Camp Randall 100: Allen Shafer

Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Allen Shafer. Lost in 1944, Shafer is the only UW player to ever die from an injury sustained during a football game
Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Allen Shafer. Lost in 1944, Shafer is the only UW player to ever die from an injury sustained during a football game

The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.


The driving spirit which characterized his gridiron work, the unselfish way in which he gave all for the things he loved will inspire the cardinal-clad for future generations. His memory will linger, for he was ‘Wisconsin.’

— Tribute to Allen Shafer in the 1945 UW Yearbook


BY ANDY BAGGOT | UWBadgers.com Insider

Close-up headshot photo of Allen Shafer - Wisconsin football 1944
Allen Shafer

There’s an enduring tribute to Allen Shafer in the University of Wisconsin yearbook from 1945.

It’s tucked across the bottom of page 173 and serves as the gateway to the sports section located in the annual hard-cover publication.

It’s written in the soft prose of the day, words that honor Shafer, who died playing for the Badgers during a November game at Camp Randall Stadium in 1944.

His scholarship and leadership, his friendly personality, had all gone together to rate him high among the potential campus leaders, the tribute read.

The driving spirit which characterized his gridiron work, the unselfish way in which he gave all for the things he loved will inspire the cardinal-clad for future generations.

His memory will linger, for he was ‘Wisconsin.’

Shafer is the only UW football player to die from injuries sustained at a game played at Camp Randall. He was a freshman quarterback out of Madison West High School.

Jay Seiler died a week after sustaining a head injury during a spring practice with the Badgers in April of 1979. He was a freshman defensive back out of Schofield D.C. Everest High School (Wisconsin).

Oddly, Shafer played center in high school, where he was budding shot putter in track and field for the Regents.

Shafer began practicing with the Badgers as a center, but coach Harry Stuhldreher obviously saw something that prompted a dramatic position switch.

Shafer wound up playing five games for UW and calling plays in each.

He was 17.


There’s an enduring tribute to Shafer on the east side façade at Camp Randall. His No. 83 is one of six retired by the school along with Alan Ameche (35), Ron Dayne (33), Elroy Hirsch (40), Pat Richter (88) and Dave Schreiner (80).

Ameche and Dayne won the Heisman Trophy in 1954 and ’99, respectively. Hirsch and Richter were Hall of Famers and NFL standouts who later served as UW athletic directors. Schreiner was a two-time All-America end and U.S. Marine who was killed in World War II.

Shafer’s career was as curious as it was celebrated.

It wasn’t unusual to see student-athletes as young as he was. Freshmen played right out of high school because many of the older prospects were off fighting in the various theaters of World War II.

Wayne Esser, the former executive director of the Mendota Gridiron Club, remembers meeting Shafer while hanging out with the high-profile likes of Hirsch, a 185-pound halfback from Wausau, Wis., and Pat Harder, a 193-pound fullback from Milwaukee.

“He was pretty small compared to those guys,” Esser said of Shafer.

No matter.

The Badgers began the 1944 season with wins over Northwestern and Marquette, but then lost four straight, including a 20-7 decision to eighth-rated Ohio State and a 28-13 verdict vs. top-ranked Notre Dame.

Accounts from the season are incomplete, but Shafer was the starting quarterback when Iowa came to Camp Randall on Nov. 11. UW came away with a 26-7 triumph, but there was no joy afterward.

Shafer was removed from the game in the second half after he was a lead blocker on a running play. He returned to the huddle and collapsed.

According to witness reports, Shafer scrambled to his feet and signaled to the bench he was OK, but Stuhldreher wasn’t buying it. Two teammates assisted Shafer to the sideline, where he collapsed moments later. He died later that day at old Madison General Hospital.

An autopsy performed on Shafer determined he died of a pulmonary edema — hemorrhage of the lungs — caused by a violent blow.

There’s one last enduring tribute to Shafer. His family started a memorial scholarship in his name. The most recent recipients for the 2016-17 season were Johnny Jimenez (wrestling), Osgar O’Hoisin (men’s tennis), Brett Pinfold (men’s swimming and diving) and Caesar Williams (football).

Photo of Wisconsin football player Allen Shafer's last name and number 83 being unveiled at Camp Randall Stadium
Wisconsin football player Allen Shafer’s last name and number 83 are unveiled at Camp Randall Stadium
Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Allen Shafer. Lost in 1944, Shafer is the only UW player to ever die from an injury sustained during a football game