Lucas at Large: Badger legends four deep in Seattle

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Darrell Bevell, Chris Maragos, Russell Wilson and John Moffitt have found a home with the Seahawks

Prior to Monday's Legends of Wisconsin golf outing, Darrell Bevell, Scott Tolzien and Chris Maragos were engaged in some good-natured banter outside the University Ridge clubhouse.

Someone mentioned that Bevell was one of the earliest if not original "legend'' -- the starting quarterback on the 1993 UW football team that returned to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1963.

Tolzien also took note of Bevell's "old school'' footwear that he once wore with the Badgers; high tops which fell just short of rivaling Herman Munster's boots. Bevell laughed.

Of course, Bevell got the last laugh in the 1994 Rose Bowl when he broke contain and "sprinted'' 21 yards for what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown against UCLA.

Even Bevell had to chuckle at the verb. Sprinted? But his run was "legendary'' in that it links him with Mike Samuel and Brooks Bollinger as the only Wisconsin quarterbacks to ever win a Rose Bowl.

Meanwhile, the Badgers are coming off back-to-back trips to Pasadena thanks in large part to the contributions and leadership of their most recent starting QBs -- Tolzien and Russell Wilson.

Last season, Tolzien caught on with the San Francisco 49ers and served as the No. 3 quarterback behind Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Wilson is targeted for that same role, maybe better, in Seattle.

The Seahawks offensive coordinator is none other than the 42-year-old Bevell who has already seen enough of Wilson, a third round pick, to recognize that "he carries himself well --that 'it' factor.''

Seattle did their homework on Wilson. "We talked to him a bunch at the Senior Bowl, the combine and his own pro day,'' Bevell stressed. "There were a lot of things to like about him.

"He loves to play the game. He works hard at this craft. And he seems to have 'it.'''

Wilson put "it'' on display during the Seahawks recent minicamp in competition with Tavaris Jackson, the returning starter in Seattle, and Matt Flynn, the free agent pickup from the Packers.

Each quarterback got one day to work with the No. 1 offense.

"We're letting them all compete,'' said Bevell, echoing head coach Pete Carroll. "Russell came in and did well enough in rookie camp to put himself in the race.''

How will the practice snaps be distributed in training camp?

"That's a good question because it's not something we've done before; I don't think many people have,'' Bevell said of trying to maximize a three quarterback rotation during the drills.

"Just like we did in minicamp, we're going to spread the reps evenly and try to get them all in the same situations so we have something to compare.''

Some comparisons have been made between Flynn and his Green Bay mentor, Aaron Rodgers. "You can see some of Aaron's mannerisms, which is a positive thing,'' Bevell said.

Citing Flynn's "presence'', he also noted, "I see the veteran's knowledge that he has. He understands the game and his strengths and weaknesses. He also carries himself very well.''

Bevell and Jackson have been together the longest, dating to their days in Minnesota. "He's still learning and improving,'' Bevell said. "He's athletic and strong and coming off his best year as a pro.''

You could tell that Bevell almost anticipated the next question because he gets it so often.

What about Wilson's height?

"There are times when it will show up, without a doubt,'' Bevell said. "There are plays where you can see that it does (have an impact). But he's played with that (question) his whole life.''

Wilson has been listed between 5-10 and 5-11.

"That's who he is; that's what he is,'' Bevell said. "He knows his abilities -- when to move, when to slide and do all those different things in the pocket. Most of the time it won't show up.''

Maragos, a backup free safety for the Seahawks, offered a unique perspective.

"Maybe not a lot of people realize this,'' said Maragos, who's entering his third season in the NFL, second with Seattle, "but when I'm back there playing at deep safety in practice, he (Wilson) gets covered up by those linemen and I can't see where he is or where he's looking.

"As I'm backpedaling, I can't get a good read on what side of the field he's looking at to know which way I should lean.  At that point, I'm at a disadvantage. A lot of times I see this little arm coming up over the top of the helmets. Usually I'm getting a slow break on the ball because I can't see him.

"Everybody has been talking about his height as a disadvantage. To me, I feel like it's an advantage having played against him a little bit now in practices. He also has a high release point and does a good job of extending the play. He might have had only one ball batted down.

"Boy, I tell you what, Russell has been very impressive for a rookie. Anytime you transition to a level up (from college to the NFL in this case), there's a big learning curve. But I was really impressed with the way he hit the ground running. Russell has that 'it'' factor. You can just see it.''

Jackson has some distinguishing characteristics, too. "He's got so much knowledge within the offensive scheme,'' Maragos said. "He knows his stuff and has a good command of the system.''

No one had to remind Maragos of Flynn's background with the Packers and Rodgers.

"You can tell that he's a savvy player,'' he said of Flynn. "He makes throws that are very difficult to defend. He'll drop back and he'll be looking right at the middle safety, seeing what I'm doing.

"Without looking to see where his receiver is, he'll just step, turn and throw -- he'll let it fly trusting his receiver and knowing where he's going to be. He's been taught well in Green Bay.''

Maragos has experienced his own learning curve. That's why this season is so important. "This is when you really start establishing your identity and the type of player you are in the league,'' he said.

"The next couple of years are going to be big in terms of continuing to establish myself and taking advantage of the opportunities I have -- hopefully laying a foundation for the years to come.''

As for the immediate future, Maragos will focus on his football skills camp, July 6-8, in Kenosha.

JJ Watt, DeAndre Levy, Brian Calhoun, Jim Leonhard, John Clay and Luke Swan are among the former Badger athletes who have provided instruction and, perhaps, inspiration.

Maragos, for one, has definitely been inspired by Leonhard, who kept "grinding and grinding'' during his early years in the NFL before finally somebody noticed and gave him a chance.

Maragos seems to have the same survival instincts, and timetable.

"No matter what your role is on the team, you always want more,'' he said.

Right now, the Badgers are four-deep in Seattle: Bevell, Maragos, Wilson and John Moffitt; who started at right offense guard as a rookie before getting injured.

Bevell sounded like he really enjoyed coaching under Carroll.  Maragos, for sure, loves playing for him. "Oh, man, coach Carroll is awesome, he's the coolest,'' he said.

What makes him so cool? "He lets you play, he lets you be you,'' he replied, "and the guys play hard for him because they really respect him. He's a player's coach.''

Maragos also loves jabbing him about the UW connection. "I told coach Carroll we're finally starting to get some Wisconsin guys out here,'' he said, "guys who really know how to play football.''

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