UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Wilson hopes to help Badgers stand out from crowd


Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has some history with championship games. Indirectly, he also has some history with the infamous Sports Illustrated "Cover Jinx."

This is not to suggest that Wilson's appearance in Saturday night's inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game could lead to an SI cover for the UW senior or teammate Montee Ball -- jinx be damned.

This is merely revisiting another entry in Wilson's extensive resume, which may or may not serve to frame or foreshadow the rematch with Michigan State at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Consider: The Dec. 18, 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated featured Tennessee Titans rookie Vince Young on the cover. Young had just sparked the Titans to a four-game winning streak.

"I can do whatever it takes to win,'' Young crowed.

How did that turn out for Young, a Titans bust, who was last seen throwing four picks in Seattle and leading his self-anointed "Dream Team'' Philadelphia Eagles (4-8) into NFL purgatory?

Also consider: The Dec. 18, 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated featured the "Faces in the Crowd" department -- a weekly piece that shines the spotlight on young, up-and-coming athletes.

More to the point, it gives some national media exposure to individuals who are otherwise overshadowed by the higher profile jocks in professional sports.

Consider these "Faces:"

There was Krystina Orwat, a volleyball player, who led Kishwaukee College to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championship in Scottsdale, Ariz.

There was Josh Rohatinsky, a cross country runner from Brigham Young who won the men's 10K race at the NCAA championship in Terre Haute, Ind.

There was Melissa Gonzalez, a high school field hockey player who led her school to the New York State Class A championship.

There was Jachelle Bigornia, a high school golfer in California who led her school to a perfect season and an eighth-straight conference title.

There was Kerri Hanks and Joseph Lapira, soccer players at Notre Dame who became the first athletes from the same school to be named the top women's and men's college players of the year.

And then there was "young'' Russell Wilson, a senior quarterback/defensive back at Collegiate School in Richmond, Va., who led the Cougars to a 38-16 win over Fork Union.

It was Collegiate's fourth-straight Virginia Independent Schools Football Association Division I title. Wilson passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 223 yards and three scores.

That was his last appearance in a championship game.

"I remember the emotion part of it is a little bit heightened for a championship game,'' he said Monday. "I guess everybody is a little more aware for whatever reason.

"There's a natural awareness because you're playing for a lot. At the same time, you have to be cool, calm and collected.

"That's where I've really grown as a quarterback through my experiences -- being poised no matter what the situation, whether we're winning by 25 or 30 or we're down by 25 or 30.

"I've tried to be the same -- always attacking with the mindset, 'What can I do to excel?'''

That's how Wilson is approaching the Spartans.

"There's going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of fire,'' he said, "and I have to be the one to make sure everybody is on the same page and communicating well.

"Whether that's on the sideline or in the huddle, I have to make sure everybody understands what our goal is for that one particular play or that next series, whatever it is.''

During his Monday press conference, UW coach Bret Bielema mentioned that the presence of Wisconsin and Michigan State in the first Big Ten championship game was refreshing.

Bielema's perspective was related to the thought process behind divisional alignment.

 "I knew they wanted to separate those four big boys just because of tradition and history and national championships,'' he said of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska.

Minutes later, Wilson was taking questions from the same assembled media contingent and Bielema's "big boys'' reference was brought up in a question that was posed to Wilson.

It was conveyed to Wilson that the league title game was an opportunity for Wisconsin to demonstrate that maybe it's the new face of the Big Ten.

With a smile on his face, Wilson prefaced his remarks by saying, "Well, I think that Wisconsin is a big boy.''

Saturday night will be most telling in that regard.