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A couple years ago, inspired by the "Make a Wish" campaign, the UW Athletic Department began its own version with "Wish Upon a Badger." A number of different sports have participated, including men's basketball, women's tennis, football and softball (View all "Wish Upon a Badger" videos).
In cooperation with the American Family Children's Hospital on campus, children are given the opportunity to go behind the scenes with their favorite team, meeting the players and coaches, touring the facilities and hanging out at a practice.
On the Friday before facing UTEP, the Badger football team had the opportunity to host James Helmuth. James has been undergoing treatment since August and is a huge football fan, with his favorite player being Montee Ball.
As you can see in the video, James got to spend the day immersed in Badger football, spending some time in Coach Bielema's office then getting a special present from his favorite player.
In addition, OL Josh Oglesby has a physical scheduled with the Washington Redskins and indications are that if he passes that physical, the team will sign him to a free agent deal. Also, LS Kyle Wojta was invited to the Chicago Bears mini-camp in May.
To catch up on all the Badgers moving on to the NFL, check out our 2012 NFL Draft Central page.
We've put together some fascinating notes on the Badgers' NFL Draft success:
* The Badgers were the only team in the country to have at least one player drafted in each of the first six rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft.
* Wisconsin tied for the Big Ten lead and tied for fourth in the country with six players drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. Only Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma had more players picked.
* In the last 14 years (since 1999), Wisconsin has had 12 players picked in the first round of the NFL draft. That is second-best in the Big Ten and tied for 10th-best in the country.
Big Ten First Round Draft Picks Since 1999
1. Ohio State - 20
2. Wisconsin - 12
3. Penn State - 10
4. Michigan - 9
5. Iowa - 6
6. Illinois - 5
Michigan State - 5
8. Nebraska - 4
9. Purdue - 3
10. Minnesota - 2
Northwestern - 2
12. Indiana - 0
Most NFL Draft First Round Picks Since 1999
1. Miami - 27
2. Ohio State - 20
3. USC - 19
4. Florida State - 15
Texas - 15
Florida - 15
7. Alabama - 14
Georgia - 14
9. Tennessee - 13
10. Wisconsin - 12
Oklahoma - 12
* UW also has three first-round selections in the past two years, which is tied for third-best in the country.
NFL Draft First Round Picks last two years
1. Alabama - 8
2. Baylor - 4
3. Wisconsin - 3
LSU - 3
USC - 3
Illinois - 3
* Bucky Brooks from NFL.com has two Badgers (LT Ricky Wagner and RB Montee Ball) listed among his top 20 players eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft. LSU and USC are the only other teams with multiple players in the top 20.
* Wisconsin has had 11 players drafted in the last two years. That is tied for second-best among Big Ten teams and tied for sixth nationally.
Big Ten draft picks last two years
1. Iowa - 12
2. Wisconsin - 11
Nebraska - 11
4. Ohio State - 9
5. Illinois - 8
Michigan State - 8
7. Penn State - 6
8. Michigan - 5
9. Purdue - 3
10. Northwestern - 2
Indiana - 2
12. Minnesota - 0
Most Draft Picks by School last two years
1. Miami - 14
2. Alabama - 13
Georgia - 13
4. Iowa - 12
USC - 12
5. Wisconsin - 11
LSU - 11
Nebraska - 11
North Carolina - 11
Oklahoma - 11
* Of the five Wisconsin offensive linemen who started in the 2010 Rose Bowl, two were drafted in the first round (Gabe Carimi, Bears, 2011 and Kevin Zeitler, Bengals, 2012), one in the second round (Peter Konz, Falcons, 2012) and one in the third round (John Moffitt, Seahawks, 2011). The other starter, Ricky Wagner, enters his senior season as a leading candidate for the Outland Trophy.
* Wisconsin has had five offensive linemen drafted in the last two seasons. That is the most in the country. Georgia is second with four. Among Big Ten teams, no school other than Wisconsin has had more than three o-linemen drafted over the last two years.
* Over the last two years, Wisconsin has had seven players drafted among the first 75 picks. That is tied for second-best in the country, trailing only Alabama (9).
NFL Draft picks among the top 75, last two years
1. Alabama - 9
2. Wisconsin - 7
LSU - 7
Illinois - 7
5. North Carolina - 6
6. California - 5
Clemson - 5
Danny O'Brien participated in a media teleconference on Wednesday following the announcement that he would be attending UW in the fall. There were some audio issues during the teleconference but the majority of it can be heard through the link above.
If reading is more your thing, check out these links:
* UWBadgers.com - Destination determined, O'Brien ready to write next chapter
* ESPN.com - Danny O'Brien talks Wisconsin decision
* ESPN.com - Badgers' recent rise lures Danny O'Brien
* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Quarterback O'Brien chooses to transfer to UW
* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Coach: O'Brien ready for comparisons to Wilson
* Wisconsin State Journal - High school coach says O'Brien chose UW out of love of football
* Wisconsin State Journal - Former Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien to play for Badgers
* Washington Post - Danny O'Brien, Wisconsin seen as good fit from all sides
* Fox Sports Wisconsin - Wilson created high expectations for O'Brien
The official announcement came down today that QB Danny O'Brien is becoming a Badger after starting 17 games at Maryland over the last two years. The above video should give fans an good look at the kind of person, QB and student Danny is. This feature ran prior to the 2011 season opener.
In the final game of the 2010 regular season, O'Brien led Maryland to a 38-31 win over NC State, throwing for 417 yards and four TDs. Badger fans may recognize the NC State QB as well. Lots of highlights in the video above.
