Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ron Vander Kelen: Wisconsin Great

Topps, Philadelphia gum cards, NFL

Badger legend Ron Vander Kelen passed away at age 76, on August 14, 2016. He was the Co-MVP (with Trojan QB Pete Beathard) in the 1963 Rose Bowl where the University of Wisconsin was defeated by USC 42–37.  Down 42–14 in the fourth quarter, Vander Kelen orchestrate a comeback with 23 unanswered points but fell short in what is considered one of the greatest Bowl games of all-time.

He had one more MVP performance as starter in the College All-Star Game where the College All-Stars defeated the Packers 20–17 which included Vander Kelen completing a pass to Badger teammate Pat Richter.  This 1963 game was the last time the College team beat an NFL team.

Growing up in Preble, Wisconsin (soon to be annexed by Green Bay) he went undrafted by the NFL, probably because the Rose Bowl was played after the NFL draft. Vander Kelen signed as a free agent to play for the Minnesota Vikings and played backup to starting quarterback Fran Tarkenton. During his five years with the Vikings, he never attempted more than 58 passes in any one season. Vander Kelen ended up appearing in 29 games and had five starts, three coming in 1967, his final NFL season.  He was traded to the Falcons in 1968 but couldn't unseat Randy Johnson as the starter and was released.  He played briefly in the Canadian Football league before retiring.

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