Lucas at Large: Tolzien gets Rose Bowl advice from Tide's McElroy

UW quarterback Scott Tolzien received an early scouting report on what to expect when he steps on the field in the Rose Bowl from Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy who experienced the environment last season while leading the Tide to a 37-21 win over Texas in the 2010 BCS National Championship game.

After cracking two ribs in the SEC title game, McElroy was limited against the Longhorns and completed only 6-of-11 passes for 58 yards while being sacked five times. Still, he managed to put the ball in the hands of his tailbacks, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, who combined to rush for 225 yards.

McElroy has always been associated with the phrase, "game manager." That has also applied to Tolzien during his two seasons as a starter at Wisconsin.

Statistically, they are very comparable in 2010.

Tolzien has completed 74 percent of his passes (182-of-245) for 2,300 yards. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns and been intercepted six times.

McElroy has completed 71 percent of his passes (209-of-296) for 2,767 yards. He has thrown for 19 touchdowns and been intercepted five times.

Tolzien ranks No. 4 nationally in passing efficiency (169.80).

McElroy ranks No. 6 nationally in passing efficiency (166.94).

(Note: Tolzien and McElroy sandwich TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton, who ranks No. 5 nationally in passing efficiency.)

Tolzien got to meet McElroy in New York City, where they were among 16 players honored by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame as national scholar-athletes. Each receives an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.

Tolzien and McElroy, in fact, were roommates in the Big Apple.

"Since he played in the Rose Bowl last season, I got to pick his brain about that and he said it was unbelievable - the setting, the atmosphere, the stadium," Tolzien related. "He also said they (the Tide) tried to make it just another game. It was good hearing it from a quarterback who had been through it once.

"I love watching Greg play. He's really smooth and collected. He's also tough as nails - he takes his shots. He runs the offense well and he's not afraid to take the underneath stuff (routes). I respect the way that he plays the game."

McElroy, a Rhodes Scholar nominee, completed his undergrad degree in three years and is finishing up his graduate degree in sports administration.

"All the players that I met in New York were brainiacs," Tolzien said. "They were all well-spoken, classy, stand-up guys. I was just blown away when I heard about their credentials and all of their community service work."

Tolzien doesn't have to take a backseat to anyone.

On the field, or off.

That was all validated when Tolzien was named the winner of the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award - adding his name to a list of past winners that includes Colt McCoy, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer and Eli and Peyton Manning.

At the banquet in Baltimore, Tolzien got to meet Unitas' son, John Jr. (the president of the Golden Arm foundation), Unitas' former center, Bill Curry; and Unitas' former receiver, Raymond Berry.

Listening to all of their stories about Unitas - who was a fierce competitor - Tolzien admitted, "I felt like I was taking a step back in history."

Unitas immortalized the No. 19 with the Colts. He also had his college number retired at the University of Louisville. He wore No. 16. Same as Tolzien.

UW offensive center Peter Konz recently paid Tolzien the ultimate compliment when he said, "Scott is our rock in the huddle. All of us ride emotion throughout the game, but he's always solid and level-headed. We can be up by 50 and he's still making sure that we don't take any plays off. When you think of quarterbacks, there's the stereotype that they're all leaders. Scotty really is."