During his too-brief life, UW–Madison’s David Nathan “Dave” Schreiner ’43 seemed to effortlessly garner superlatives from those who knew him — and from the fans who admired him from afar.
A skilled athlete. A respected leader. A man of character and dedication. The native of Lancaster in southwestern Wisconsin’s Grant County earned these descriptions both on the football field and when he enlisted to fight overseas.
Schreiner, who played as a two-way end for the Badgers from 1940 to 1942, was named twice to the College Football All-America team, and he was the Big Ten’s most valuable player in 1942. He served as co-captain of that year’s squad, became the school’s first player to make three touchdown receptions in one quarter, and was the second Badger in history whose name was on the Heisman Trophy ballot.
Schreiner was “an all-American boy in all respects.”
In 1943, the Detroit Lions chose Schreiner as a second-round draft pick, but he gave up the draft and enlisted instead. He arrived on the front lines of World War II before ever playing in the NFL.
The war was nearing its final days in late June 1945, with hundreds of Japanese soldiers surrendering every day. Schreiner, a Marine lieutenant, was sent out on one more patrol on the island of Okinawa. He was shot and underwent surgery at a field hospital. The 24-year-old passed away the next day.
A few weeks later, the commander of the Fourth Marine Regiment wrote a letter to Schreiner’s mother, noting about the lieutenant, “We all used to say, jokingly, in the Fourth that Dave was not just an All-American football player, but an All-American boy in all respects.”
The star player’s number — 80 — was retired by Wisconsin, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.