Lucas at Large: For captains, election is a high honor

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At about the same time Tuesday that Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland was sitting in a team meeting and learning that he had been named one of six captains for the 2012 season, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit was announcing the winners of his 12th-annual "Herbie Awards."

Borland won in the category for "Best Instincts'' beating out Kansas State's Arthur Brown, USC's Dion Bailey, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, and Mississippi State's Cameron Lawrence.

After Wednesday's practice, Borland was quick to point out that the captaincy outweighed just about everything else, including the "Herbie.''

"Not even close,'' Borland said. "No disrespect to Kirk Herbstreit, but it's not even close. He was just looking out for a fellow Daytonian. He's from the next town over.''

Herbstreit is from Centerville, Ohio, while Borland is from Kettering.

Both are Dayton suburbs, and they're about two miles apart.

Another UW player, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, was also nominated for a "Herbie'' in the category of "Best Backyard Player.'' The award went to Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller.

Herbstreit, who turned 53 last Sunday, selected UW tailback Montee Ball as his Player of the Year in the Big Ten. That, too, was trumped by a far greater honor: Ball was elected a Badger captain.

"That's very important, very important,'' Ball said. "It shows how much respect the team has for you, and it's an honor and a blessing that they nominated me. I'm not going to let them down.''

While deliberating over whether he should enter the NFL draft or return for his senior year, Ball reminded himself that "it was always a dream of mine to be a captain of a Division I program.''

But did he wonder how his off-the-field incidents might now factor into the voting for captain?

"It was in the back of my mind,'' he said. "But I shouldn't have thought that way because of the team we have. They're a bunch of great guys and they've been behind me 100 percent the whole time.''

Borland confirmed as much. "I thought Montee would be a captain,'' he said. "And he deserves it by the way he has worked and the way he conducts himself. He's one of our leaders.''

Joining Ball and Borland as captains are offensive tackle Rick Wagner, center Travis Frederick, linebacker Mike Taylor and safety Shelton Johnson. Borland and Frederick are juniors.

"I voted for Travis and myself during the team vote,'' Borland said. "I felt we were two good guys for the job regardless of our age.

"It's an honor (to be named captain). It's not something that we take lightly here and I certainly don't, either. So it means a lot to me.''

Borland was a captain of his Archbishop Alter High School team as a senior.

"The situation is pretty similar,'' he said. "We've got a lot of guys this year who aren't captains but who are good leaders. It was the same way in high school.

"There are differences (in all six captains). But we all work hard and we treat each other with respect --  from Montee Ball, a Heisman candidate, to the last guy on the roster.''

Borland agreed that Taylor and Wagner are more reticent than the others.

"They're both smart with their words,'' he said. "They're not chatterboxes. When they speak up, it's because something is really important and they say it with conviction. The guys believe in them.

"We all lead by example. There's not a very vocal guy in the group. Montee's probably the most outspoken. Everybody has just worked hard their whole careers; we try to do all the right things.''

Ball was raised in Wentzville, Mo., and was a three-year captain at Timberland High School.

"As a captain, everyone is looking to you when adversity strikes on the field,'' Ball said. "And, of course, adversity is going to strike this season just like it did last season and the season before.

"When it does, I'm going to make sure I show up and be a playmaker.''

Noting the diversity in personalities of the Badgers' captains, Ball said, "We all bring something different to the table. What we have in common is that we show up every day and you know what to expect from us.''

Nobody is shy about expressing their opinion, either.

During Wednesday's practice, for instance, the Badgers were sporting the all-red helmets that they will be wearing for the Big Ten opener at Nebraska. Ball liked them, Borland didn't.

"I actually do like them; they fit comfortably,'' Ball said. "It changes it up a little bit.''

When Borland was asked about the helmets, he smiled and said, "Off the record?''

Shrugging his shoulders, he stressed, "I really don't care. I'd play in a purple helmet.''

Later, he explained, "I'm kind of a traditionalist. I like our jerseys and our helmets the way they are. But it's all good. It's a nice changeup and I think the fans will like them.''

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