Alan "The Horse" Ameche
by Chris Hartman for UW-Madison Archives
The 1953 season presented a new challenge for everyone involved in college football: the double-platoon rule had been abolished, and players were forced to become more versatile. For the first time in his life, Ameche played the position of linebacker, and he did so quite well. Throughout his junior and senior years, he played both offense and defense, often playing up to 55 minutes per game.
He was named to ten All-American rosters that year, first string on 6 of them, including those of Look magazine and the American Football Coach's Association. He was an Academic All-American and named MVP.
Though limited by injuries his senior year, Ameche still managed to make his mark. He ended his college career as the NCAA all-time rushing leader, a record that he set in the Badger's 11-6-54 win over Northwestern at Camp Randall; in the process he also set a new Big Ten individual rushing record.
All told he scored 25 touchdowns, ran for more than 100 yards sixteen times (for 200 yards against Minnesota on November 24, 1951), and rushed for 3,212 yards in 673 carries, a NCAA 4-year rushing record. He also held all then-current Wisconsin rushing records for season and single-game performances.
At the end of that season, Ameche was named the top player of the Senior Bowl Game. He was again named MVP by the team, as well as the Big Ten MVP and UP's Back of the Year. He was a consensus All-American, repeated his Academic All-America performance, and received the first-ever Walter Camp Memorial Trophy. Last but not least, of course, Alan Ameche won the 1954 Heisman trophy; the first UW player to receive the honor, he scored over 200 points more than the runner-up. To date, the only other UW player to receive the Heisman is Ron Dayne, in 1999.
Fans in Kenosha threw the Ameches a party after his senior year. The gifts included a 1,500-lb. horse and 3,212 one-dollar bills—one for each of the yards he had gained at Wisconsin. But Ameche's football career was not over yet; he still had to make his mark on the NFL.