Anyone who’s ever seen Ron Dayne knows he likes to eat.
The former Badgers star running back devoured college defenses on the field, setting the NCAA Division I-A career rushing record and winning the 1999 Heisman Trophy, and feasted off the field, too.
The 250-pound Dayne parlayed his powerful playing style into an eight-year NFL career. Since retiring in 2007, he’s been very active with goodwill efforts throughout the state and now is parlaying his celebrity and love of food into a holiday initiative to fight hunger and food insecurity in the local community.
Dayne has partnered with Farmland Foods for "Bacon For Santa," a unique food-donation campaign that flips the script on the standard Christmas snack of milk and cookies. Until Christmas Eve, for every person that pledges to leave Santa bacon – which, come on, is what he really wants – and shares it on their social media channels with the hashtag #BaconForSanta, Farmland will give one pound of protein to local food bank Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.
The campaign kicked off on Dec. 5 with the Milwaukee Santa Hustle 5K at Veteran’s Park. Dayne, who rushed for 6,397 yards during his tenure with the Badgers, ran a few more after commencing the race.
"I just had a great experience at the Santa Hustle, where I was able to help Farmland spread the good word about the Bacon for Santa campaign and the drive to fight hunger," Dayne said. "I really liked the idea and thought it was a creative way to help fight hunger in the Milwaukee area."
What, in particular, did Dayne really like about the campaign?
"It combines two things I’m passionate about – giving back to those in need and my love of bacon," he said.
According to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, 1 in 7 people – and one in five children – in the southeast portion of the state don’t have enough healthy food to eat. "We are grateful to Farmland for their efforts in helping to raise awareness about the issue of hunger in our communities and for their generosity in providing valuable protein to help ensure more families have healthy food to eat, not only at the holidays but throughout the year," said Charles McLimans, CEO of the organization, which is the largest, private, hunger-relief nonprofit in the state.
Besides charity work, the 37-year-old Dayne, who’s lived in Madison since retiring from the NFL, said he’s involved in a variety of businesses these days. He also spends a lot of time at the university, helping out on Badger game days, during special events and occasionally with recruiting. He said he’s "never really had a desire to be a coach, but you never know."
Dayne said Wisconsin, in its first year under head coach Paul Chryst, had "another successful season" in 2015, despite being a younger squad and struggling with injuries.
"I always like watching Badger football," Dayne said. "It’s great having coach Chryst back in Madison."
The team finished with a 9-3 record and will play USC in the Holiday Bowl. Hopefully, the players – along with Dayne – will be plenty filled with protein and ready to sizzle in San Diego on Dec. 30.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.