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Scott Tolzien has derived a synergy from the symmetry in his full-circle journey.
That has encompassed his ride from scout team quarterback to Rose Bowl quarterback for the Badgers -- to free agent quarterback to scout team quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
Tolzien is still the sum of his parts -- he is who we think he is -- except on those weeks when he has been role-playing and been assigned to be somebody else for the benefit of the No. 1 defense.
Last week, he was New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
This week, he has been New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Truth is, he was hoping for a "discount double-check" and a chance to be Aaron Rodgers.
"At one point, I was thinking, 'Holy smokes, we might be playing at Lambeau Field,''' Tolzien said. "I grew up a Packer fan and as a little kid I dreamed about playing at Lambeau.
"But all you have to do is be the better team on that given day in the playoffs, and the Giants played a cleaner game than the Packers last Sunday.''
What are the odds that Tolzien would get this shot -- a shot to be himself, Scott Tolzien, the undrafted, free agent quarterback out of Wisconsin -- with the 49ers in the NFC championship game?
"It has been a roller coaster,'' he said. "But let me put it this way, if I were to sit here today and tell you I would have known it was going to turn out like this, I would have thought, 'Hogwash.'''
That's how improbable his journey has been dating all the way back to the NFL scouting combine in February, when he was invited to be one of the "throwing quarterbacks.''
In addition to taking part in his own workouts over the three days, he stayed in Indianapolis for the entire week and threw for the other position groups: wide receivers, running backs, etc.
The other "throwing QBs" were Fresno State's Ryan Colburn and North Carolina's T.J. Yates.
Yes, that T.J. Yates, a fifth-round draft pick, who wound up taking the Houston Texans to the playoffs because of injuries to starting quarterback Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart.
"We got real tight throughout that week (in Indy),'' Tolzien said of his friendship with Yates. "We were kind of in each other's shadow even sitting on the bench together. He's a great guy.''
Tolzien and Yates have stayed in touch throughout the season. In fact, before Schaub and Leinart were sidelined, Yates was serving as a scout team receiver because the Texans were short bodies.
Tolzien has had plenty to text about from his end, too. When the free agency period opened, he was contacted by eight teams. His final two choices were San Francisco and San Diego.
Since the 49ers drafted a quarterback in the second round -- Nevada's Colin Kaepernick -- Tolizen ended up "signing in the final hour'' with the Chargers, who did not select a quarterback in the draft.
"I remember going from sitting in my house (in Rolling Meadows, Ill.),'' Tolzien said, "to being on the practice field in the Chargers' huddle the next day. It was just me and Philip (Rivers).''
That's because San Diego's backup quarterback, Billy Volek, wasn't in training camp yet. That afforded Tolzien a tremendous learning opportunity under Rivers and head coach Norv Turner.
"I got to play a lot in the preseason because they knew what they were getting from Philip and Billy was also a veteran,'' Tolzien said. "It was really a fascinating and awesome experience.''
Tolzien saved his best for last -- the last preseason game -- completing 16-of-23 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown. "We were throwing it all over the place, it was a blast,'' he said.
The next day, he was summoned to Turner's office. "He told me, 'I thought I knew what I was getting from you based on your senior tape, but you blew away my expectations,''' Tolzien related.
Then he cut to the chase.
Because of some grave concerns over special teams, and the time-honored "numbers'' game, Turner said, "We have to take a chance and put you on waivers and hope that nobody picks you up.''
Tolzien was released on a Saturday and claimed on a Sunday by the team that he had faced in the final preseason game -- and his second choice from the very beginning -- the San Francisco 49ers.
Tolzien had a lot of people in the 49ers organization on his side, including San Francisco quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, the brother of Wisconsin's then-offensive coordinator, Paul Chryst.
As the No. 3 quarterback, Tolzien has split the snaps on the scout team with Kaepernick while continuing his pro education under the wing of Alex Smith, the former No. 1 pick overall.
"On game days, you basically try to live vicariously through the starter,'' Tolzien said. "We have a wristband system, so I have a headset on and an earpiece so I can hear the play call.
"Our whole system is based on checks, especially the run game. So we're looking at the pictures together on the sidelines (all three quarterbacks) and trying to figure the whole thing out.''
Tolzien has always been a player who "gets it.'' Nothing has changed in that respect.
