Camp Randall 100: Earl “Jug” Girard

Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Jug Girard
Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Jug Girard

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.

Photo of Wisconsin quarterback Earl "Jug" Girard
Earl “Jug” Girard

The game seemed to come naturally to Earl Girard.

Just four games into his college football career, the 17-year-old quarterback known better as “Jug” was tabbed to be Wisconsin’s acting captain as the Badgers prepared to take on top-ranked Notre Dame.

Head coach Harry Stuhldreher felt confident a hostile road environment wouldn’t be too much for his freshman signal-caller after Girard, in his Badgers debut, had delivered the game-winning extra point in a 7-6 victory at Northwestern to open the 1944 season.

The Fighting Irish lived up to their No. 1 ranking and scored a 28-13 win, but Girard connected with Jack Mead on a touchdown pass that marked the first points to be scored against Notre Dame, which had opened the season with four consecutive shutouts.

Wisconsin’s second straight loss was part of a slide that would see the Badgers drop six of their final seven games en route to a 3-6 season.

The lone highlight seemed to come on Nov. 11 in a 26-7 win over Iowa, a game in which Girard had been sidelined, but his replacement, fellow freshman Allen Shafer, died from injuries sustained during the game.

Despite the Badgers’ unimpressive record, Girard’s work as a dual-threat quarterback, safety and punter earned him first-team All-America laurels from Look Magazine.

Girard’s football career was put on hold when he was inducted into the U.S. Army in April of 1945 and, when eligible for discharge, re-enlisted for another year.

He returned to campus in 1947 and immediately found better fortunes on the gridiron. The highlight of his second – and final season – at Wisconsin came in the Nov. 8 Homecoming clash with Iowa, with the Badgers scoring a runaway 46-14 victory at Camp Randall Stadium.

Girard electrified the sold-out crowd of 45,000 by returning a pair of punts for touchdowns, one covering 85 yards and another covering 63. His two punt return touchdowns set single-game Big Ten and NCAA records and still have him tied atop the category in the Badgers’ record book, though the feat has been matched by Nick Davis (1998), Jim Leonhard (2003) and Brandon Williams (2005).

Girard’s performance also generated single-game UW records that still stand for punt return yards (158) and punt return average (52.7). His 85-yarder still ranks as the fourth-longest punt return in school history.

A professional career followed, with the multi-talented Girard selected by the Green Bay Packers with the seventh pick in the first round of the 1948 NFL Draft. It was a homecoming for Girard, who grew up along Green Bay in his hometown of Marinette, Wisconsin.

Girard, who was also drafted by the Cleveland Indians and enjoyed success in the minor leagues before electing to focus on football, went on to play four seasons with the Packers before he was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1952.

He won NFL championships in each of the first two seasons of what would become a five-year run with the Lions before playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1957 to cap a 10-year pro career.

In 2007, Girard was posthumously inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.

Thin Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football player Jug Girard

Video of Wisconsin vs. Purdue in 1947 at Camp Randall Stadium (No Audio)
Final score: Wisconsin 32, Purdue 14. Wisconsin is wearing the darker jerseys.