After a long touchdown run for Wisconsin in 1942, Elroy Hirsch was described as looking like a "demented duck" whose "crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions all at the same time."
From that day, he was known as "Crazy Legs," who went on to become one of the NFL's most exciting players and earn a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Wednesday, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch died of natural causes. He was 80.
Mr. Hirsch died at an assisted living facility where he lived in Madison, Wisconsin assistant athletic director Steve Malchow said.
"There has never been a more loved and admired ambassador for Wisconsin sports than Elroy Hirsch," Wisconsin AD Pat Richter said. "He loved life, loved people and loved the Badgers."
Best known for his unorthodox running style, Mr. Hirsch starred at Wisconsin for one season, played nine seasons in the NFL and led the Los Angeles Rams to the title in 1951, had a brief movie career and eventually returned to Madison as the Badgers' athletic director from 1969-87.
Mr. Hirsch's nickname remains one of the most recognizable in football. The Wausau native was inducted into four other halls, college football's Hall of Fame in 1974, two in his home state and Michigan's Hall of Honor.
Born June 17, 1923, Mr. Hirsch led the Badgers to an 8-1-1 record in 1942, rushing for 786 yards. He was given his nickname by Chicago Daily News sportswriter Francis Powers, who watched Mr. Hirsch's 62-yard TD run in a game at Soldier Field.
His No. 40 is one of four retired at Wisconsin despite his single season there.
Mr. Hirsch was assigned to Michigan in 1943 while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He became the school's only athlete to win letters in four major sports in the same year, football, basketball, baseball and track.
"He was an outgoing, fun-loving, popular guy," said Don Lund, who played football, basketball and baseball with Mr. Hirsch at Michigan. "Everything about him as a man and an athlete was outstanding."
After his stint in the Marines, he played three seasons for the Chicago Rockets of the All-American Football Conference.
He switched to receiver when he joined the Rams in 1949 and was a key part of their revolutionary three-end offense. He set records for catches, receiving yards and touchdowns as they won the title in 1951.