Dave Schreiner UW photo (copy)

The much-maligned sculpture dubbed "Nails' Tales" has disappeared from its spot at the corner of Regent Street and Breese Terrace, one of the gateways to Camp Randall and the old Field House.

While some praised it as a piece of art that did what art should do — draw attention and provoke comments and discussion — most amateur art critics couldn't have been happier when it was removed. They considered the $200,000 sculpture an eyesore that, instead of depicting the strength and virility of Badger football, looked more like a cob of corn or a phallic symbol.

It has been replaced, although across the street on city property, with a 10-foot-long sculpture of Bucky Badger created by the late Harry Whitehorse, the acclaimed Ho-Chunk sculptor and painter from Monona. He created the life-like Badger so it could be touched and sat on by people who came to see it.

We were talking about that at a luncheon the other day, when Joe Hart, who spent much of his newspaper career on our sports staff, including as sports editor, piped up.

Wouldn't it be fitting, he said, if the UW would commission and install a statue of one of the football program's greatest heroes who, unfortunately, seems to be largely forgotten? A kid from Lancaster, Wisconsin — Dave Schreiner.

He indeed was a hero, not only on the Badger football field, but in World War II, where he gave his life in the battle of Okinawa, only a few weeks before the Japanese surrender.

After graduating from Lancaster, Schreiner became one of Badgers football's most revered players. He was a two-time All-American at end (he played both offense and defense), and was named the 1942 Big Ten Most Valuable Player. As a co-captain of that team, he led the Badgers to an 8-1-1 record. The loss was to Iowa, 6-0, and the tie was with Notre Dame, 7-7, while the big win was over number-one ranked Ohio State.

Following the '42 season, he joined the Marines and two years later found himself in the Pacific Theater as a lieutenant and company commander in the Marine regiment that was fighting to clear the island of Okinawa of the Japanese.

After he had left to join the military, he was picked as a second round 1943 draft choice by the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, at age 24, he was shot by a sniper after his unit had been part of the victorious last battle on Okinawa.

Schreiner's career with the Badgers and the following horrors on the front lines during World War II are detailed in the outstanding book, "Third Down and a War to Go," written by Terry Frei — the son of Jerry Frei, one of Schreiner's teammates on that storied '42 team.

"In that era you had to be multi-faceted and he was tough and clever," the author noted. "Most important of all he was a leader by example. Others tended to follow in his wake."

Camp Randall, of course, was the training center where young Wisconsin men were stationed before being sent to the front lines to fight to preserve the Union during the Civil War.

What an appropriate place to permanently remember a young man who represented everything that is best about Wisconsin football.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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