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Alan Ameche

The Story of “The Horse”

Dan Manoyan; Foreword by Pat Richter

Publication Year: 2012

This is first biography of Alan “The Horse” Ameche, one of America’s great gridiron heroes. Born in 1933 to Italian immigrants, he grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he played for one of the state’s best-ever high school football teams. From there he went on to break Big Ten rushing records for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, leading them to the 1953 Rose Bowl and winning the 1954 Heisman Trophy. He earned his nickname “The Horse” for his tremendous training ethic, power, and stamina. In a professional career with the Baltimore Colts that lasted just six seasons before injury ended it, he was the 1955 NFL Rookie of the Year and went to the Pro Bowl five times.
    The 1958 championship game of the National Football League that pitted Ameche’s Colts against the New York Giants has often been called the NFL’s “Greatest Game Ever Played.” It was the first national title game to be televised, and forty-five million people were watching. It was also the first-ever NFL game to go into sudden death overtime. Ameche and future Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas teamed up on several key plays in the decisive touchdown drive. Ameche’s dramatic one-yard plunge into the end zone ended the game at 8:15 of the overtime period, captured the attention of television viewers across the nation, and laid the groundwork for football to become the enormously popular and lucrative business it is today.
    Author Dan Manoyan has delved into Ameche’s history, interviewing the Ameche family, Kenosha friends, Wisconsin Badger players, and several of his  Baltimore Colts teammates—including NFL Hall of Fame members Lenny Moore, Gino Marchetti, Art Donovan, and Raymond Berry—to offer revealing insights about Alan Ameche the man. Manoyan gives a fuller picture of him as an Academic All-American, a devoted husband and father, a highly successful businessman after his football career, a patron of the arts, and a committed philanthropist.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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Foreword by Pat Richter

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pp. ix-x

Any football-minded kid growing up on Madison’s East Side in the fall of 1950 was undoubtedly a huge fan of the Madison East Purgolders and the Wisconsin Badgers. The Purgolders played in the Big Eight, and one of the schools in the ...

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pp. xi-xii

I’ll never forget the day I first met Yvonne Ameche. Being the only woman in America to be the widow of two Heisman Trophy winners (Alan Ameche and Glenn Davis) and the mother-in-law of Michael Cappelletti, brother of 1973 Heisman winner, John Cappelletti, ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

First and foremost, I would like to thank Yvonne Ameche. Without her cooperation and insight, quite simply this book would not have been possible. I know there were times when she had her doubts about the project (as did I), but I think both of us now ....

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1. A Man for All Seasons

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pp. 3-12

After there was a real-life Bronko Nagurski, but before the world had ever heard the words “Italian Stallion” thrown together as a pop-Like his equine predecessor, the Horse ran hard and he ran fast, terrorizing opponents with his brute strength. Also, like Nagurski, he lugged a foot-ball for fun, and later for money. However, ...

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2. The Early Years

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pp. 13-22

Like so many late spring days in Wisconsin, June 1, 1933, was unremarkable for its cool temperatures and steady, soaking rainfall. Ordinary Kenosha working people went about their day-to-day business, consumed by the rigors of surviving the Great Depression. There was a cautious optimism in those days that the newly ...

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3. The Kenosha Kid

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pp. 23-33

The theories abound as to what thoughts were flowing through the sixteen-year-old’s head the day he marched down 56th Street to the Kenosha County Courthouse to officially change his name from Lino Dante Amici to ...

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4. Enter the Architect

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pp. 34-43

Before ever setting foot in the stately gray stone building on Sheridan Road that was then the home of Mary D. Bradford High School, Alan (or Lino, as he was still called) Ameche was all about football.The raw-boned fifteen-year-old sophomore probably had no idea what a dis-aster the school’s once-proud program had become in the fall of 1948, but ...

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5. Transitioning to Greatness

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pp. 44-54

Chuck Jaskwhich went into his new job well aware of what was expected of him. He knew from his playing days in the late 1920s that the city of Kenosha was a football town, and he knew the citizenry was salivating for a ...

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6. The Best There Ever Was?

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pp. 55-70

Everybody loves a winner and Kenosha High School had itself a winner of epic proportions in the fall of 1950. They didn’t just beat the other teams in the Big Eight, Wisconsin’s toughest football conference—they annihilated them. Kenosha had one competitive game all season, an...

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7. The Millers Tale

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pp. 71-81

There have been bitterly contested college football recruiting wars. There have been recruiting battles that have divided families and cities and even states. There have been recruitments that have ended in NCAA investigations and even ...

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8. The Year of the Horse

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pp. 82-93

Luckily for Alan Ameche, his reputation as a program-changing running back preceded him. Otherwise people in Madison might have gotten the wrong idea about the young man.
Maybe it was a case of youthful exuberance, or the thrill of being away from home for the first time in his life. Or perhaps it was a celebration of the ...

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pp. 95-104

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9. Coming Up Roses

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pp. 105-115

Alan Ameche probably wouldn’t have been able to give a precise answer if asked how many weekends he hitchhiked between Madison and Kenosha his freshman year. It was that many. But by his sophomore year, Ameche’s ...

