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Big Ten Icons: Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz swam as if something was chasing him. In a sense, something was, even and perhaps most notably during a four-year period of world domination. Just 18 when he qualified for the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, Spitz was already one of swimming’s most accomplished performers, his resume packed with age-group world records, AAU titles and Pan-American and Maccabiah Games medals. He was perceived as a bit boastful, but not totally unrealistic when he suggested he just might leave Mexico with six gold medals. He won two, and that segment of the swimming world that had been put off

Big Ten Icons: John Wooden

John Wooden cast such a giant shadow as a college basketball coach that his comparably impressive achievements as a player are easily overlooked. Indeed, when Wooden died at age 99 earlier this year, his incomparable run of 10 national championships over a 12-year stretch at UCLA led the tributes. Seven of those titles came in succession as the Bruins became the gold standard in the college game. The period also featured an 88-game winning streak, four undefeated seasons, a 38-game NCAA tournament winning streak and a 140-2 record at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA’s home court. There’s no question that John Wooden’s

Big Ten Icons: Ron Dayne

An opponent once said playing defense against Ron Dayne was “like trying to tackle a Coke machine.” Or maybe like trying to interrupt a landslide. At 5-foot-10 and 260 pounds, Dayne left a trail of bodies in his wake whenever he carried the football for the Wisconsin Badgers, which was often: a Big Ten-record 1,220 times in four seasons. Combining body-builder bulk with sprinter’s speed, he was the most prolific rusher in NCAA history, piling up 6,397 yards. The total grows to 7,125 yards if bowl games are included, and they ought to be — Dayne ran for 246 yards and

Big Ten Icons: Otto Graham

Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf obviously had his Northwestern football team in mind when he spotted a strong-armed freshman throwing feathery-soft spirals in an NU  fraternity football league in the fall of 1940. Waldorf suggested the youngster might want to give the Wildcat varsity a try the following season. He did, and football’s gain was something of a loss for basketball, baseball and music. Otto Everett Graham Jr. was Waldorf’s discovery. Few athletes have ever been as accomplished, not to mention as versatile. Graham would win eight varsity letters in three sports at Northwestern and make All-America in football and basketball. He

Big Ten Icons: Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield had never played a down of college football at the University of Minnesota, but the Minnesota Vikings thought they knew an athlete when they saw one. They drafted Winfield in 1973, envisioning a pass-catching, stretch-the-field tight end. They also knew that signing Winfield might involve outbidding the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the Utah Stars of the rival ABA, who had seen enough of him on the basketball court to believe Winfield had a future at forward in the pro game. Winfield was a complementary player for the Gophers’ 1972 Big Ten champions, but Bill Musselman, his coach at

Big Ten Icons: John Cappelletti

Penn State being Penn State, it was inevitable that some of the records John Cappelletti set in his two remarkably productive seasons as the Nittany Lions’ starting tailback would fall as the assembly line kept churning out newer models. But the proud Italian kid from suburban Philadelphia remains the only Heisman Trophy winner in Penn State history. And the speech he gave when he accepted the award on Dec. 13, 1973 remains the most memorable in the Heisman’s 75-year history. Cappelletti dedicated the award to his younger brother Joey, then 11, whose entire life had been a struggle with the

Big Ten Icons: Steve Alford

Steve Alford may well have been the quintessential Indiana basketball player. He grew up in New Castle, a town that reveres the game, and learned it from his father, Sam Alford, a Hall of Fame high school coach at New Castle Chrysler. Under his father’s tutelage, Alford developed the fundamental skills, the shooting touch, the court sense and the toughness that constitute the preferred style of play in the land where basketball is king. A two-time all-state selection, Alford was the state’s leading scorer as a senior with 37.7 points per game and won the coveted title of Indiana’s Mr.

Big Ten Icons: Jack Nicklaus

He played only two years of varsity golf at Ohio State, but during that time, Jack Nicklaus offered enticing hints of what he eventually would become: the greatest player in the history of his game. During one stretch of his storied amateur career, Nicklaus entered 30 tournaments and won 29 of them, including the 1961 Big Ten (by 16 shots) and NCAA championships for the Buckeyes. He was the first player to win the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year, a feat later matched by Phil Mickelson (1990), Tiger Woods (1996) and Ryan Moore (2004).

Big Ten Icons: Suzy Favor-Hamilton

“With the exception of the loss of some loved ones, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life—running got where I am today,” Favor-Hamilton said. “But winning titles seems so insignificant in comparison to the other gifts I’ve been given.” Motivation was never an issue for Suzy Favor. She enjoyed the buzz she felt and the adulation she received for “beating all the boys in school” in a quarter-mile race as a fifth-grader in Stevens Point, Wis. With her parents’ blessing, she joined the Stevens Point Area Running Club and began competing in AAU-sponsored age-group races throughout the Midwest. By

Big Ten Icons: Charles Woodson

The look of bemused surprise on Peyton Manning’s face is one of the enduring images of that December evening in 1997. Manning was an All-America quarterback at Tennessee, the fresh-faced, well-spoken son of an All-America quarterback at Mississippi, the older brother of a fresh-faced, well-spoken future All-America Ole Miss quarterback. Given that pedigree, and an undeniably impressive four-year body of work that attracted reams of national publicity, Manning’s coronation as the Heisman Trophy winner was almost a foregone conclusion as the finalists waited out the vote on that Saturday evening at New York’s posh Downtown Athletic Club. Only this time