Wisconsin has produced the most productive running back in FBS history and has had 15 running backs rush for at least 2,000 career yards, including two who have won the Heisman. The Badgers' current running back might be the best of them all.
Junior Melvin Gordon, who already has announced he is turning pro, drew high praise from Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez on Tuesday during an Outback Bowl media opportunity. Alvarez is serving as interim coach for the Badgers' Jan. 1 bowl against Auburn.
"I'll remember Melvin as probably the best back to come through here," Alvarez told reporters. "And that's saying a lot."
Gordon (6-foot-1, 213 pounds) has rushed for 4,664 career yards, including 2,336 this season. He is seven yards shy of moving into third place on the FBS single-season rushing list and could get the needed yardage in his first or second carry against Auburn.
Gordon's career total is third in school history, behind all-time FBS leader Ron Dayne (7,125 yards), who won the Heisman in 1999, and Montee Ball (5,140). Dayne was a four-year starter for the Badgers; Ball started for two seasons. This has been Gordon's lone season as a starter -- and he has rung up his totals in three seasons; Ball and Dayne both played four seasons for the Badgers.
Wisconsin's other Heisman winner was Alan "The Horse" Ameche, in 1954. Ameche finished with 3,345 yards, which is 11th on the school's career list.
While running backs have been devalued a bit in the past two NFL drafts, with no backs going in the first round either year, Gordon has the talent to go in the first round in April. While his pass protection and receiving abilities are questions, there are no such issues with his explosiveness, production or ability to handle a heavy workload.
NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt has gone so far as to compare Gordon to NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett. And while most former Badgers backs have struggled in the NFL, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks doesn't think that will be the case for Gordon: "Gordon's resiliency and tenacity are ideal traits in a franchise runner, which is why he is different than his predecessors at Wisconsin. Brooks also wrote that Gordon has the "short-area explosiveness, elusiveness and physicality" expected of a franchise back.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.