|Date of birth||March 1, 1933|
|Date of death||August 8 1988 (aged 55)|
|Place of death||Houston, Texas|
|NFL Draft||1955 / Round 1/ Pick 2|
|Pro Bowls||1956, 1957, 1958, 1959|
|Awards||1954 Heisman Trophy,
1955 UPI NFL R.O.Y.
|Honors||NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
Italian American Sports HOF
|College Hall of Fame|
Lino Dante "Alan" Ameche (March 1, 1933 – August 8, 1988), nicknamed "The Horse," was an American football player who won the Heisman Trophy and the first-ever Walter Camp Memorial Trophy in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then played six seasons with the Baltimore Colts in the National Football League.
In his first professional season he led the league in rushing, was voted the Rookie of the Year and was an All-Pro selection. He was All-Pro for three more years and played in five Pro Bowl games before a severe Achilles' tendon injury ended his career after the 1960 season.
He is best remembered for scoring the winning touchdown in the 1958 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants, labeled "The Greatest Game Ever Played." The game was the first sudden death overtime game in NFL Championship history.
He was inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
Born in Italy in 1933, his parents, August and Elizabeth Ameche, emigrated to the United States in the late 1930s, but returned to Italy for a year. Upon returning to the U.S. they settled in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Alan was the cousin of noted actors Don Ameche and Jim Ameche.
At the age of sixteen he started going by Alan and began his football career at Kenosha's Bradford High School, where he was an all-state fullback. In 1950 his team went undefeated and he scored 108 points.
He also placed at state finals and set city records for running track (the 100 and relays) and throwing shot put. Ameche earned six letters between the two sports.
In 1949 he entered a light heavyweight Golden Gloves novice championship. When his potential opponents heard that he had entered, they all withdrew, and he won the title by default.
Ameche earned All-American honors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he played linebacker as well as fullback in those single-platoon days.
Wisconsin's 1951 team finished the season at 7-1-1. Ameche was the first freshman to ever lead the conference in rushing, gaining 774 yards in 147 attempts, simultaneously breaking two Big Ten Conference records. Including non-conference games, he rushed for 824 yards, another Wisconsin record. The Badger's lost the conference championship that year to Illinois.
In 1952 the Badgers tied for the conference title with Purdue. Ameche again led the Big Ten in rushing, and his honors included being named to the UP and AP All-Midwest teams, as well as to the First-Team All-Big Ten for the first of three consecutive years.
Ameche led the Badgers to its first postseason appearance in UW history. The Rose Bowl game against the USC was a hard-fought match that remained scoreless until the last few minutes. Although they lost 7-0 Ameche rushed for 133 yards in 28 attempts.
The 1953 season saw the double-platoon rule abolished, and players were forced to become more versatile. As a result Ameche played the position of linebacker throughout his junior and senior years, playing both offense and defense. He often played up to 55 minutes per game.
He was named to ten All-American rosters that year, first string on six of them, including those of Look and the American Football Coach's Association. He was also an Academic All-American and named MVP.
Limited by injuries his senior year, Ameche still managed to end his college career as the NCAA all-time rushing leader and in the process set a new Big Ten individual rushing record.
He finished his college career with 25 touchdowns, ran for more than 100 yards sixteen times (for 200 yards against Minnesota on November 24, 1951), rushed for 3,212 yards in 673 carries (a NCAA four year rushing record), and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He also finished with all of the then-current Wisconsin rushing records for season and single-game performances.
At the end of his senior year season, Ameche was named the top player of the Senior Bowl Game. He was again named MVP by the team, as well as the Big Ten MVP and UP's Back of the Year. He was a consensus All-American, repeated his Academic All-America performance, and received the first-ever Walter Camp Memorial Trophy given by the NCAA Division I-A head coaches and sports information directors to the Player of the Year.
Ameche also won the prestigious 1954 Heisman Trophy; the first UW player to receive the honor, he scored over 200 points more than the runner-up. Ron Dayne, in 1999, is the only other UW player to win the Heisman.
