This story has no bearing on anything in particular on this blog. There are only minor connections to Michigan, being that this story is from someone who played in the Big Ten, and the fact that his head coach previously played and coached football at Michigan (and played basketball). I got the pleasure of hearing this story the very first day I became a coach by another coach I was working with several years back, and while the reasons for sharing it here are probably minimal, and for many of you it may not bring any parallels to mind, I think it is a cool/great story to tell kids, especially as a coach.
This story comes to mind sometimes for me, and today I was watching Big Ten Network old time games (it chronicled the 1954 Ohio State Buckeyes who went undefeated and beat Michigan 21-7 after Michigan gained a 7-0 lead, for a little background). At one point they mentioned a Wisconsin fullback by the name of Alan Ameche. For those who don’t know the name, Alan Ameche was the first Wisconsin player to win the Heisman trophy. He was a highly decorated player who went on to have a 6 year professional career in which he would score the winning touchdown in “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” By the time he left Wisconsin he had the most career rushing yards of any player in NCAA history.
Alan Ameche was the son of Augusto Amici, a hard headed Italian-American immigrant who refused to change his name. He took up football in high school when his family moved to Wisconsin because his dad thought he seemed “too weak.” By the time he attended college he was a very imposing figure, standing 6’ tall and weighing 210 pounds. He soon earned the nickname “The Horse.”
He actually has a fairly interesting background that I won’t go further into depth with. However, my purpose for posting with something Ameche did on the field, and what he said after the game, which gives some credence to the meaning of sports in our society. Perhaps there are parallels for kids that come from impoverished situations, those who don’t have much else to show to the world, and those they love, other than this gift they have for sports. Times like when Chris Paul missed a free throw, on purpose, after scoring 61 points in a high school game in memory of his grandfather. Well this story is less known.
It was 4thand goal from the three yard line when Wisconsin called a timeout. When Wisconsin came back onto the field it became obvious they had no intention of kicking a field goal. And as soon as this became clear the crowd realized, and starting cheering on their All-American fullback. Softly, starting from the student section, came a chant, “A-me-che… A-me-che…” Others in the crowd quickly began picking up on the chant and joined in. The crowd knew who was getting the ball, and so did the opposing defense. An opposing all-big-ten linebacker began screaming at Ameche, telling him he knew he was going to get the ball, and as Wisconsin lined up Ameche pointed toward this linebacker and declared “I’m coming for you.” Now, let’s be honest, this seems stupid. But let’s remember, this is football in the 1950s, and from my recollection (I was born in the 1980s) this sort of thing happened all the time.
The crowd continued to yell “A-me-che” as the ball was snapped, and sure enough handed to Ameche who what seemed to be a broken trap play. Their play side guard apparently missed his block on the middle linebacker, leaving Ameche one on one with the linebacker he declared he was coming for. The All-Conference linebacker, quickly recognizing the play, bolted up into the hole soon after the guard whiffed his block, meeting head on with the 210 pound fullback. As they collided however, it quickly became apparent that one threat was more sincere than the other, and as the linebacker desperately tried to stall the ferocious attack in time for his teammates to assist him, Ameche’s feet refused to stall as the violently drove the linebacker into the end zone for a touchdown.
This turned out to be the game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, though Wisconsin went on the score after that to seal the victory before time expired. After the game a reporter came up to Alan Ameche and asked him, “How did you have so much resolve to score that touchdown late in the fourth quarter?”
Ameche responded, “My dad died earlier this week. He was blind. See, this was the first time he ever got to see me play.”