"You just try to have big ears every day,'' he said. "You don't have to say much. You just take it all in.''
Right now, he's savoring the moment; savoring being Scott Tolzien, not someone else.
That's not hogwash, either.
Beauty is surely in the shooting eye of the beholder.
Especially if he bescoring the basketball he beholding.
"That's a simple way to put it," conceded UW guard Josh Gasser.
"Every time the ball goes in the hoop it makes you look a little better."
A little better?
"When the ball is going in the hoop," Jordan Taylor said, "everything looks A LOT better."
During the recent three-game losing streak, the Badgers couldn't get anything in the hoop.
They shot .333 from the field (58-of-174) and .214 from beyond the 3-point arc (15-of-70).
At Purdue, the Badgers hit 19-of-40 shots (.475), including 9-of-20 (.450) from 3-point distance.
"We got some good looks and we knocked them down," Gasser explained. "The last couple of games we struggled up to the first media timeout. A fast start was a priority for us.
"Jared (Berggren) and Mike (Bruesewitz) hit one early," Ben Brust added. "And that helped us gain some confidence; especially on the road at Purdue, a tough place to play."
Taylor echoed, "This is a tough place to play for anybody."
The Boilermakers had won 26 straight games in Mackey Arena before the Badgers snapped that streak with a 67-62 victory Thursday night. It had been the fifth-longest active streak in the nation.
Kentucky and Duke have each won 44 straight games on their home floor. Ohio State has won 32 in a row. Notre Dame just had its 29-game home winning streak snapped by UConn.
Good things tend to comes in "3s" for the Badgers - offense and wins at Mackey.
Since the arena opened in 1967, the UW has now won three times in 40 games.
Bo Ryan has two of those victories.
On Jan. 5, 2005, Zach Morley scored 22 points in Wisconsin's 77-68 win at Purdue.
That snapped the UW's 29-game losing streak in West Lafayette.
As a team, the Badgers were 14-of-22 (.636) from beyond the arc that night. Morley was 6-of-8.
Sharif Chambliss, who is now the video coordinator, had 16 points and six assists.
Morley, Chambliss, Alando Tucker, Mike Wilkinson and Clayton Hanson were the starters.
Those Badgers made a deep run in the NCAA tournament - all the way to the Elite Eight.
Brust shrugged when asked if he was aware of Wisconsin's history in Mackey Arena.
"The rims are 10 feet," he said. "The court is the same length.
"All you've got to do is just play basketball."
Playing with high energy and intensity from the start of each half was an emphasis, though.
"I don't think it should take a three-game losing streak to get that kind of energy from all of us," Taylor allowed. "But we played the way coach has preached. It shows that he knows what he's doing."
Most of Ryan's sermons are about fundamental basketball skills and principles.
"We moved pretty well without the ball," Gasser said. "We made hard cuts to the rim and it opened up other players. It makes shooting a little easier when you have that extra space."
The Badgers finished with five players in double-figures.
They also had three players with five rebounds each and two with four each.
Everybody who played in the game found a way to make a meaningful contribution.
"That's one of the best team wins I've ever been part of here," said Taylor, a UW senior.
Brust was asked Thursday if the Badgers can sustain their momentum against Nebraska.
He looked puzzled.
"I don't know who we have next (on the schedule)," he said, sounding like his head coach. "But I look forward to getting ready for them because the next one is the most important one."
One last note: if you're waiting for Bruesewitz to grow out his hair, forget about it.
"My hair is staying short this year," he stressed.
"Plus, I'm not a Chia Pet. I can't just put water on it and it grows within a week.
"It was a fun thing last year and I might bring it back next year. We'll see."
Bruesewitz was sporting some stubble at Purdue.
"I'm trying the chin thing out," he said.
After going 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, his chin was up, too.
Energy was the topic.
Mike Bruesewitz was the subject.
Greg Gard was the narrator.
"The one thing that we've noticed over the last two or three games is that Mike is starting to get back to being that Energizer Bunny,'' said Gard, Wisconsin's associate head coach.
"That's what made him who he was last season and what fans loved about him. If he's flying around and bringing energy and making things happen then the offense will flow from it.
"That was the whole point when we were recruiting him -- that's what we saw. He was everywhere on the court. He made things happen. He was skilled, rebounded and scored.
"He played with a lot of heart and energy. That has to be his game.''