After graduating Ameche was made offers by the Canadian Professional League and was reportedly offered $100,000 to wrestle professionally. Instead he entered the 1955 NFL draft and was selected in the first round by the Baltimore Colts. They offered him more money than they had ever offered a rookie before: $15,000.
As a professional rookie he repeated his college rookie success by leading the NFL in rushing yards and was named NFL Rookie of the Year. The very first time he touched the football in a professional game, on September 25, 1955, he ran 79 yards for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. He was also the only rookie picked for the Pro Bowl, an honor he repeated the following three years.
In 1988, Eric Dickerson, with 1,659 yards rushing, became the first Colt to lead the league in rushing since Alan Ameche in 1955.
Ameche may be best remembered for his role in the 1958 NFL Championship Game at Yankee Stadium, often cited as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Ameche scored the winning touchdown for the Colts on a one-yard run in overtime as the Colts beat the Giants, 23-17. It was his second touchdown of the day as he also scored a TD on a 2 yard run in the second quarter.
Ameche finished a relatively short six-season NFL career with 4,045 rushing yards, 101 receptions for 733 yards and 44 touchdowns.
Ameche was named to the National Football League 1950s All-Decade Team—NFL players who have had outstanding performances throughout the 1950s and have been compiled into a fantasy group. The team was selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee members. Out of the 19 chosen to the offensive team he was one of only four who never made the NFL Hall of Fame.
He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.
|Heisman Trophy Winner
Howard "Hopalong" Cassady
Colts middleguard Joe Campanella with encouragement from owner Carroll Rosenbloom got into the restaurant business and later Ameche and Gino Marchetti joined them. Ameche's Drive-in restaurants featured the "35" sauce that was served on the famous "Powerhouse' and "Kingfish" sandwiches. "Meetcha at Ameche's" became a popular catchphrase in Baltimore. By the time he sold his restaurants in the 1970s he was a millionaire.
Ameche later became a sportscaster and had his own show Ameche's Powerhouse Sports News and Views.
Ameche became active in organizations such as the United Negro College Fund, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He also owned a chain of indoor tennis court facilities and briefly embarked on a brief career as a sports agent in the mid-1980s.
In 1952 Ameche married his high school sweetheart, Yvonne Molinaro, on Thanksgiving. They had their first two of six children while Ameche was playing for Wisconsin. All four of his sons played college football.
Following Ameche's death in 1988 Yvonne married Glenn Davis in 1996. Davis was the 1946 Heisman Trophy winner. In football trivia she is the only woman to have been married to two Heisman Trophy winners. With all four sons playing football Yvonne stayed close to the game and was invited each year, as are all recipients and their wives, to the Heisman ceremonies, even after Ameche passed away. It was at a Heisman gathering that she met Davis, whose wife had died.
Her daughter, Catherine, married the brother of 1973 Heisman winner, Penn State running back John Cappelletti.
After the Ameche's son Paul died in a car accident in 1981 they produced a video entitled A Family in Grief: The Ameche Story, in 1987. Yvonne sold the video rights for a dollar so it could be used by counselors, groups, and individuals dealing with similar tragedies.
In 1988, just a few days after his daughter Beth's wedding, he had to be hospitalized for a heart valve replacement. While in the hospital he had a heart attack and became a candidate for a heart replacement. He died a few days later before one could be found.
Ameche received two awards that recognize former players for distinguishing themselves off the playing field: the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award (1980) and the College Sports Information Directors Academic Hall of Fame (1992).
In 1991, Ameche was one of 35 charter members inducted into the UW Athletic Hall of Fame. In a special ceremony at Camp Randall on September 9, 2000, Alan Ameche's number "35" was retired and his name was added to the historic stadium's façade, following that of Ron Dayne.
During the 70th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Award Presentations Dinner in 2004 Alan Ameche was honored on the 50th Anniversary of his award. His eldest son delivered the main address on his father's behalf and his wife also made brief remarks.
Ameche was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame on December 31, 2004.
In late summer of 2006, the Bradford/Tremper high school football field was renamed Ameche Field in honor of Alan "the Horse" Ameche.
All links retrieved September 25, 2012.
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