Elroy Hirsch

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Elroy Hirsch
refer to caption
Hirsch from 1944 Michiganensian
No. 40
Position: Halfback, end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1923-06-17)June 17, 1923
Place of birth: Wausau, Wisconsin
Date of death: January 28, 2004(2004-01-28) (aged 80)
Place of death: Madison, Wisconsin
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
College: Wisconsin, Michigan
NFL Draft: 1945 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
Career history
As administrator:
Career highlights and awards
Career professional statistics
Rushing yards: 687
Rushing average: 3.3
Rushing touchdowns: 3
Receptions: 387
Receiving yards: 7,029
Receiving touchdowns: 60
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch (June 17, 1923 – January 28, 2004) was an American football player and sport executive. Playing as a halfback and end, he was nicknamed for his unusual running style. He played college football at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Michigan. Hirsch played professionally with the Chicago Rockets of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), from 1946 to 1948, and with the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL) from 1949 to 1957. He served as the general manager for the Rams from 1960 to 1969 and as the athletic director for the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1969 to 1987. Hirsch was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

Early life[edit]

Hirsch was born in Wausau, Wisconsin to German-Norwegian parents.[1] He developed his running style running cross legged over four square cement sidewalk blocks in his home town.[2] Hirsch played for legendary coach Win Brockmeyer during his time at Wausau High School.

Hirsch played his first college season at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1942. His nickname was permanently affixed to him by Chicago Daily News sportswriter Francis J. 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 demented duck."[3]

His commitment to the V-12 Navy College Training Program program in United States Marine Corps required him to transfer to the University of Michigan. He played two intercollegiate football seasons for the Michigan Wolverines 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, track and baseball) in a single year.[4] He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

Professional football career[edit]

Hirsch was drafted by the Chicago Rockets of the All-America Football Conference (AFC), where he played from 1946 to 1948, in three injury-prone seasons. After the Rockets and the AAFC merged with the National Football League (NFL), he joined the Los Angeles Rams, with whom he played through 1957.

Rams head coach Clark Shaughnessy 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. Shaughnessy fitted it for him as a precaution because 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.[5]

Hirsch was key to the Los Angeles Rams 1951 NFL championship season, with a record 1,495 yards receiving, a record that stood for 19 years. He also had 66 catches, and 17 touchdowns that same year in 12 games.[2]

Later years[edit]

Hirsch served as the athletic director 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 ice hockey, men's and women's crew, and men's and women's cross country.[4]

Hirsch died of natural causes at an assisted living home in Madison, Wisconsin on January 28, 2004.[2]


Hirsch was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 with a career 387 receptions, 7,029 yards, and 60 touchdowns. He had earlier been elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1964. He was elected to the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1984.

The University of Wisconsin retired his number 40. It was added to the facade of Camp Randall Stadium on October 28, 2006. The shortest street in Madison, Wisconsin, just south of Camp Randall Stadium, was renamed to "Crazylegs Lane" in his honor.

For his contribution to sports in Los Angeles, he was honored with a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum "Court of Honor" plaque by the Coliseum commissioners.

Each spring 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. Proceeds benefit the University of Wisconsin Athletics Department.[6]

In 1999, he was ranked number 89 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

In popular culture[edit]

Hirsch starred in the eponymous film of his life in 1953, Crazylegs. He also starred in the movies Unchained and Zero Hour!, a 1957 airline disaster movie. Hirsch guest-starred as himself in the April 8, 1965, episode of The Munsters along with Leo Durocher.


  1. ^ [1] "Elroy was born in Wausau on June 17, 1923. His adoptive parents, Otto and Mayme Hirsch were German–Norwegians, his father a worker in a local iron works."
  2. ^ a b c Wallace, William N. (January 29, 2004). "Crazylegs Hirsch, 80, Rams' Big-Play Receiver, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Dave (2005). University of Wisconsin Football. Arcadia Publishing. p. 61. 
  4. ^ a b Ross, J. R. (January 31, 2004). "Elroy 'Crazy Legs' Hirsch; Rams player had running style". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  5. ^ Michael MacCambridge, "America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation", p. 64.
  6. ^ "Crazylegs Classic". Retrieved 2009-09-25. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Don Hutson
NFL single-season receiving record
Succeeded by
Charlie Hennigan