Tuesday saw the Badgers don shoulder pads for the first time under sunny skies and warm temps in Camp Randall. The live hitting was kept to a minimum (DB Michael Trotter did get a good lick on WR Chase Hammond during 7-on-7) but the offensive and defensive lines were able to get after each other a little bit.
Thursday will be the final practice before spring break. It will be conducted in full pads in front of about 2500 high school coaches in town for the annual Wisconsin Football Coaches Association clinic.
* ESPN.com - Badgers' Abbrederis ready for top role
* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Smith and Gilbert healing, eager to return to field
* Wisconsin State Journal - Although injured, Jackson taking advantage of early enrollment
* Fox Sports Wisconsin - Southward has gone from athlete to player
* The Badger Herald - Football embraces smooth transitions
First-year WRs coach Zach Azzanni is definitely hands-on, as is shown above. He has no problem jumping in a drill if his guys aren't executing properly, chasing someone down to give a pat on the helmet after a good play or physically moving a player's feet further apart if he doesn't like their stance. He definitely falls under the category of "high energy."
"At the mike position, (Chris) Borland's there. I think Marcus Trotter has popped into that position, and a guy that we're really excited about through two practices, and we got to see them all fall.
"Derek (Watt) has handled that spot, had a great practice on Tuesday. We'll get reps out there with the ones out there today when Chris isn't in there, just really instinctive, makes a lot of nice, just natural football plays that you love to see. So I think he's in there in conjunction with the possibility of maybe Jake Keefer and, obviously, Marcus Trotter."
WR Marquis Mason
"Nobody made a bigger jump, in my opinion, in a certain couple areas from Thursday to (Saturday) as Marquis. I mean, he made a couple nice catches last Thursday, but he's playing the old high school ball with a ball out here. And he's got such big mitts.
"I remember the first (day), at the beginning of practice, we do this thing called pat-and-go. And I just kind of was standing there. I was watching everybody kind of move around, and all of a sudden this big body ran in front of me. And the ball was behind him, and he just reached back with this left hand, caught it in mid-air, did a complete 360 and took off running. Didn't put his other hand on it.
"He's so freaky athletically. He's, basically, a full year removed from the ACL (surgery), and he's a kid that I think had to battle through a lot upstairs as well as with his knee. Those basketball guys ... you've got to take your time with them. And we brought that mentality."Quarterbacks
"Two things, I think, with our quarterbacks. I just want to see that composure in the huddle, being able to communicate, "Hey, this is the verbiage. This is the language." And that's been outstanding. I think both of them, even the players around them, have noticed that right away going into the first practice last Thursday.
"And then the second thing is just post-snap reads and reactions. Obviously if we're running a run play, there's not much to it. They know where it's going. They know how to hand it off and let everything else happen. We'll do some adjustments at the line of scrimmage, whether it's going right or left like we've always done.
"But in the passing game, being able to recognize pre-snap what the coverage is, being able to execute post-snap (with) decision making, and both of them have been outstanding. I believe we're looking at over a 70-percent completion percentage through two practices, which we've never been at that level with those kind of quarterbacks at this point through two practices, so it's been pretty amazing to me."
* UWBadgers.com - Budmayr hopeful patience will pay off with return to field
* Madison.com - Chemistry between Canada, Hammock dates to Northern Illinois days
* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Injured UW quarterback Phillips slowly making his way back onto field
* ESPN.com - Ultimate Big Ten 2012 road trip: Week 5
Coach Bielema likes to say that at Wisconsin, we play 'American football." What he means is a physical style with an emphasis on toughness. The first two days of spring practice, he concedes, can be a little frustrating for players and coaches alike because the NCAA mandates the practice sessions be conducted in helmets only, no pads.
The good news is that on Tuesday, the Badgers will don shoulder pads for the first time since the 2012 Rose Bowl. While the practice won't feature live tackling, the intensity will be ratcheted up, especially along the offensive and defensive lines.
That's not to say the first two practices are meaningless. Especially for a team that had to replace six assistant coaches. Also, with a number of returning starters on the shelf for parts or all of the spring combined with the natural turnover in college football, every rep is important in the development of the inexperienced players.
Along those lines, there were a couple players that caught my eye in today's practice, held in the morning and outside under cool and cloudy skies. With no pads and absolutely no hitting, the defense is at a definite disadvantage the first two days. Also, the offensive and defensive lines are tough to judge when they are really just engaging in hand-to-hand combat. So these initial observations are limited to skill players.
Tight end has been a position that has flourished in recent seasons at Wisconsin and even with a new offensive coordinator in Matt Canada, it doesn't look like that will change. Coach Bielema has said that Jacob Pedersen may see more time in an H-back role, leaving an open position for a tight end along the line. Brock DeCicco, a junior transfer from Pitt who spent last year sitting out and on the scout team, looked good today, catching a number of balls over the middle.
Another position of strenght for the Badgers is running back. Everyone knows about Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball and 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White. But a guy a lot of people were excited about during fall camp last year was Melvin Gordon. He saw some time early in his true freshman season but struggled with a groin injury the kept him out of the majority of the season. Today he looked fast and shifty in a some 11-on-11 periods, proving he is 100 percent healthy.
One position where there are some questions marks is at wide receiver. While Jared Abbrederis will be back after his tremendous sophomore season, he is sitting out while rehabbing a foot injury. Jeff Duckworth saw his role increase as last year wore on but behind him, there's not a whole lot of experience. Redshirt sophomore Chase Hammond has a great WR body (6-5, 212 pounds) but has been plagued by injury. During today's practice, he flashed some of his potential, using his long frame to go get a couple balls and showing some speed after the catch in 7-on-7.