"The Voice" with Matt Lepay

Thumbnail image for the_voiceSM.jpgHaving covered athletics for 25 years, it can be easy to be a little jaded. If you allow it to happen, the big money and big scandals can take a lot of the enjoyment out of sports. However, there are moments when I am reminded of why the world of fun and games can be just that. Last Friday night's Wisconsin Football Awards Show provided us with one of those moments.


Among the award winners was Ethan Hemer. The freshman from Medford, Wis., earned the defensive scout team player of the year honor. The 6-6, 274-pound defensive lineman was genuinely surprised and elated to be honored. If you don't believe me, just check out the video of the event. It is about 35 minutes into the show.  It is easy to see how happy he is to be a Badger and to win the award. I am guessing it was one of the few times in his life that Ethan Hemer was a bit flustered--but in a good way, and he handled it well.

At events such as these, I also like to observe the players' parents and other family members. They are proud folks, as well they should be. I bumped into one set of parents in an urgent search for a camera, all to capture a family photo after the event concluded. Happily, another player's parents came to the rescue, and I would guess the photo is proudly displayed in Mom and Dad's house.

I will repeat in this space what I said Friday night at the Awards Show. This is a very likable football team. The players seem to know who they are, meaning they understand that this might not be a star-studded group across the board. They do understand that when everyone is on the same page, this can be a very good team.  The captains appear to have handled their roles quite well. Garrett Graham, Mickey Turner, O'Brien Schofield and Chris Maragos bring an interesting mix of personalities to the table. With this group, you have the very vocal to the seemingly barely vocal (Graham), but each leads in his own way, and each leads very well.

Remember most "experts" had very low expectations for this squad. Some of the national preview magazines had the Badgers finishing seventh in the Big Ten. They ended up better than that, and they have a chance to end of the year on a truly high note. This team knows what folks are saying--that it has been awhile since Wisconsin has knocked off a highly ranked team. This team also knows there is only one way to put an end to that topic of conversation. In two weeks, the Badgers will have that chance.

On another note, I have to admit it is nice to be home for a couple of weeks. That probably sounds odd considering our broadcast team made two trips to Hawaii. Then we returned home just in time for a blizzard. Still, it is good to be back in Wisconsin. Really. Who needs 85 degree weather every day? How boring (you buying this?). Give me variety, but please don't give me another blizzard.
ON WISCONSIN