Redshirt freshman Nate Hammon has moved around a lot in his football career. A star quarterback at Milton (Wis.) High School, he moved to receiver his first year at Wisconsin before switching to safety prior to this season. The move is paying dividends, though, as Hammon -- who has 15 tackles and a sack this season -- has quickly become a stalwart in the Badgers' 3-4 defense and made his first career start last weekend against BYU.
What has been the most difficult part of transitioning from offense to defense?
"Tackling has definitely been the biggest thing. Growing up not tackling much and then getting thrown in to tackling in college football takes a lot of reps. You can do all the tackling drills you want, but until you actually get thrown out into a game situation you can't truly get the hang of it."
What have been the keys to your successful transition?
"I'm trying to be more confident and less timid. In the spring I was really timid and, as a result, missed a lot of tackles. I wasn't as physical as I needed to be and was thinking about everything way too much. I had to make everything a lot more natural, become more physical and play with more anger, as Coach (Bill) Busch would say."
Did you expect to be seeing the field this much so early in your career?
"No. After being a receiver last year, I didn't think I would see the field much. I even told my parents this year that if I even made the travel squad I'd be happy. I was just going to keep working and keep grinding. My initial goal was to make special teams, and I did that, so then I set the goal to see the field on defense. I learned from Dez (Southward), Mike (Caputo) and (Michael) Trotter and tried to work my way up."
You were used in single coverage assignments against BYU. Is that a role you welcome?
"I'm definitely comfortable doing that. I've been taking a lot of coaching from Coach Busch. Last week was the first time that I've ever gone against receivers, so that was a big change. It's a little bit harder because you're matching up with smaller and shiftier players and, if they get by you, it's harder to catch up compared to covering tight ends."
What have you shown the coaches that has you rapidly moving up the depth chart?
"I honestly don't know (laughs). I try my hardest to show what I can do in practice. Coach Busch likes having taller, longer-armed people covering tight ends, so I think my ability to go one on one against tight ends helped. That was my initial role and, from there, they are giving me bigger and bigger roles in the defense. I embrace anything they ask me to do each week. I'm just blessed to be seeing the field so much this early in my career."
How interchangeable are the OLBs and DBs in the 3-4 defense?
"You've seen Caputo do it and even I have done it a couple times. It's pretty interchangeable. DBs can move down in this defense and, compared to DEs, can play one on one and cover tight ends and slot receivers. It's pretty nice."
- Ryan Evans