UW Health Sports Medicine 

Garner's versatility has Badgers thinking big

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Spring_Day5 041.jpgManasseh Garner was born too late. There may not be another player on the UW roster better equipped to play one platoon football; which flourished between the mid-'50s and mid-'60s.

Garner is a throw-back; a multi-skilled athlete who's comfortable on offense or defense.

"The kid is as athletic as all-outdoors," said safety Aaron Henry.

At Pittsburgh's Brashear High School, Garner was an impact player at linebacker and receiver. As a prep, there were also times when he lined up as a dual threat running-throwing quarterback.

As a true freshman in 2010, Garner introduced himself to Badger fans by playing on both sides of the ball in a late September rout of Austin Peay. He took snaps as a receiver and defensive end.

In Wisconsin's win over No. 1-ranked Ohio State, Garner distinguished himself on special teams, collecting three tackles on the kickoff cover unit. He got some turns rushing Terrelle Pryor, too.

Such has been his versatility, and value.

Coming into spring practice, there was the thought Garner would finally get a chance to establish himself at H-Back, but he was also needed at wide receiver because of a void in the rotation.

Due to the graduation losses of David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson and an injury to Nick Toon, there was a pressing need for someone to compete with Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth.

That role has been shared by Garner, redshirt freshman Isaiah Williams and true freshman Kenzel Doe.  Another redshirt freshman, Chase Hammond, has been in the mix.

In the meantime, Marquis Mason has been sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.
    
Garner, to his credit, doesn't look or act like someone who has been on campus for only two semesters. In fact, he has shown a maturity beyond his year.

He has shown a maturity beyond his years.

"He reminds me a tad bit of Lance Kendricks," Henry said.

That's quite an endorsement considering Kendricks is likely to be taken in the top three rounds of the NFL draft next week. Kendricks was a high school wide receiver before switching to H-Back.

Henry qualified his comments

"I don't mean he reminds me of Lance as far as his physique goes," he said. "But he reminds me of Lance as far as he runs. He's not as big as Lance yet. But his physical nature definitely compares.

In switching between H-Back and wide receiver, Garner admitted that he has blown an assignment or two. "It's been a little bit of a challenge," he said. "But the coaches have been patient."

Does he prefer one position over the other? H-Back? Or wide receiver?
   
"Honestly, I like both of them,'' he said.

What he doesn't miss is playing defense.

"I'm an offensive player," he said. "My mindset is definitely offense. I was recruited to play offense. But the coaches gave me an opportunity to help the team in any way so I played on defense."

The 6-2, 204-pound Garner has shown that he enjoys contact, making him the ideal H-Back. He agreed. "It's a physical position," he said, "but you're still doing the things a wide receiver would do."

Henry has seen the same things; mainly his toughness regardless of where he's playing.

"He's tenacious as a run-blocker," Henry said. "He likes to get his nose dirty. He's also extremely physical in catching the ball. He can go up in traffic and doesn't mind running over the middle."
       
That attitude lends itself to covering kickoffs. "If you don't enjoy playing on special teams something is wrong," Garner said. "That's one of the most exciting parts of the game."

Along with all of the things that he can do on a football field, Garner can also dance. That will be on display Monday night during the annual Buckinghams, a celebration of academic success in all sports.

Besides putting the spotlight on achievement in the classroom, the event (which is not open to the public) features the naming of the male and female student-athletes of the year and a talent show.

Henry has already received a sneak preview of Garner's dance performance, which incorporates many hip hop moves, including krumping. "For a guy his size, he can move extremely well," Henry said.

UW defensive backs Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie and linebacker A.J. Fenton are also scheduled to showcase their talent, along with freshman quarterback Joel Stave, the "Piano Man."

"I like the concept of the Buckinghams," Henry said, "because it gets athletes from all sports together on one special night. It's not a brotherhood but a 'Wisconsinhood' with a family vibe to it."

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