May 8, 2013
• Complete coverage of Ron Dayne's election to the College Football Hall of Fame
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- Upon seeing an ESPN scroll across the bottom of his television screen Monday revealing that former Miami (Fla.) quarterback Vinny Testaverde had been selected to the College Football Hall of Fame - the Class of 2013 - Ron Dayne couldn't help but think, "I guess I didn't make it this time."
Testaverde and Dayne are fraternity brothers, the Heisman frat. Aware his name was on the ballot for the first time, Dayne could accept not making the cut because, after all, "it's going to take awhile to get into the Hall of Fame because you've got to be somebody super,'' he thought.
But that didn't make it any easier for Dayne to understand what the fuss had been all about. "The last couple of days I was getting calls from different people congratulating me,'' recounted the former Wisconsin All-American. "I'm like, `Congratulating me for what?' I just said, `Ok, thanks.'"
Unbeknownst to Dayne, a package had been delivered to his home Monday night containing one of the commemorative footballs that had been sent out to each of the newly elected Hall of Fame members. Dayne didn't open it until Tuesday morning; the equivalent of a Christmas morning in May.
He hasn't stopped smiling since.
"I don't know what to say or how to put it, but I just feel blessed to be in this situation. It's a great honor,'' he said, struggling to find the right words. Holding up his cell phone, he pointed to it and said, "I've got a picture of the Hall of Fame football right here that I'm keeping."
This was his way of pinching himself before his Tuesday press conference at Camp Randall Stadium where he fielded questions on joining a select group of 13 former UW players or coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, including running backs Alan Ameche, Pat Harder and Elroy Hirsch.
"I don't know how much more you can get out of college,'' pondered Dayne, 35, who became the NCAA's career rushing leader and won the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 1999. "I had a cousin call me and he said, `Man, you've been out of school for a long time and you're still winning awards.'"
Once his Hall of Fame election began to register, Dayne said, "It's great for the team - all the guys that I played with at Wisconsin - because we were a team. It's also great for the university and great for coach (Barry Alvarez) to have a Hall of Fame player since he's already in there."
Exposing his dimples with a wide grin, he later observed, "It keeps us all relevant.
There was something else to smile about.
"I'm going back to school to get my degree,'' Dayne said Tuesday. "I want to graduate before my daughter Jada gets to college. She's a freshman at Waunakee (High School). Coach (Alvarez) has always pushed me in that direction, `Are you going to get it (the degree)? Are you going to get it?'
"The first time I came back (to school) I didn't stick with it. But I want to be able to do it this time. I think I needed about 25 credits or so. I've done six so far, and I'm going to pump it up this summer and try to do a little more. I want to keep adding and adding credits until I graduate."
Besides adding, he has also been subtracting - pounds. Dayne shyly acknowledged that he has lost quite a bit of weight. He's down to about 230 to 235; a far cry from the 274 pounds that he carried as a high school player in New Jersey. His playing weight at Wisconsin was between 260 and 265.
"This is the lightest I've been," he said with a sigh, "since I was 10 or 11 years old."
Physically, he looks like a spread tailback. Just don't tell him that. "I don't like the spreads,'' Dayne admitted. "There wasn't even a running back pick in the first round of this year's draft. Now everyone is using two tight ends and three wide receivers. Where is the running back going to fit in?''
Alvarez emphasized that there would always be a place for Dayne and he would be "just as valuable today'' as he was in the mid to late `90s and "just as effective'' running the rock as he was for the Badgers. "There are a lot of guys that played this game and no one did what he did,'' Alvarez said.
Durability was the word that Alvarez used to punctuate Dayne's productivity at Wisconsin. As a true freshman, he had 325 rushes in 1996, including 30 against Purdue and 50 against Minnesota in back-to-back games. Dayne finished his Badger career with 1,220 carries for 7,125 yards.
Although he didn't come close to matching that production in the National Football League, he said, "I got eight years in the pros, so I can't complain. I'm also healthy. Unlike some of my friends, I can't tell what the weather is going to be like from the aches in my bones and knees.''
Dayne was a first-round pick (11th overall) of the New York Giants and also wound up playing for the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans. Asked if there was anything that he'd like to do over again, Dayne said, "I wish I was in the situation that Montee (Ball) is in. Oh, my goodness, that's perfect.''
He has already shared that opinion with Ball, a second-round pick of the Denver Broncos. "I told him, `You're in the perfect situation because of the style of runner that you are and you've got the perfect quarterback in Peyton Manning,''' Dayne said. "I don't have to give him advice. Peyton will.''
But he does have some advice for the NFL rule-makers who have decided to penalize running backs who purposely initiate contact with the crown of their helmet outside of the tackle box. "Horrible rule,'' he said. "It will hurt the bigger backs like Trent Richardson and even an Adrian Peterson.''
Dayne, who grew up idolizing John Riggins, conceded that he would have trouble adjusting. "If you go back and look at a lot of my runs," he said, "I'd lower my head, dip and hit with my helmet and kind of come through with my shoulder pads. If you grabbed me, I ran out of it."
If he wasn't running through tacklers, he was running away from them. "I've got a three-day football camp for ages 6 to 18," said Dayne who once ran a 4.49 in the 40 at 274 pounds. "At the end of the camp, I race everybody."
The dimples exploded again when he added, "I haven't lost yet."