Wisconsin senior running back Ron Dayne is still smarting from
his meeting last February with 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky
Williams. Last year Williams set the NCAA Division I-A career
rushing record with 6,279 yards, a milestone Dayne needs 1,716
yards to match. When they met at the Walter Camp awards banquet,
Dayne asked Williams if he'd be in attendance if Dayne broke his
mark. "He told me something like, 'I'm in the pros now, so I
don't really care about the record,'" says Dayne. "Ricky is a
great guy, but I didn't like his style."
It seems everybody likes Dayne's style. As NFL scouts look ahead
to the 2000 draft, the 5'10", 258-pound Dayne, who rushed for
170 yards in the first quarter against San Jose State as a
sophomore, is projected to be the top running back available.
His MVP performance in this year's Rose Bowl, in which he
plowed, deked and streaked his way to four touchdowns and 246
yards rushing, blew away UCLA and football observers. "That was
one of the most dominating, multidimensional performances you
may ever see by a back," says Badgers offensive coordinator and
running backs coach Brian White. "The most logical comparison
for Ron is Jerome Bettis, but I think Ron can do more things."
The one criticism of Dayne is that he's a north-south runner,
and that's it. "He's not magical," says one NFL personnel man.
Scouts also worry about his susceptibility to injury (he has
missed three games at Wisconsin because of various physical
woes), his weight (which has ballooned to as much as 275 pounds)
and his relatively slow 4.65 in the 40. But they drool at his
ability to hold on to the ball and his willingness to block
linebackers. When discussing Dayne, scouts also mention his
5.7-yard rushing average. Nearly half his 4,563 yards were
gained after he made initial contact with the defense.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG IDEAL NFL TEAM The New Jersey-born Dayne is a classic Giants back, built to grind it out in November against the Redskins.