Ron Dayne has climbed back into the Heisman Trophy race the way
he does everything: quietly. He plays without talking. To the
Badgers' chagrin, he doesn't say a word when hurting. In the day
of the ubiquitous microphone, Dayne, a 5'10", 260-pound
sophomore, would prefer to win a trophy without opening his mouth.
Dayne has all the tools to capture the public's attention. He
has the statistics: 947 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns in six
games. He has the distinctive style, running like a hybrid of an
18-wheeler and a Corvette. "He looks like he's moving a lot
slower than he really is," says 6'2", 236-pound Wisconsin
linebacker Dave Lysek, who secured a place in Badgers lore by
stopping Dayne on a goal line stand in spring practice. "My chin
strap got caught on my nose, which is why my helmet didn't come
off." He has the nickname, too: the Great Dayne.
He has everything--except the desire to speak about himself.
"There's no point in talking if you don't know what they're
trying to get out of you," Dayne says. That stance isn't limited
to the media. On the field Dayne follows the Miss Manners
playbook. "He'll run you over and run back to the huddle,"
Illinois linebacker David James says. "That's the worst kind of
opponent." Big Ten official Jim Augustyn adds that Dayne reminds
him of another guy who got up after being tackled and simply
handed him the ball with no histrionics: Barry Sanders.
Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez has discovered that Dayne can even
be too quiet for his own good. After Dayne suffered a stinger in
his right shoulder in August, he didn't tell the trainers how
every hit brought more pain. Dayne wanted to play in the Kickoff
Classic at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on Aug. 24 because
nearly 100 people were coming from his hometown of Berlin, N.J.,
to watch him perform. Dayne bombed, rushing for 46 yards on 13
carries in a 34-0 loss to Syracuse.
The following Friday, before the Badgers were to play Boise
State, Alvarez cornered Dayne. "If you're not 100 percent, you
need to tell us," Alvarez said. Later that day Dayne admitted to
running backs coach Brian White that he was hurting. Alvarez sat
Dayne out, and Wisconsin beat the Broncos 28-24 on a touchdown
in the last minute.
With his shoulder feeling better, Dayne returned to action the
following week against San Jose State and ran 80 yards for a
touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. He finished the game
with 254 yards and has had two more 200-yard performances since,
including his 207-yarder in a 31-7 victory over Illinois last
This season has become one to call home about. Things are better
now than last summer, when Dayne lived in an apartment in
Madison with no telephone. "There was a pay phone in the lobby,"
Dayne says. "It didn't really bother me not having a phone."
You can say that again. --I.M.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS [Ron Dayne in game]