Wisconsin Football Countdown: No. 40, Elroy Hirsch


As the countdown to the first Wisconsin football game of the season continues, Badger of Honor is taking a look at Badgers by the numbers, checking in on a different Badger or Badgers players who wore the number corresponding with the remaining days until the Badgers head to Texas to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday, Sept. 5.

Next up in our countdown, signifying 40 days until college football is back, is Elroy Hirsch.

Known as “Crazylegs,” Hirsch is firmly cemented in Wisconsin football history.

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He played just one season for the Badgers in 1942, committing to UW out of his hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. He earned his “Crazy Legs” nickname when after a long touchdown run against Notre Dame, Francis Powers of the Chicago Daily News wrote that, “his crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions, all at the same time; he looked like a demented duck.”

The Badgers went 8-1-1 in his lone season at UW, led by the triple-threat capabilities of Crazylegs. Hirsch totaled 786 rushing yards, 390 receiving yards and 226 passing yards on the season. He helped the Badgers take down No. 1 Ohio State by throwing a touchdown pass and totaling more than 200 total yards of offense.

The Badgers finished the year ranked third nationally, and Hirsch was named a third-team Look All-American. He was also a first team All-Big Ten selection.

In 1943, like many other players in his era, Hirsch joined the Marine Corps as the U.S. entered World War II. He was transferred to the University of Michigan, where he continued to compete in collegiate athletics, lettering in four sports (football, basketball, track and baseball). He helped the 1943 Michigan football team to a No. 3 ranking, and once competed in a track and field meet in Illinois, broad jumping 22-5 ¾ in the prelims, then jumped in a car, drove to Bloomington, Indiana, and pitched a four-hitter in the second game of a doubleheader.

Following college, Hirsch was a first round draft pick (No. 5 overall) by the Cleveland Browns, but chose to play in the All-America Football Conference with the Chicago Rockets, where he battled through injuries for three seasons.

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When the AAFC merged with the NFL, Hirsch joined the Los Angeles Rams and became a star. He played for nine NFL seasons, and was a two-time AP First Team All-Pro as he became a talented receiver.

He finished his NFL career with 387 receptions for 7,029 yards and 60 touchdowns, adding 687 yards and three scores on the ground.

Hirsch and the Rams were NFL champions in 1951, and Hirsch led the NFL in yardage and touchdowns that season. He was later named to the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time team.

He played for nine seasons with the Rams, retiring in 1957.

Hirsch was an actor for a time after his days as an NFL player, starring in three movies, including portraying himself in “Crazylegs, All-American.”

He also worked in the Rams front office and was the athletic director at UW from 1969-1987.

In 1968 Hirsch was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame, the first Badgers player to earn the honor. He and Mike Webster remain the only two former Badgers to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 1969 he was voted onto Wisconsin’s All-Time Team in conjunction with the centennial celebration of college football. In 1964 he was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, in 1974 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and in 1988 he was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Hirsch passed away January 28, 2004, of natural causes.

Who wore No. 40 first?

• Center John Wilson was the first Badgers player to wear No. 40 in 1927.

Who wore No. 40 last?

• Halfback Rollie Strehlow was the last Badgers player to wear No. 40 from 1949-1950. After Hirsch left UW in 1942, only six other Badgers would wear the number.

Stay tuned to Badger of Honor as we continue our daily countdown in preparation of the season opener against Alabama.

Next: Wisconsin Football Experience

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