Bruesewitz was on top of his game Thursday night at Purdue, helping trigger a 22-4 opening run against the Boilermakers by knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.
"We came out with a lot of energy,'' Jordan Taylor said.
"Mike hit some big shots,'' Ben Brust said.
In this context, Bruesewitz deserves some of the credit for setting the tempo in Wisconsin's 67-62 victory, which snapped Purdue's 26-game home winning streak, the sixth longest in the nation.
In his own mind, he was ready to pull the trigger.
"That was my mindset,'' said Bruesewitz after scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the beyond the 3-point arc. "If I got an open shot, I was going to shoot it with confidence and knock it down."
To such an extent that he even banked his second triple off the glass.
"I called it, too, look at the tape,'' said Bruesewitz, who had been shooting 33 percent from distance. "I didn't smirk or anything. As soon as it left my hand I knew it was going in.''
Mackey Arena, which opened during the 1967-68 season, has been a House of Pain for the Badgers, who had won there only twice previously (1972 and 2005).
Bringing the energy was a Bruesewitz priority.
"We needed to be excited to play and we needed to get off to a fast start,'' he said. "You have to bring your own energy on the road. It's you against the world.
"The way you get energy there is through silence -- silence is your motivation. You want to try to silence the crowd as much as possible and get the fans to sit on their hands.''
In addition to his 12 points -- the most that he has scored since Thanksgiving weekend when he had 13 against BYU -- Bruesewitz also had five timely defensive rebounds against the Boilers.
"He has become a more active rebounder lately,'' Gard said. "Whether or not he's getting the rebound, he's also keeping the ball alive so somebody else can secure it.''
Bruesewitz, who contributed defensively to Robbie Hummel's poor shooting night (13 points on 5-of-17 field goal attempts), put his own game plan for the Boilermakers into focus.
"We've got to climb back on the horse, get back after it and right the ship,'' he said.
If you're keeping score at home, that's three clichés in one sentence.
Invited to use whatever trite phrases or bromides were warranted, Bruesewitz grinned and confided that he was well-versed and stocked on clichés thanks to the movie, "Bull Durham.''
"That's where I got all my media training,'' he said.
With all due respect to Crash Davis, then, you could say Bruesewitz believes there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf, the designated hitter and losing streaks.
"I hate losing,'' he stressed on the heels of the UW's three-game losing skid.
That's understandable since Bruesewitz has had so little experience with it. The last time the Badgers were mired in a "significant'' losing streak, he was a senior at Sibley High in St. Paul, Minn.
("Significant'' translating to more than two in a row.)
That was during the 2008-09 season when the UW lost six straight Big Ten games. Despite the ignominious stretch, Wisconsin still made the NCAA tournament and won its first round game.
"Nobody had really experienced what we were going through,'' Bruesewitz said, "other than the seniors and the redshirt juniors. We lost one game at home my first two years here.''
After Michigan saddled the Badgers with their third consecutive defeat -- a streak including back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan State at the Kohl Center -- Bruesewitz took charge.
When the team got back from Ann Arbor early last Sunday evening, he suggested that everyone get together for a "bonding'' session and a "late night breakfast.'' So they huddled at Perkins Restaurant.
"We really didn't discuss basketball,'' Bruesewitz said. "Nobody gave any big speeches.''
The players just hung out together.
"We just wanted to change things up,'' he said. "It was a team event.''
It was important to point out that nobody had accepted losing. On the contrary, Bruesewitz said, "We were definitely disappointed'' with the 1-3 start in the Big Ten. That topic had been broached.
"We talked a lot about it in the locker room,'' Bruesewitz said. "We've got good leaders on this team. We don't have guys sitting there with their heads in their hands.''
Nobody was feeling sorry for themselves, he added. And there was an urgency to turn the season around, which the Badgers may have done with their rare victory in West Lafayette.
"Winning is a good deodorant,'' he said. "Trust me, it's a good deodorant for a lot of things.''
Prodded to critique his own play, Bruesewitz said, "I think I've underachieved. I feel like I should be more consistent offensively. But I'm not trying to force shots, I'm not trying to do too much.''
This is where he reached for the "quicksand'' cliché.
"The harder you try, the more you bury yourself,'' he explained. "I'm trying to let things come to me. I've been working on my jump shot and finishing around the rim.
