Notable Graduate Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch

Notable Graduate Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch
Posted on 02/06/2019
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Saturday, February 2, 2019

‘Crazylegs’ came home from L.A. Rams 50 years ago

Tod Pritchard

Courtesy of UW Alumni Association

MADISON - Fifty years ago this month, a football superstar came home. Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch was hired away from the Los Angeles Rams to become the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin.

He was born Elroy Leon Hirsch in Wausau on June 17, 1923, and first gained attention for his athletic ability at Wausau High School. After enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the young man adopted by German- Norwegian parents began breaking records and earning honors.

Playing halfback, Hirsch helped the! Badgers football team close out its 1942 season ranked third in the country by The Associated Press.

Writing after a Wisconsin game, a Chicago sports reporter described Hirsch’s unusual running style, noting that "his crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions, all at the same time." In later years, Hirsch admitted that he was happy to be called anything other than Elroy. Crazylegs stuck.

Hirsch enlisted in the Marines in 1943 and was transferred to the University of Michigan for officer training. While there, he became the first-ever student to earn letters in four varsity sports in a single year.

He then focused his talents on professional football, playing first for the Chicago Rockets and then the Los Angeles Rams. During the 1951 season, he broke NFL records for total receiving yards, yards per game and touchdown rece! ptions.

Football wasn’t Hirsch’s only starring role. He caught the acting bug, appearing in three films and an episode of TV’s "The Munsters."

After retiring as a player, Hirsch filled management roles for the Rams until he was named director of UW Athletics in February 1969. He boosted attendance at football games and nearly doubled the number of sports offered.

The Crazylegs Classic, named in his honor, kicked off in 1982; the popular spring run-or-walk event has welcomed more than 300,000 participants and raised more than $3 million for Badgers athletic programs.

Hirsch died of natural causes on Jan. 28, 2004, in Madison. He was 80.

Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch played for the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL. MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL