Message Board

ESPN Auctions
Saturday, December 11
Updated: December 12, 3:10 AM ET
Dayne delivers again with Heisman

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Ron Dayne was a nervous wreck the moment he won the Heisman Trophy. He almost cried, too.

Ron Dayne
Ron Dayne became Wisconsin's second Heisman Trophy winner.

Dayne settled on a big smile and hugs and handshakes all around when his name was called as the winner of college football's top individual award Saturday night.

"I didn't know what to do, shake the finalists' hands, hug my coach, carry him around, or carry my uncle around and put him on my shoulders," Wisconsin's record-setting tailback said.

"It's really hard for me to cry. I cried once this year -- when we lost to Cincinnati -- because I thought it was my fault. I still think it was my fault even though I had over 200 yards."

Dayne turned family troubles into family triumph with his sensational season, and many of his relatives were with him on his greatest day.

Those attending the ceremony included his girlfriend, Alia Lester, and their 2-year-old daughter, Jada. Also in the crowd were Dayne's legal guardians, uncle Rob Reid and Reid's wife, Debbie, along with Dayne's birth mother, Brenda Dayne.

After thanking his coach, Barry Alvarez, and teammates at the dais in the Heisman Room of the Downtown Athletic Club, Dayne turned to his family.

"I'd like to thank my daughter, Jada, for being the biggest inspiration in my life, and I'd like to thank the real Heisman winner, for me, Uncle Rob, who is always there for me and is always someone to talk to and tell jokes with."

Dayne moved in with the Reids as a teen-ager after divorce and drugs ravaged his family. Rob Reid couldn't have be more proud of Dayne.

"I never thought it would end up this way," he said, "never in a millions years."

The 5-foot-10, 254-pound Dayne led the Badgers to the Big Ten Conference title and a second straight Rose Bowl. He ran for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns and broke '98 Heisman winner Ricky Williams' Division I-A career rushing mark in his final regular-season game. Dayne enters the record books with 6,397 yards, 118 more than Williams.

Winning the Heisman capped a whirlwind two weeks for the usually media-shy Dayne. He won nearly every other prize he was nominated for -- AP College Player of the Year and the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Doak Walker awards -- and hopes to go out in style against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Dayne was a landslide winner over Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, with Virginia Tech freshman Michael Vick third, Purdue quarterback Drew Brees fourth and Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington fifth.

Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick, the early Heisman favorite before he ran into legal problems and was suspended for two games, finished sixth in the balloting by the 921 Heisman voters.

Alabama running back Shaun Alexander was seventh, Virginia running back Thomas Jones eighth, Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington ninth and Louisiana Tech quarterback Tim Rattay 10th.

Dayne collected 586 first-place votes and 2,042 points from the Heisman voters, while Hamilton had 96 first-place votes and 994 points. Hamilton threw for 3,060 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Yellow Jackets to an 8-3 season and a Gator Bowl berth.

Vick, the Hokies redshirt freshman who led his team to a perfect season and a shot at the national title in the Sugar Bowl, had 25 first-place votes and 319 points. Brees had three first-place votes and 308 points. Pennington had 21 first-place votes and 247 points.

The largest margin of victory in the Heisman was in 1968, when Southern California's O.J. Simpson beat Purdue's Leroy Keyes by 1,750 points. Dayne's margin of victory was 1,048 points -- the 12th largest margin in the Heisman's 65-year history.

Dayne's road to the Heisman was rocky. He was born in Blacksburg, Va., and after his parents divorced, his mother succumbed to depression and drugs. He and younger sister Onya went to live with separate relatives. Ron Dayne moved to South Jersey and lived with the Reids in Berlin, N.J.

"Just to see him achieve it has been like a family reward," Reid, whom Dayne still regards as a father, said recently. "It's a dream come true for him, and for it to happen to this kid has been tremendous."

After Dayne ran for 161 yards and four TDs in a win over Ohio State on Oct. 2, Dayne sent a letter to Reid titled "The Heisman."

It ended: "Uncle Rob, for never making me feel like a nephew, but always making me feel like a SON, for that Uncle Rob, you win the Heisman. Love, Ron Dayne Jr. 33."

Dayne's run to the Heisman had its own unusual twists.

Entering the season needing 1,717 yards to break Williams' record, Dayne already knew Alvarez wasn't about to keep him in one-sided games. So he ended up sitting out the second halves of routs against Murray State, Ball State and Indiana. And, he was held to zero yards in the second half of a loss to Michigan.

His Heisman stock plummeted, after the Michigan loss, while Warrick's soared.

The Seminoles receiver was scoring touchdowns on highlight-film type runs and receptions and appeared a cinch to win the trophy. But his chances ended after his arrest at midseason on charges of felony grand theft for his part in a shopping mall scam. He was suspended for two games while his legal problems were being resolved, resigned to the fact his Heisman bid was finished.

Meanwhile, Dayne was bulldozing his way toward the record, gaining 214 yards against Michigan State's top-ranked rushing defense and finishing three of his last four games with 200-yard plus performances.

Fittingly, he set the record at home in his last game at Camp Randall Stadium, a 41-3 rout of Iowa. His girlfriend, sister and daughter, along with the Reids were there to celebrate.

Dayne broke the record on a 31-yard run and finished the day with 216 yards. After the game, there was a surprise waiting.

As the 79,000 fans held up souvenir towels with Dayne's No. 33 inscribed on them, turning the stadium into a red and white crater, Dayne was asked to look to the upper deck at the west side of Camp Randall. When he did, a gray cover was pulled away to reveal DAYNE 33 etched into the facade.

"When I saw it I was so shocked," Dayne said. "I didn't know whether to cry or laugh."

Dayne, the fourth player to run for 1,000 or more yards in each of his four seasons, briefly considered leaving school early for the NFL. But he decided to stay to spend another year with his daughter.

"My daughter is the most important thing in my life," Dayne said. "She gave me a new perspective on life. There's nothing I wouldn't do to protect her."

Dayne is Wisconsin's second Heisman winner. Alan Ameche won in 1954.

 More from ESPN...
Dayne's teammates celebrate award

Breakdown: Heisman voting

Heisman Trophy winners

College football awards
The awarding of the Heisman ...

 Heisman Trophy
Heisman Trophy presentation show

 Dayne wins Heisman
Ron Dayne has been thankful for many things during his quest for the Heisman.
wav: 199 k | Listen

 Running to a record
Ron Dayne makes history with a 31-yard run.
Standard | Cable Modem

 Iowa vs Wisconsin
Dayne goes untouched into the endzone.
Standard | Cable Modem

 Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
Dayne goes in for his fourth touchdown of the game.
Standard | Cable Modem

 Wisconsin vs. Purdue
Ron Dayne goes 41 yards for the touchdown (Courtesy: ABC).
Standard | Cable Modem

 Wisconsin vs. Northwestern
Ron Dayne finds the hole and goes 24 yards for the TD.
Standard | Cable Modem

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story