Lucas at Large: Senior class sets tone as Badgers hand out awards

UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock has been around Montee Ball every day since the start of practice in August.  But he had no idea that he was working with the "player to be named later.''

"I did not know that,'' Hammock said.

Neither did Ball's head coach, Bret Bielema, who has been around the Heisman Trophy finalist every day since Ball arrived on the Madison campus in 2009.

"I thought the two e's at the end of his first name were unique,'' he conceded. "But he never said one word to me about it. I've called him Mon-TAY once in awhile when I'm joking around.''

Ball has revealed his first name is pronounced Mon-TAY. But since elementary school, everyone has called him Mon-TEE, so he never bothered to correct them or add the accent over one of the e's.

"How about Mon-TAY,'' Bielema teased during Friday night's football awards dinner at Union South. "He gets invited to the Heisman, so he skips the banquet and he changes his name.''

Even though Ball was in New York City, he was with his teammates in spirit. Along with quarterback Russell Wilson, Ball shared the Most Valuable Player award on offense for the Badgers.

"It's unbelievable the ownership that he took of his situation,'' UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said of Ball, who didn't even play in the 2010 win over then No. 1-ranked Ohio State.

"He's unlike any other guy I've been around as far as self-assessing his situation and being pro-active in doing something about it. It's one of the neater stories that I've been around.''

Bielema, Hammock and former UW tailback Ron Dayne, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, will fly to New York following Saturday's practice and attend the televised presentation in Manhattan.

"It's a tribute to Montee Ball and everything that he has put into it -- all of his hard work and dedication,'' Hammock said. "He has been a model and a leader for the younger running backs.

"Hard work pays off.''

Added Chryst, "It's something that our whole team can take pride in. It's as much of a team award as anything. But it's awesome for Montee. He deserves everything he's getting and more.''

Chryst also had some kind words for Wilson.

"The greatest compliment that you can give someone is that when you go to a place, you leave it in a better situation, you make it a better place,'' Chryst said.

"What a great statement. If you can do that by making the people around you better people, you are truly something special. We all knew how fortunate we were to have Russell join us.

"But it doesn't just happen if you don't have a tremendous group of guys that took him in. Everyone can take ownership and pride.

"You wrote a heckuva story, Russell.

"I appreciate being a part of it.''

Wilson was most gracious in accepting the co-offensive MVP award.

"I couldn't do it without the offensive line and the rest of the guys on the team who worked their butts off every single day to be great,'' Wilson said.

"When I first came here, my first meeting with the team, I told them that I wanted us to be special, and we have a chance to do that. We are special, but we have one more huge game to win.''

The co-MVPs on defense were linebacker Mike Taylor and cornerback Antonio Fenelus.

A number of players were honored, including Josh Oglesby, Kevin Claxton, Aaron Henry, Kevin Zeitler, Patrick Butrym, Nick Toon, Bradie Ewing, Andrew Lukasko, Jake Byrne, and Brad Nortman.

Although they didn't receive any awards, Bielema also singled out four seniors -- Adam Hampton, Louis Nzegwu, Kyle Wojta and Nate Tice -- for their contributions to the program.

Linebacker Derek Landsich was the Newcomer of the Year. Offensive lineman Tyler Marz and defensive end James Adeyanju were the Scout Team Players of the Year.

All are freshmen. Marz and Adeyanju are redshirting.

"I knew who were going to get the awards tonight,'' Bielema said. "And a certain freshman pops out to me because he doesn't have a tie on.

"We have 120 guys in the room and 119 have ties. One doesn't, and he's going to get an award.

"So I ask him, 'How far away do you live?'

"He says, 'Ogg Hall.'

"I said, 'Get running.'

"I guarantee you for those three or four blocks James Adeyanju wasn't saying pleasant things about his head coach.

"But in the end everything matters -- every detail, every day -- everything matters from the way you present yourself to the way you prepare yourself to the way you play on Saturday.

"It makes a difference. I think our senior class will attest to that.''

At the end of the program, Bielema challenged his players, "Let's finish it. Let's go out there with a task in mind and finish this thing (in the Rose Bowl) like we need to.''

2011 Wisconsin Football Awards Winners


Rookie of the Year
Derek Landisch

Scout Team Player of the Year
Tyler Marz (offense), James Adeyanju (defense)
Presented annually to the players who excelled on the scout team in preparing the Badgers for each week's game.

Ivan B. Williamson Scholastic Award

Brad Nortman
Presented annually to a player who has been exemplary in the area of scholarship and sportsmanship.  The award is given in memory of Williamson, a former Wisconsin football coach (1949-55) and athletics director (1955-69).

Badger Power Award
Jake Bryne and Andrew Lukasko
Presented annually to the player that consistently performs at a high level in all aspects of the Strength and Conditioning program, one that has a great work ethic coupled with a positive attitude that garners the respect of teammates, is dependable, buys into the program and shows constant improvement.

Wayne Souza Coaches' Appreciation Award (Offense)

Josh Oglesby and Nick Toon
Presented annually to the offensive football player who has contributed to the team's success to the best of his abilities.  It is based upon improvement, attitude and willingness to help the program in all areas.  The award is given in memory of Souza, a UW football letter winner (1977-78).

Jay Seiler Coaches' Appreciation Award (Defense)
Aaron Henry and Kevin Claxton
Presented annually to the defensive football player who has contributed to the team's success to the best of his abilities.  It is based upon improvement, attitude, and willingness to help the program in all areas.  The award is given in memory of Seiler, a former player.

Tom Wiesner Award
Kevin Zeitler and Patrick Butrym
Presented annually to a Wisconsin-born student-athlete whose loyalty, hard work, spirit and dedication are unselfishly directed to the success of the Badger football team.  The award is given in memory of Wiesner, a Wisconsin football letter winner (1958-60).

Special Teams Award
Bradie Ewing
Presented annually to the most valuable player on the special teams as selected by the coaching staff.

The Captains' Cup
Sharon Betlach
Presented annually to an individual, other than a player or coach, who has shown tremendous dedication and unselfish commitment toward the betterment of the football program.  The recipient is selected by the head coach and team captains.

Most Valuable Player
Montee Ball and Russell Wilson (offense), Antonio Fenelus and Mike Taylor (defense)
Presented annually to an offensive and defensive player who were most instrumental to the success of the football team.
ON WISCONSIN