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.
“I knew Bev would make a good coach someday. I just didn’t know how good of a quarterback he was going to be. … Bevell was our catalyst. He tied it all together.”
— Barry Alvarez
BY MIKE LUCAS | UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
Darrell Bevell was an outstanding quarterback and all-around athlete at Chaparral High School (Scottsdale, Arizona) where his dad, Jim, was the head football coach. But after he broke a finger on his throwing hand three games into his senior year, the major college recruiters backed off.
Opting to stay close to home, he accepted an offer to attend Northern Arizona (Flagstaff) and began a friendship with Brad Childress, who was the offensive coordinator at the Division I-AA school. At the end of spring drills, Bevell packed his bags for a two-year Mormon mission in Cleveland and northern Ohio.
In 1990, Childress left Northern Arizona for Utah and spent one season coaching wide receivers before moving on to Wisconsin, where he initially coached the running backs for Barry Alvarez. The Badgers were looking for some help at quarterback and Childress brought up Bevell’s name.
“Hey, I know where a guy is, ’” Childress informed Alvarez, who was willing to take a gamble. “We were talking about finding someone with maturity and leadership and things like that. Now, I’m not selling him as Troy Aikman. But he might be what we need. You never know.”
Alvarez always felt like he waited one game too long to go with Bevell. If he could do it over again, he would have started him against defending national champion Washington in the 1992 season opener. The Badgers, a 33-point underdog, nearly ambushed the Huskies before falling 27-10.
The next week in practice, Alvarez made the switch to Bevell.
“He gave us some stability and the kids respected him,” Alvarez said. “He wasn’t the greatest athlete. But he knew his limitations and he was intelligent. He knew what we were trying to do on offense. He always knew where to go with the football and he would rarely get you beat.”
When he signed his offer, Bevell was 21, just three months younger than Brett Favre, who was starting for the Packers. Alvarez liked the fact that Bevell was a coach’s kid. “I knew Bev would make a good coach someday,” he said. “I just didn’t know how good of a quarterback he was going to be.”
It didn’t take long for Alvarez to get the answer.
“Bevell was our catalyst,” he said. “He tied it all together.”
“I love the game of football so much that I don’t think I could ever get too far away from it. I don’t think I could just give it up all together.”
— Darrell Bevell
One of Darrell Bevell’s fondest Camp Randall Stadium memories was the 1993 opener. Going into Barry Alvarez’s fourth season, the Badgers were favored to beat Nevada, coached by Jeff Horton (who later become an Alvarez assistant). Bevell was beginning to settle in as a starter, and husband.
On his Mormon mission, Darrell met Tammy, a Utah native. Over time, a special chemistry developed between them. They were planning on getting married in June of 1992. But since Darrell was getting ready to resume his football career — after a long layoff — they decided to wait until December.
The Bevells were the only married couple on the team. Darrell would bristle when fans would take out their frustrations on her. “She has had people say, ‘Your husband is giving us gray hair’ or ‘Tell him to get in gear,’” he related. “She doesn’t need that. She has nothing to do with the way I play.”
Tammy worked at a credit union and picked up Darrell after practice at UW’s Union South, where the players had training table. She said she dined mostly on mac and cheese. She wasn’t complaining, but she had a request, “I told Darrell it sure would be exciting to share our first anniversary at a bowl game.”
Nevada was the first step to not just any bowl, but the Rose Bowl. Bevell completed 19 of 27 for 263 yards and a school-record five touchdown passes to J.C. Dawkins (twice), Lee DeRamus, Matt Nyquist and Mike Roan. “That was the start of something good for me,” Bevell said.
The Badgers lost only one game in 1993 and it still haunts Bevell. After reeling off six straight victories and climbing to a No. 15 national ranking, they took a nasty pratfall, a humbling 28-21 loss at Minnesota. They almost pulled it out after falling behind 21-0 in the first half. But they came up short.