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10. Here Comes the Bride

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pp. 116-122

For Yvonne Ameche, the night her future husband Alan proposed marriage to her is frozen in time.
“I remember it well,” she said. “We were at the Valley Restaurant [just north of Kenosha] having dinner when he proposed. ...

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11. Pasadena Dreaming

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pp. 123-132

It was just a fleeting moment when measured in the totality of Alan Ameche’s life, but the two weeks he spent in Southern California for the 1953 Rose Bowl seemed so natural.
Ameche was perfect fodder for the West Coast newspapers, and not just the sports pages, but the Hollywood beat as well. The nineteen-year-old ...

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12. Ivy and the Boys

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pp. 133-141

Midway through the 1954 football season, Ivy Williamson was asked to tender a request to the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents for a pay raise. The Regents must have been braced for the worst because Williamson had leverage like no other coach in Wisconsin football history. In six seasons Williamson ...

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13. The Iron Horse

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pp. 142-153

For his first two years at the University of Wisconsin, Alan Ameche was “the Horse,” plain and simple. For his final two years, thanks to the infinite wisdom of the NCAA rule-makers, he was ...

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14. The Home Stretch

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pp. 154-165

The cover photo of the October 24, 1954, Milwaukee Sentinel Sunday magazine was one that begged to be scrapbooked. The Frank Stanfield photo featured big, bad all-American bruiser Alan Ameche outside his modest Madison abode at 131 Craig Avenue with his sixteen-month-oldfellow bruiser Brian in tow. Both are wearing ...

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15. Holding the Heisman

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pp. 166-174

Alan Ameche didn’t know it at the time, but he had been a finalist for 1953 Heisman Trophy. He might have never known except for the fact that he won it in 1954.
To say that the Heisman and all its machinations have moved in mysterious ways would be an understatement. The honor, since 1955 reserved for ...

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16. Moving On, Again

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pp. 175-184

Nobody in the media ever asked Alan Ameche if it bothered him that he was given every honor a football player could ever ask for except one—captaincy of the University of Wisconsin team. But, as it turned out, he would get it before graduation. ...

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pp. 185-194

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17. Weeb’s Tangled Web

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pp. 195-203

Ordinarily, Gino Marchetti probably never would have remembered the first time he laid eyes on Alan Ameche. But fifty-six years after the fact, he still remembers the moment with crystal clarity because of “It was really strange,” said Marchetti, the Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer and ...

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18. A New Leading Man

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pp. 204-213

Rookies Raymond Berry and Alan Ameche were among the first arrivals at the 1955 Baltimore Colts training camp at Western Maryland College. Football was literally the only thing they had in common, but they Ameche’s father was an Italian ...

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19. An Unfortunate Situation

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pp. 214-221

Lenny Moore loves talking about his twelve seasons with the Baltimore Colts, from 1956 through 1967.
“Those were some great years, some great teams, Man,” Moore has said on many, many occasions. ...

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20. The Greatest Game

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pp. 222-234

Gino Marchetti didn’t see the end of the Greatest Game Ever Played, but at least he knows where the football from that game ended up.
Marchetti was in the visitors’ locker room of Yankee Stadium when his buddy Alan Ameche crashed across the goal line on a 1-yard plunge to end the first overtime game ...

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21. Burgers, Burgers, and More Burgers

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pp. 235-246

Alan Ameche never got a retirement party from the Colts. There were no halftime ceremonies, no retired numbers, and no testimonial dinners. He didn’t get a gold watch from his boss. All he got from Weeb Ewbank was a swift kick in ...

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22. Father Was a Fullback

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pp. 245-256

Alan Ameche had a nickname around Malvern Prep School and it wasn’t “the Horse.”
At the Malvern, Pennsylvania, school, which all four of the Ameche sons attended, the senior Ameche was known respectfully as “the Owner,” as in the owner of the ...

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23. A Funeral and a Wedding

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pp. 257-262

Yvonne Ameche will never forget the late evening of December 17, 1981. The doorbell rang at the Ameche home in Malvern, and she answered it.
It was a policeman, and he had news for her that most parents receive only in their worst nightmares. Her son Paul, the youngest son of the Ameche ...

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24. A Houston Finale

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pp. 263-268

In what can only be described as classic irony, Alan Ameche died at the Houston DeBakey Heart Institute on August 8, 1988. There laid a man whose heart was never questioned, a man whose courage and fortitude had never failed to carry the day. Heart when used in the context of sport, was ...

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pp. 269-271

Alan Ameche and Glenn Davis had two things in common: both were Heisman Trophy winners and both were married to Yvonne Ameche-Davis.
Yvonne thought she would never marry again when Ameche died in 1988, but then Davis—or “Mr. Outside,” as he was known when leading a great ....


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pp. 273-279

E-ISBN-13: 9780299290139
E-ISBN-10: 0299290131
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299290108
Print-ISBN-10: 0299290107

Page Count: 290
Illustrations: 27 b/w illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Ameche, Alan, 1933-1988.
  • Football players -- United States -- Biography.
  • Football players -- Wisconsin -- Biography.
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