Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch
(June 17, 1923 – January 28, 2004) was an American football running back and receiver for the
Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Rockets, nicknamed for his unusual
born in Wausau, Wisconsin.
He developed his running style running
cross legged over four square cement sidewalk blocks in his home
played his first college season with the University of
His nickname was permanently affixed to him by
Chicago Daily News
sportswriter Francis Powers who, upon
witnessing him play for the Badgers against the Great Lakes Naval
Station in 1942, wrote "His crazy legs were gyrating in six
different directions, all at the same time; he looked like a
commitment to the United States
program in United States
Marine Corps required him to transfer to the University of
He played two intercollegiate football
seasons for the Michigan
where during the 1943-44 year he earned the
distinction of being the only athlete at the school to letter in
four sports (football, basketball
) in a single year. He was inducted into
Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
Professional Football career
Hirsch was drafted by the Chicago
of the All-America Football
, where he played from 1946 to 1948, in three
injury-prone seasons. After the Rockets and the AAFC merged with
, he joined the
Los Angeles Rams
where he gained his fame. Coach Clark
made Hirsch the first full-time "flanker" in NFL
history, splitting the talented receiver outside from his previous
halfback position. Additionally, he was one of the first to sport
the molded plastic helmet that is the industry standard today in
the NFL, which Coach Shaughnessy
for him as a precaution, as he was injured when first joining the
Rams. When playing for Chicago in an All-America game against the
Cleveland Browns, Hirsch was tackled so badly that his right knee
ligaments were torn. He also suffered a fractured skull above his
right ear. He was key to the Rams victory in the 1951 NFL
championship with a NFL record
1,495 yards receiving, a record that stood for 19 years. He also
had 66 catches, and 17 touchdowns that same year. He was inducted into
the Pro Football
Hall of Fame in 1968 with a career 387 receptions, 7,029 yards,
and 60 touchdowns.
as the Director of Athletics for the University of
Wisconsin–Madison from 1969 to 1987.
Within four years, he had
raised home attendance at football games from 43,000 to 70,000.
During his tenure as athletic director, the number of sports
offered by the UW athletics department doubled and the Badgers won
national titles in hockey, men's, and women's crew, and men's and
women's cross country.
died of natural causes at an assisted living home in Madison,
Wisconsin on January 28, 2004.
An annual run, the
"Crazylegs Classic", is held in Madison in his honor, with proceeds
benefiting the UW Athletics Department.
- The UW
has retired his number 40; it was added to the facade of Camp Randall
Stadium on October 28, 2006.
- In 1999, he was ranked number 89 on The Sporting News' list of the 100
Greatest Football Players.
- He was named to the NFL all-time all-star team.
- Since 1981, the Crazylegs
Classic, an 8-kilometer race leading through downtown Madison
and the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, has been held in
his honor each spring.
In popular culture
He starred in the eponymous film
of his life in
. He also
starred in the movies Unchained
and Zero Hour!
, a 1957 airline