Date in History: 1917 – 1997
Howard Weiss was born on October 12, 1917 in Fort Atkinson. He went on to be one of Fort Atkinson’s all time football greats.
It all began in 1934 when Weiss – handling the running, kicking and sometimes even the passing duties – led the Fort Atkinson Cardinals to its first Southern Six-League championship outscoring its opponents 208-12 during the year. Weiss was an all-around athlete, lettering four years in football, three in basketball, and winning the state junior golf championship in 1934. In 1935 Weiss enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joined the Wisconsin Badger football team as a running back. The Fort Atkinson native went on to earn Wisconsin’s Most Valuable Player award in 1937 and again in 1938 when he also took home the Big Ten Conference’s Most Valuable Player Award, the first time that a Badger had ever achieved this recognition. In the 1938 Heismann Trophy balloting Weiss came in sixth.
Fort Atkinson was proud of their native son and on February 12, 1938 one thousand of them showed up at the municipal building to celebrate Howie Weiss Day. Addressing the overflow crowd the 20-year-old Weiss declared “You’ve made me the happiest boy in the world tonight, and you’ve made my mother the happiest mother in the world.” The love affair between athlete and hometown continued the next year when Fort fans piled into trains heading to Chicago to watch Weiss play with the College All-Stars against the NFL champion Washington Redskins. But Weiss was more than a football player. Elected president of his UW class for the 1938-39 school year, Weiss graduated in June 1939 with a degree in economics. He played for the Detroit Lions for two years but never liked living in Detroit and decided to come back to Wisconsin.
After a stint in the Navy during World War II, Weiss settled in Milwaukee to begin a successful career in insurance. At the young age of 39 he was named president of the Roberts Company, one of Wisconsin’s oldest and largest insurance companies. Weiss and his wife Geraldine involved themselves with Milwaukee’s civic affairs, donating their time and money to the Milwaukee Boys Club, the United Way, and the Milwaukee Art Center.
In 1991 Weiss was one of 35 athletes, coaches and administrators to be inducted into the new University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. He died in 1997, one month after his 80th birthday.