June 1, 1933|
|Died:||August 8, 1988
|Height:||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Weight:||218 lb (99 kg)|
|High school:||Kenosha (WI) Bradford|
|NFL Draft:||1955 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Lino Dante "Alan" Ameche (//; June 1, 1933 – August 8, 1988), nicknamed "The Iron Horse", or simply "The Horse", was an American football player who played six seasons with the Baltimore Colts in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and won the Heisman Trophy during his senior season in 1954. Ameche was elected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the league. He is famous for scoring the winning touchdown in overtime in the 1958 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants, labeled "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Ameche's parents were Italian immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1930s, although they returned for a year to Italy during his childhood. The family then returned to Kenosha, where he attended Kenosha High School. Ameche was a cousin of noted actors Don Ameche and Jim Ameche.
Ameche earned All-America honors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he played linebacker as well as fullback in single-platoon days. In four years as a Badger, he gained 3,212 yards, then the NCAA record, scored 25 touchdowns, and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He played in the program's first bowl game, the 1953 Rose Bowl, as a sophomore, rushing for 133 yards on 28 carries. Ameche won the Heisman Trophy in 1954, the first player to do so in program history.
Ameche is one of six Wisconsin football players to have a number retired by the program (35) and enshrined on the Camp Randall Stadium façade as of 2008: fellow Heisman winner and current career rushing record holder Ron Dayne (33), Elroy Hirsch (40), Dave Schreiner (80), Allan Schafer (83), and Pat Richter (88) are the others. Ameche was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1967, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975, and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2004.
Ameche was the third overall selection of the 1955 NFL draft and played fullback for the Baltimore Colts from 1955 until 1960. Named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1955, he was a four-time Pro Bowler (1955–58), and the only rookie named to the Associated Press All-Pro team in 1955. Ameche averaged 4.2 yards per carry over his career, and held the record for rushing yards in his first three NFL games until Carnell "Cadillac" Williams passed it in 2005.
Ameche may be best remembered for his role in the 1958 NFL Championship Game at Yankee Stadium, often cited as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Ameche scored the winning touchdown for the Colts on a one-yard run with 6:45 left in overtime as the Colts beat the Giants, 23-17. It was his second touchdown of the day as he also scored a TD on a 2-yard run in the second quarter. His touchdown was the last in championship history until Super Bowl LI, when James White scored at 3:58 of overtime as the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34–28.
Due to an Achilles tendon injury in December 1960, Ameche finished a relatively short six-season NFL career with 4,045 rushing yards, 101 receptions for 733 yards and 44 touchdowns. He is one of only five players named to the National Football League 1950s All-Decade Team not elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2015, the Professional Football Researchers Association named Ameche to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2015.
Ameche had undergone triple bypass surgery at age 46 in 1979. He died of a heart attack in 1988 at age 55 at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, a few days after undergoing another heart bypass surgery, under the care of Dr. Michael DeBakey. He is interred at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
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