Bevell completed 31 of 48 passes for 423 yards, breaking Ron Vander Kelen’s school record. But he also threw five interceptions. “You bring up those memories and they still sit in your gut,” he said. “You can remember each one and it still makes you sick to your stomach.”
That’s Bevell talking nearly 25 years later. “At the end of that year,” he went on, “you can obviously look back and say, ‘What would have happened if we would have won that game?”
Maybe a national championship.
“Exactly,” he said.
The Badgers “settled” for a share of the Big Ten championship. But they had to travel to Japan and beat Michigan State in Tokyo to get to Pasadena. “Our celebration on the field afterwards was really cool,” Bevell remembered. “It was just ‘us’ — the core group of people who went over there.”
Even more memorable was Bevell’s 21-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of a 21-16 win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Scrambling out of the pocket, dodging one tackler on the line of scrimmage and juking another in the open field, it was a run for the ages from a quarterback not known for running.
“It’s my fondest memory by far,” Bevell said.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was Bevell’s final game at Camp Randall.
“Not one of my fonder memories,” he said.
On Nov. 25, 1995, two flawed teams, Wisconsin and Illinois, conspired for one of the most forgettable games ever staged in the stadium; a tug-of-war that ended in an unsightly 3-3 draw, the last tie in college football history. As painful as it was to watch, nobody was hurting more than Bevell.
“I remember getting hit, I remember getting hurt,” he said. “I remember I kept playing.”
Late in the second quarter, Bevell got sandwiched between tacklers and needed assistance to get off the field. He thought that he had bruised ribs — from his own elbow being pushed into his chest. He was examined on the sideline and at halftime. The pain didn’t get any worse, so he kept playing.
On the first possession of the third quarter, Bevell drove the offense 54-yards setting up a John Hall field goal. “I was in a lot of pain,” Bevell said. “But it was my last one (at Camp Randall) so I just kept fighting and fighting. I kept saying, ‘I’m playing until I can’t play.”’
With three minutes left in the game, Bevell finally reached a breaking point. “I had just completed a big pass around midfield and I was thinking, ‘If we can get into field goal range, we’re going to win,”’ he said. “But I could hardly breathe, I couldn’t finish.”
An ambulance took Bevell to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a lacerated kidney.
“That was my last game that I ever played at Wisconsin,” he said. “It’s not really the way you would envision yourself going out. But I loved every minute of playing there.”
After rewriting the UW record book and closing out that chapter in his life — he still ranks as the career leader with 646 completions, 1,052 attempts, 7,686 passing yards and 59 touchdowns — Bevell had tryouts with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. But nothing came from them.
Bevell then did what everyone anticipated that he would eventually do, including Childress and Alvarez. He got into coaching. “I love the game of football so much that I don’t think I could ever get too far away from it,” he said. “I don’t think I could just give it up all together.”
“You learn so many lessons at all the stops that you have. It’s the people that you come into contact with that helps shape you whether it’s your coaches, professors or friends, life-long friends. I was treated really well when I was at Wisconsin. It’s a special place.”
— Darrell Bevell
Since 2011, Bevell has been the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings (2006-10). Prior to that, he was a quarterbacks coach with the Green Bay Packers (2000-05). His goal is to be a head coach in the league.
Bevell didn’t start at the top of the coaching food chain, though.
After giving up his dream of playing in the NFL, he became the offensive coordinator for the Westmar University Eagles, an NAIA school in Le Mars, Iowa. Tammy was five months pregnant with the couple’s first child and it was a good time to get serious about coaching and embark on that career path.
Bevell always entertained the thought of it leading back to the UW.
But he’ll settle for the next best thing.
This year, he’s going into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.
“You learn so many lessons at all the stops that you have,” he said. “It’s the people that you come into contact with that helps shape you whether it’s your coaches, professors or friends, life-long friends. I was treated really well when I was at Wisconsin. It’s a special place.”