Lucas at Large: Badger QBs no longer under the radar

110728_FB_Bollinger_Brooks.jpgCHICAGO --  When Scott Tolzien was named the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm winner, another former UW quarterback, Brooks Bollinger, was among the first to offer his congratulations.

Bollinger remembered the conversation that followed with the self-effacing Tolzien, who was quick to point out that he attempted just one pass in the second half of a couple games.

"I told him, 'Hey, I think it's just as hard to play, if not harder to play quarterback, in that sort of run-oriented system,'' recounted Bollinger, the starting QB on the Badgers' 2000 Rose Bowl team.

"Especially when your first five passes of the game might be on third down and six or more yards. It goes something like this, 'Run, Run, now make a play' if you're the quarterback.

"It's not like you're going out there knowing you're going to throw 50 times in a game and you can get into a throwing rhythm. So, you've got to hit that one play-action shot you get on third down.''

Bollinger later noted, "That's what we hang our hat on.''

He was speaking for all UW quarterbacks who have flown under the national radar. That may not be case with Russell Wilson, whose transfer from North Carolina State has been well-chronicled.

But there has always been a stereotype attached to quarterbacks who manage a game. Being known as a "game-manager'' never bothered Mike Samuel, the starter on the 1999 Rose Bowl team.

"Didn't bother me, not at all,'' Samuel said. "What concerned me the most was winning football games. And we did that more often than not during my career at Wisconsin.''

What about the perception?

"When Ron Dayne was there, we were a running team, no doubt about that,'' Samuel said. "But they've broken that mold since then and they have a much more balanced offense today.''

Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the starter on the 1993 Rose Bowl team, has heard many of the same characterizations on the role that a quarterback plays with the Badgers.

"There's the stereotype out there,'' he said, "that we're not really the reason they're winning because we're such a running team. I don't believe that to be the case.

"I know that I threw more than most of them, especially Mike and Brooks. But no Wisconsin team won just because of the run. There were times when you had to convert on big third downs.''

"You'' being the quarterback.

Bevell, Samuel and Bollinger all talked about the value of balance. Bollinger further noted that quarterbacks like Jim Sorgi, John Stocco and Tyler Donovan have been slighted by the national media.

"That's a good debate to have,'' Bollinger said. "If you start going down the list of quarterbacks we've had -- from Bev to Scotty -- there have been some pretty good ones who deserve recognition.''

If they weren't talking about them in the past -- a UW quarterback -- they are now, thanks to Wilson, a big part of the Badger Buzz in Chicago, and he's now even here.

Mike Lucas caught up with each of the Badgers' three Rose Bowl winning quarterbacks for a piece in the latest issue of "Varsity," the Official Online Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics. Read the story here.
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