"Luckily there's more than just shooting and scoring in the game of basketball. I feel like I've done a good job rebounding, and I've tried to bring as much energy as possible to the team defensively.''
Bruesewitz admitted that he tends to be tougher on himself than others.
"You know the cliché, it's the old lawyer's model,'' he said. "If you get everything you asked for, you didn't ask for enough. I kind of ask a lot out of myself and I haven't quite gotten there yet.''
But he's working on it. So are his UW teammates. "Everybody in our locker room,'' he said, "feels like we're a better team than we've shown most of the year.''
And they went out and proved it Thursday at Mackey Arena.
UW center Peter Konz was more "curious'' than "anxious'' about his scheduled doctor's appointment Thursday with a foot and ankle specialist in Charlotte, N.C.
Konz has missed three games since dislocating his ankle Nov. 12 at Minnesota. While he was able to take some "positive steps'' during Tuesday's practice, he wants to know the skinny on his injury.
That's why he's getting a second opinion from Dr. Robert Anderson, who has been a consultant to a number of professional baseball, basketball and football teams, including the Green Bay Packers.
Anderson attended the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee -- hence his Cheesehead connection -- and has served as an assistant team physician for the NFL's Carolina Panthers.
He's also a founding member of the Foot & Ankle Institute at OrthoCarolina.
Put it this way -- Konz's way -- his ankle will be in good hands.
"He's a specialist so he's going to be able to tell me things from his experiences,'' Konz said. "He's going to tell me whether I can strengthen my ankle or if I'll need surgery.
"He's going to tell me if it's good to be practicing on my ankle -- that type of thing -- and if I do have to have surgery maybe it doesn't have to happen until after the season, so I'll be good to go.''
Konz added, "He'll help me make a decision.''
He then stressed, "I want to make sure I'm not doing anything to worsen my condition.''
In his heart, does Konz believe that he will be playing in the Rose Bowl?
"In my heart, yes,'' he said. "But I definitely have to be as healthy as I can.''
That relates to his potential effectiveness against an opponent like Oregon.
"If I'm not healthy,'' he said, "I'm not going to do anything (to help the offense).''
Konz took part in Wednesday's practice at the McClain Center, though his work to this point has been limited to individual drills on a weighted sled and conditioning.
Before leaving for Carolina, he has a final exam in "Wildlife Diseases'' which is an elective. "And a much more interesting class than I thought it would be,'' he said. "We have a lot of guest lecturers.''
The topics range from avian botulism to rabies.
Konz loves thinking outside of the box (not just the tackle box, either).
"That's what I do,'' he said. "I want to take the unbeaten path because there are a lot of great classes here that I don't think a lot of people explore just because they don't know much about them.''
Konz can understand the reservations that some of his teammates may have.
"Especially during the football season because you don't want to go out on the limb,'' he said. "What if this class is really hard? What if the professor won't work with my schedule?''
That's critical in terms of balancing a commitment to academics and athletics.
Each semester, Konz will check out available electives -- "I want to make sure it fits with my electives and everything I need to graduate'' -- and he will opt for what sounds interesting.
"If I'm interested in something,'' he said, "then I'm likely to do better in it.''
A couple of years ago, Konz recalled, "I said to myself, 'I want to read some classics.' So I took a class on Dante's Devine Comedy.''
How many All-American offensive centers can quote from Dante Alighieri's epic poem?
This might even leave Mel Kiper Jr. speechless.
"This year,'' Konz went on, "I said to myself, 'I want to be a little more religious.' I wanted to explore that side of myself so I took a class on early Christian religion.''
Konz has also taken a course on "Japanese art'' because "I really enjoyed my Roman art class -- I just love Italian culture being an Italian myself.''
When asked if he minded being labeled "eclectic'' he responded, "I do like that word actually.''
When reminded that jocks tend to be stereotyped, he laughed.
"I agree. It's easy to fit into a stereotype,'' he said.
At that moment, the post-Tuesday practice interview session was interrupted when the UW drums corps -- which had taken over the McClain facility -- began playing.
If ever there was anyone who marches to a different ...
Konz laughed again.
There were some "anxious'' moments for Jon Leuer -- the 12th-leading scorer in school history -- while Wisconsin was holding off Milwaukee, 60-54, on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Arena.
