Wuerffel, Meilinger Join Dayne in College HOF

Weurffel (Tom Hauck - Getty Images)

The off-the-field stories overshadow what Danny Wuerffel and Steve Meilinger accomplished in their NFL careers. Meilinger helped found the Federal Witness Protection Program and Wuerffel is the first winner of the Academic Heisman to be selected to the Hall of Fame.

NEW YORK — Heisman Trophy winners Danny Wuerffel of Florida and Ron Dayne of Wisconsin, along with two-time national champion Tommie Frazier of Nebraska, were selected Tuesday for the College Football Hall of Fame.

They are part of a class of 12 players and two coaches chosen by the National Football Foundation and revealed Tuesday. Along with Wuerffel, the only other player who played for the Green Bay Packers was Kentucky's Steve Meilinger.

The rest of the players to be inducted in December are: Miami Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde, whose selection was announced Monday; Ted Brown of North Carolina State; Tedy Bruschi of Arizona; Jerry Gray of Texas; Orlando Pace of Ohio State; Rod Shoate of Oklahoma; Percy Snow of Michigan State; and Don Trull of Baylor.

The new Hall of Fame coaches are Wayne Hardin, who led Navy and Temple, and Bill McCartney of Colorado.

Meilinger, who played for Kentucky from 1951 through 1953, gained fame as "Mr. Anywhere" for his versatility and value to the Kentucky football program.

A two-time tirst-team All-America (1952, 1953) selection under Hall of Fame coach Bear Bryant, Meilinger lplayed end, halfback and quarterback on offense, while covering end, linebacker and defensive back on defense. He also served as the Wildcats' two-year starting punter while returning punts and kickoffs.

A first-round selection by the Washington Redskins in 1954, Meilinger played six seasons in the league for the Redskins, Packers and Steelers. With Green Bay in 1958, he caught 13 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown.

His off-the-field story, however, is much more interesting. He spent the entirety of his non-football life in military or public service. Immediately following his selection by the Redskins, Meilinger served two years as a tank commander in the U.S. Army's 100th Tank Battalion of the 1st Armored Division. From 1962 through 1983, Meilinger was a United States Marshal, and he was one of the original six marshals who founded the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program.

Wuerffel won the Heisman in 1996, when he led the Gators to the national championship, throwing for 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns in coach Steve Spurrier's Fun-n-Gun offense. He was the first player in history to win the Heisman as well as the William V. Campbell Trophy — aka the Academic Heisman — and is the first Campbell winner in the Hall of Fame.

"I'm thankful for what college football has meant in my life ... and how it allowed me to help other people," said Wuerffel, who was appeared at a news conference with Bruschi at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in Times Square.

He finished with college career as one of the most prolific passers in major college football history with 10,875 and 114 touchdown passes.

After a short NFL career, which included playing in one game with no passing attempts for the Packers in 2000, he retired to dedicate himself to ministry work in New Orleans, where he played from 1997 through 1999 with the Saints.

In 2011, Wuerffel was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder - Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes paralysis and problems with the nervous system but is treatable.

Frazier was a four-year starter running coach Tom Osborne's option attack, and helped the Huskers to national championships in 1994 and '95. His tackling-breaking 75-yard touchdown run put an exclamation point on Nebraska's 62-24 victory over Wuerffel and Florida in the 1996 Orange Bowl national title game.

"You never play the game and think you are going to be in the Hall of Fame one day," Frazier said in a statement released by Nebraska. "You just go out and try to be the best you can and whatever happens happens. I was fortunate good things happened."

Frazier finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1995 as a senior and finished his career with 5,476 total yards of offense and 79 total touchdowns.

Dayne is the NCAA's career rushing leader with 6,397 yards rushing, though his bowl game yards would boost his career total past 7,000 yards if he played at a time when the NCAA counted them in regular season stats. The burly tailback won the Heisman for the Badgers in 1999.


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