Camp Randall 100: Pat Harder

Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Pat Harder
Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Pat Harder

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.


“… when the chips were down, he could do everything — block, back up the line, carry the ball. He was one hell of a football player.”

— UW teammate Dick Thornally describing Pat Harder in the book
“Third Down and a War to Go,” about the 1942 Badgers


After leading the Western Conference in rushing and scoring in 1941, what would Wisconsin’s Pat Harder do for an encore in ’42?

How about blocking for the new guy, Elroy Hirsch?

That’s what head coach Harry Stuhldreher asked of Harder, the Badgers’ hard-hitting fullback, heading into a season that would become one of the greatest in UW history.

The man known to his teammates as The Mule took his assignment without complaint.

“I’ll take care of it,” he told Stuhldreher.

As teammate Dick Thornally put it in “Third Down and a War to Go,” the definitive history of the ’42 Badgers, “…when the chips were down, he could do everything – block, back up the line, carry the ball. He was one hell of a football player.”

Harder’s versatility was on full display in a 17-7 triumph over Ohio State on Oct. 31, 1942, when a record crowd of 45,000 turned out to Camp Randall Stadium to witness Wisconsin’s first-ever win over a No. 1-ranked team.

After his blocking allowed Hirsch to cover most of the ground – including a 59-yard run – Harder capped an 80-yard drive and gave the Badgers a 7-0 lead in the second quarter with a push into the end zone from about six inches out.

Also the Badgers’ kicker, Harder added a 37-yard field goal before halftime to give UW a 10-0 cushion.

Still, the Wisconsin lead seemed tenuous when Ohio State broke into the scoring column with a touchdown with 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Harder heeded the call once again, plowing the Badgers down the field with four carries on a 66-yard drive that ended with Hirsch finding All-America end Dave Schreiner for a 14-yard touchdown pass that effectively sealed the victory.


Man alive folks, that’s what saved the game for us. If Pat didn’t put on the most brutal 50 yard drive you ever seen we might of got beat. Ohio was hot and bothered right then for another score if they’d ever got that ball. But after those four mad dashes by Pat Ohio was a whipped team. After Pat got the ball down there then Wisconsin pulled some smart football. They crossed Ohio up worse than a telephone switchboard.

— Wisconsin State Journal sportswriter Roundy Coughlin
on Pat Harder’s game against Ohio State in 1942


Though Harder sometimes found himself overshadowed by the exploits of Hirsch and Schreiner, his effort against the Buckeyes was given top billing in sportswriter Joseph “Roundy” Coughlin’s famed “Roundy Says” column in the next day’s Wisconsin State Journal:

Man alive folks, that’s what saved the game for us. If Pat didn’t put on the most brutal 50 yard drive you ever seen we might of got beat. Ohio was hot and bothered right then for another score if they’d ever got that ball. But after those four mad dashes by Pat Ohio was a whipped team. After Pat got the ball down there then Wisconsin pulled some smart football. They crossed Ohio up worse than a telephone switchboard.

In all, Harder carried 21 times for 97 yards and accounted for 11 of the Badgers’ 17 points, an effort that left him weary in a jubilant Wisconsin locker room.

The great Badger fullback, who definitely proved his class despite the vaunted Ohio State defense, was so tired after the game that he couldn’t keep his balance while attempting to tie his shoelaces while standing up, Marv Rand wrote in the State Journal’s coverage from the game.

The Badgers’ hopes of an unbeaten season were short-lived, fading when they suffered their lone setback a week later in a 6-0 loss at Iowa. That result opened the door for the Buckeyes to claim the Western Conference title, and Ohio State also went on to regain its No. 1 ranking in the season’s final poll, earning the program its first national championship.

For having defeated the Buckeyes and finishing 8-1-1, Wisconsin was recognized as national champion by the Helms Foundation, one of several entities that awarded titles in those days.

Individually, Harder was named first-team All-Big Ten for the second consecutive season and joined Hirsch and Schreiner in garnering All-America accolades.

Like many of his teammates, Harder went on to serve in World War II and enlisted in the Marines.

Upon his return, he was selected by the Chicago Cardinals with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1944 NFL Draft. Harder became the first player to score 100-plus points in three consecutive seasons, leading the league in scoring from 1947 to 1949 and being named NFL Most Valuable Player by United Press in 1948.

Winning an NFL championship with the Cardinals in 1947, Harder added two more rings in 1952 and 1953 after being traded to the Detroit Lions. He retired as a player following the ’53 season but returned to the game in 1966, beginning a 17-year run as an NFL official.

Harder was inducted as a member of the charter class of the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991, just over a year before his passing at age 70. In 1993, he was posthumously inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Thin Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Pat Harder