Feb. 8, 2010
Ten years after winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Wisconsin Badgers to two Rose Bowl Championships, college football legend Ron Dayne continues to give back to the city of Madison.
One of the most highly decorated athletes to ever play for Wisconsin, the 5-10, 252 lb running back from Berlin, New Jersey gave then-head coach Barry Alvarez’s program a national presence. Dayne made an immediate impact, becoming known for his blue collar, hardnosed and relentless style of play.
To this day, Dayne still holds the NCAA record for total career rushing yards in Football Bowl Subdivision history (6,397). He was crowned the 1999 AP Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy winner, while also claiming the Jim Brown, Maxwell, Walter Camp and Doak Walker awards. Yet, the humble Heisman winner doesn’t dwell on his accomplishments.
“I really don’t look at all my awards like that. My thing was to win, and that’s what I wanted to do,” said Dayne.
While the awards serve as a great memoir to his unparalleled skill of the game, Dayne credits his former teammates for his accolades and showing him the way, especially as an incoming freshman. A senior studded offensive line and fullback served as Dayne’s guiding light in particular.
“Everybody on the front line was a senior,” said Dayne. “At the time, I was the fifth running back in line, and fourth and fifth running backs didn’t play that often, so I didn’t know all the plays. If you ever watch any of the old games, when I first started playing you’ll see Cecil (Martin) putting his hands behind his back pointing which way he was going. Cecil would tell me, just follow me over here, come this way. When I got in the huddle, my teammates would make sure I knew where to go.”
The seniors on the team served as mentors to Dayne, showing him the way on the field. He immediately developed a bond with his teammates.
“We were a tough group, we all went through it together and we always hung together as a team,” said Dayne.
The bond Dayne developed has since been extended for a greater cause. Recently, Dayne and a group of former standout Badger teammates and Rose Bowl Champions, including defensive back Kenny Gales, wide receiver Michael London, fullback Cecil Martin and defensive lineman Haywood Simmons, have started Champion Style Athletics (CSA). CSA is a functional trainer’s gym, located in Madison, Wis., that provides members of all ages the chance to enhance their daily lifestyle.
CSA has a diverse clientele, starting with five year-olds-who participate in CSA’s organized flag football team and ending with a class specifically designed for the young-at-heart senior citizens. Dayne and staff cater to their client’s needs, striving to enhance member’s nutrition, physicality, athleticism, and academics.
Within CSA members, are many local area high school athletes trying to excel at their sport and prepare themselves to play at the collegiate level.
“We have a lot of high school athletes that come to our gym. The kids work to become stronger and faster, and we are doing it the right way,” comments Dayne.
Dayne and his teammates see CSA as an opportunity to teach youth a healthy lifestyle, as well as the importance of keeping up with their studies. As the University of Wisconsin instilled these values on Dayne and his former teammates when they were student-athletes, they now aim to carry on the importance and parallelism between academics and athletics.
“We have a study table for the kids, where you are required to study before you work out, and it gives them a chance to get their homework done,” said Dayne. “We have tutors on site, and we also offer ACT and SAT prep classes, so kids know what they need to be at in order to get into school.”
In conjunction with CSA, Dayne is also working hard to lead the fight against childhood obesity and diabetes in the community. The Ron Dayne Youth Initiative, a non-profit organization, focuses on mentoring children from underprivileged homes within the Madison public school footprint. The initiative offers fitness opportunities and academic support to underprivileged and at-risk students. Students participate in after school activities, helping to keep active and also off the street.
Currently, Dayne and staff organize the after-school programs at the three participating schools that take part in the initiative.
“We do an hour and a half after-school program, where we work the kids out,” said Dayne. “It’s great. We play games and do a lot of resistance drills as games, so it’s fun for them. And they are getting a good workout without knowing it.”
The program is in its third year, and houses 45 students throughout the three participating schools. Dayne plans to add a school each year to grow the initiative. Being an athlete himself and a father of two, childhood obesity and diabetes is a hot topic that resonates strongly with the Heisman Trophy winner.
“We want to keep the kids busy and active, rather than having kids sitting at home and doing nothing, or running the streets. We try and give them another way to go,” said Dayne.
During his time on the field, Dayne helped to give the city of Madison two Big Ten titles, two back-to-back Rose Bowl Championships, and a 37-13 overall record. Now off the field, he is helping in leading a fight against childhood obesity and diabetes for the city, as well as focusing efforts on encouraging healthy lifestyles for those who are members of his gym. A true role model, Dayne is living proof of the belief, “Once a Badger, always a Badger.”