Madison, Wis.—Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, the colorful and popular football star and former Wisconsin Athletic Director passed away of natural causes Wednesday morning, according to an official release from the Wisconsin Athletics department. Assistant athletic director Steve Malchow told the Associated Press Wednesday that Hirsch, an 80-year-old native of Wausau, Wis., died in the assisted living facility in which he lived.
"There has never been a more loved and admired ambassador for Badger sports than Elroy Hirsch," current UW Director of Athletics Pat Richter said. "His charismatic and charming personality brought smiles to so many Badger fans. Anyone who came in contact with him enjoyed a special treat. He loved life, loved people and loved the Badgers. His passing is a huge loss to the Badger family, and our sympathies go to his family at this difficult time."
Hirsch played only one season (1942) at UW, but he is one of the most admired sports figures in school history. His No. 40 is one of four retired numbers at Wisconsin.
Hirsch, nicknamed "Crazylegs" because of his running style, rushed for 786 yards for Wisconsin's 8-1-1 team in 1942. Professionally, Hirsch played for the Chicago Rockets (1946-48) and Los Angeles Rams (1949-57), totaling 387 receptions for 7,029 yards and 60 touchdowns. He was a key part of the Los Angeles Rams' revolutionary "three-end" offense in 1949 and helped the Rams win an NFL Championship in 1951. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1968 and is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Hirsch served as UW's Director of Athletics from 1969-'87. In 1953, he starred in the story of his life, the feature-length film "Crazylegs All-American." He was known to generations of football fans and Wisconsin residents due to his charisma, and the 5-mile charity run/walk that has bared his name since 1981, the "Crazylegs Classic", which takes place annually in Madison.