, Chelios went on to have immense professional success in the NHL and with Team USA.
During his 26-year professional career, he won three Stanley Cups and was a seven-time All-Star. Holding a myriad of NHL records, Chelios was a defensive wizard who won the Norris Trophy (top defensive player in the league) three times.
In international play, Chris Chelios also played in four separate Olympics, three of which he was a team captain for. Representing the USA, he won two silver medals and one gold.
Chelios ability as a defender would be a strong addition to the Avengers squad.
(Honorable Mention: Jamar Fletcher)
Hawkeye —> Russell Wilson
The best quarterback in Wisconsin football history, Russell Wilson was on a different level.
In his lone season as a Badger he earned All-Big Ten honors, as well as the Griese-Brees Big Ten Quarterback of the Year award thanks to his school-record 33 touchdown passes compared to only four interceptions. Wilson broke the FBS passer efficiency record for a single season thanks to his nearly immaculate accuracy as well that season while guiding the Badgers to a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl appearance.
Wilson demonstrated continued dominance in the NFL as a Seattle Seahawk, where he has become one of the best quarterbacks in the entire league. A Super Bowl champion, seven time Pro Bowler, and former Rookie of the Year, Wilson is by far the most decorated quarterback to ever wear a Wisconsin jersey.
Wilson is extremely nimble under pressure and possesses high level accuracy as a passer, similar to the stellar marksmanship that Hawkeye has as a member of the Avengers.
(Honorable Mention: Kirk Penney)
War Machine —> Devin Harris
One of the best scorers in the history of Wisconsin basketball, Devin Harris was an all-around talent that helped shape what would come in the Bo Ryan era.
A three-year star for the Badgers, Harris could do it all on the basketball court. In his final season in Madison he averaged over 19 points, four assists and four rebounds on a per game basis on his way to Big Ten Play of the Year and All-American honors.
After college, Harris was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, and went on to have a long career in the NBA that included an All-Star performance.
War-Machine was known for his strong maneuverability and leadership qualities two things that “The Blur,” Devin Harris had down.
(Honorable Mention: Michael Finley)
Vision —> Barry Alvarez
“They better get season tickets right now, because before long they probably won’t be able to” still stands as one of the most iconic statements in the history of the Wisconsin athletic department.
Barry Alvarez became the head coach at Wisconsin in 1990, and completely shifted the dynamic of the football program during his 16-year run as coach. The winningest football coach in program history, Alvarez guided the Badgers to three Rose Bowl wins, and later transitioned into his current role as athletic director.
Barry Alvarez, like the superhero Vision, had the foresight to lay the blueprint out for future of the Wisconsin athletic department, and he completely alter everything that had come before it.
Not to mention, get that man mad on the sidelines, and he was ready for any battle.
(Honorable Mention: Dick Bennett)
Doctor Strange —> Frank Kaminsky
At 7-feet tall, Frank Kaminsky was an absolute magician on the court for Wisconsin.
A four-year letterwinner, Kaminsky is one of the most prolific college basketball players in recent history. An integral part of back-to-back Final Four runs, Kaminsky led the team in points and rebounds each season, earning him recognition as the Consensus National Player of the Year recipient in 2015.
After his first-team All-American season as a senior, Kaminsky was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, and has had a solid career in the NBA so far.
Doctor Strange is known for the unorthodox and magical ways in which he does things, similar to the way that Kaminsky was able to take over games during his basketball career. Frank the Tank had a rare knack of being able to not only dominate in the post, but also step out and shoot three-pointers at 7-foot tall that it he was extremely hard to guard. Add in his abilities to dribble drive and play great defense, and he a surgeon carving through the competition on the hardwood.
(Honorable Mention: Alan Ameche)
Wasp —> Rose Lavelle
At a mere 5-foot-4, the unassuming Rose Lavelle is a bonafide superstar in the soccer world. A tremendous talent at Wisconsin from 2013 to 2016, Lavelle won Freshman of the Year honors and later was the first player in program history since 1991 to become a first-team All-American.
A quick and crafty midfielder, Lavelle has seen her notoriety skyrocket since since joining the United State National Team. During the 2019 FIFA World Cup, she scored three goals, including one in the final to help secure the world championship over Netherlands. For her effort she was won the Bronze Ball, given to the third best player in the entire tournament.
Small in stature like the Wasp, she is supremely talented at maneuvering her way through traffic, and is a strong team player.
(Honorable Mention: Suzy Favor-Hamilton)
Ant-Man —> Jim Leonhard
An undersized walk-on from within the state, Jim Leonhard overcame the odds to put together a remarkable career at Wisconsin. At only 5-foot-8, Leonhard surprised folks across college football and later in the NFL for his combination of speed and athleticism.
In his four seasons in Madison he was a first-team All-American an astounding three times with 21 interceptions, and he currently ranks second in Big Ten history in punt return yardage.
After a successful collegiate career Leonhard went on to play in the NFL for 10 seasons as a free safety and punter returner. His overall smarts and depth of knowledge learned from the NFL brought him back to his alma mater, where he is now one of the most successful defensive coordinators in the country.
Leonhard, like Ant-Man, is frequently overlooked because of his size, something never stopped the former Wisconsin safety from exceeded expectations throughout his life.
(Honorable Mention: Jared Abbrederis)
Winter Soldier —> Mark Johnson
One of the best hockey players in the history of the program, Mark Johnson has made his mark on the ice in many ways.
Johnson was a standout player during his collegiate days, but really made his mark in international play as part of the 1980 Olympic team. Part of the “Miracle on Ice” team that defeated Russia 4-3, Johnson scored two of the goals in the final match to earn MVP honors. An absolutely huge victory beyond the sphere of sports, Johnson became a folk hero for people across the country.
Johnson would continue to give back to the UW athletic department, making a significant impact now as the head coach of the women’s hockey team. A five-time National Champion as head coach, Johnson has built the hockey program into one of the best in the country year in and year out.
(Honorable Mention: Blake Geoffrion)