Seated behind the UW bench, Leuer was anxious to see his former team in action. "This is my first experience watching the Badgers live; I never saw them when I was in high school,'' Leuer said,
Recruited out of Orono, Minn., it was a long commute to the Kohl Center. But he never regretted his choice. "I learned a lot from coach (Bo) Ryan on how to be disciplined,'' he said.
It's a much shorter commute -- on N. 4th Street -- between The Cell and the Bradley Center. While enjoying the reunion with his old teammates, Leuer was anxious to join the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I'm just waiting for my contract in Germany to clear FIBA (the International Basketball Federation),'' said Leuer, a second-round selection (40th overall) of the Bucks in the June draft.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the NBA lockout, Leuer signed in early August with a German professional team -- Skyliners Frankfurt -- in the Basketball Bundesliga.
His agent, Mark Bartelstein, made sure that there was an opt-out clause in his contract so that Leuer could return to the states once the labor dispute was resolved and the lockout was ended.
"It was looking gloomy for awhile,'' Leuer admitted of the negotiations which threatened to cancel the entire season. "But my agent kept me informed of what was going on the whole time.''
On Nov. 26, the NBA and the NBA Players Association reached a tentative agreement. On Dec. 8, the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified. On Dec. 9, the NBA training camps opened.
On Dec. 15, Leuer signed a two-year deal with the Bucks and practiced for the first time.
"The first 10 minutes I think I was a little nervous -- just kind of the 'Wow' factor, your first NBA practice,'' Leuer said. "But after that it was just basketball. I settled in and I just played the game.''
Bucks coach Scott Skiles was impressed with what he saw out of Leuer. Speaking to the local media corps following the workout, he said, "He's a smart player; he's got good defensive instincts.''
Skiles didn't sound surprised, either.
"Obviously playing where he did in college (Wisconsin) he has been well-coached,'' he said. "Watching his team in Frankfurt, you can tell that they were well-prepared; the coach did a good job.
"Coupled with (the fact) he's a smart player anyway, you wouldn't have been able to watch practice today and pick him out as the guy who just showed up. He got involved with everything.''
After missing the team's first six practices, Leuer does not have any personal timetable. "Right now the only thing I'm focused on is working hard in practice and trying to earn minutes,'' he said.
Leuer does have a reference point for development. As a true freshman, he appeared in 32 games for the Badgers. He had an auspicious Big Ten debut with 25 points at Michigan.
For the most part, though, he was anchored to the bench and got limited playing time. Especially during the final two months of the conference season.
"I know it's tough for a rookie (in the NBA) but it was the same thing I faced as a freshman,'' he said. "Nothing is given to you -- you have to earn you minutes. That's the same mentality I have now.''
Leuer believes that his exposure to pro basketball in Germany will help his transition with the Bucks. "I definitely got better playing with a 24-second clock,'' Leuer said.
There was a "home away from home'' feel to Skyliners Frankfurt, too. One of his teammates was former Northwestern guard Michael (Juice) Thompson. "It was good to have a connection,'' Leuer said.
Leuer played in 10 games and averaged 15 points and eight rebounds in the German League. Justin Gray (Wake Forest) and Jermareo Davidson (Alabama) were also on the Frankfurt roster.
"It was definitely good competition,'' Leuer said. "I'm glad that I went over there because I got to play against other professionals.
"You're playing in a system against other teams that are trying to work their own systems and you're not going to get that in open gyms.
"It was not only a good experience from the basketball aspect, but I learned about being a professional athlete. It's like, 'This is your job and this is all you have to work on -- your game.'''
Besides growing out his hair, Leuer has added some weight to his 6-foot-10 frame. "I'm a few pounds heavier,'' he said. "It's something that I've wanted to improve on -- getting a little stronger.''
Although the Bucks signed free agent Mike Dunleavy Jr. -- the 31-year-old former Duke star -- Leuer wasn't sure how the 6-9 Dunleavy's presence would impact his status, if at all.
Dunleavy is expected to be utilized as a back-up shooting guard and small forward. Leuer recognizes that he can't worry about how the pieces are going to fit into the Bucks' puzzle.
All he can control is how he works and practices.
"I feel like I can come in and knock down some shots and space the floor out,'' Leuer said. "It's a good situation and I'm glad to stay in Wisconsin. The fans have been great to me.''
After his first practice, he admitted, "Ultimately, this is where I really wanted to be. It's been my dream ever since I was a little kid to play in the NBA, so I didn't want to let this opportunity slip away."
UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock has been around Montee Ball every day since the start of practice in August. But he had no idea that he was working with the "player to be named later.''
"I did not know that,'' Hammock said.
Neither did Ball's head coach, Bret Bielema, who has been around the Heisman Trophy finalist every day since Ball arrived on the Madison campus in 2009.
"I thought the two e's at the end of his first name were unique,'' he conceded. "But he never said one word to me about it. I've called him Mon-TAY once in awhile when I'm joking around.''
Ball has revealed his first name is pronounced Mon-TAY. But since elementary school, everyone has called him Mon-TEE, so he never bothered to correct them or add the accent over one of the e's.
"How about Mon-TAY,'' Bielema teased during Friday night's football awards dinner at Union South. "He gets invited to the Heisman, so he skips the banquet and he changes his name.''
Even though Ball was in New York City, he was with his teammates in spirit. Along with quarterback Russell Wilson, Ball shared the Most Valuable Player award on offense for the Badgers.
"It's unbelievable the ownership that he took of his situation,'' UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said of Ball, who didn't even play in the 2010 win over then No. 1-ranked Ohio State.
"He's unlike any other guy I've been around as far as self-assessing his situation and being pro-active in doing something about it. It's one of the neater stories that I've been around.''
Bielema, Hammock and former UW tailback Ron Dayne, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, will fly to New York following Saturday's practice and attend the televised presentation in Manhattan.
"It's a tribute to Montee Ball and everything that he has put into it -- all of his hard work and dedication,'' Hammock said. "He has been a model and a leader for the younger running backs.
"Hard work pays off.''
Added Chryst, "It's something that our whole team can take pride in. It's as much of a team award as anything. But it's awesome for Montee. He deserves everything he's getting and more.''
Chryst also had some kind words for Wilson.
"The greatest compliment that you can give someone is that when you go to a place, you leave it in a better situation, you make it a better place,'' Chryst said.
"What a great statement. If you can do that by making the people around you better people, you are truly something special. We all knew how fortunate we were to have Russell join us.
"But it doesn't just happen if you don't have a tremendous group of guys that took him in. Everyone can take ownership and pride.
"You wrote a heckuva story, Russell.
"I appreciate being a part of it.''
Wilson was most gracious in accepting the co-offensive MVP award.
"I couldn't do it without the offensive line and the rest of the guys on the team who worked their butts off every single day to be great,'' Wilson said.
"When I first came here, my first meeting with the team, I told them that I wanted us to be special, and we have a chance to do that. We are special, but we have one more huge game to win.''
The co-MVPs on defense were linebacker Mike Taylor and cornerback Antonio Fenelus.
A number of players were honored, including Josh Oglesby, Kevin Claxton, Aaron Henry, Kevin Zeitler, Patrick Butrym, Nick Toon, Bradie Ewing, Andrew Lukasko, Jake Byrne, and Brad Nortman.
Although they didn't receive any awards, Bielema also singled out four seniors -- Adam Hampton, Louis Nzegwu, Kyle Wojta and Nate Tice -- for their contributions to the program.
Linebacker Derek Landsich was the Newcomer of the Year. Offensive lineman Tyler Marz and defensive end James Adeyanju were the Scout Team Players of the Year.
All are freshmen. Marz and Adeyanju are redshirting.
"I knew who were going to get the awards tonight,'' Bielema said. "And a certain freshman pops out to me because he doesn't have a tie on.
"We have 120 guys in the room and 119 have ties. One doesn't, and he's going to get an award.
"So I ask him, 'How far away do you live?'
"He says, 'Ogg Hall.'
"I said, 'Get running.'
"I guarantee you for those three or four blocks James Adeyanju wasn't saying pleasant things about his head coach.
"But in the end everything matters -- every detail, every day -- everything matters from the way you present yourself to the way you prepare yourself to the way you play on Saturday.
"It makes a difference. I think our senior class will attest to that.''
At the end of the program, Bielema challenged his players, "Let's finish it. Let's go out there with a task in mind and finish this thing (in the Rose Bowl) like we need to.''
2011 Wisconsin Football Awards Winners
Rookie of the Year
Scout Team Player of the Year
Tyler Marz (offense), James Adeyanju (defense)
Presented annually to the players who excelled on the scout team in preparing the Badgers for each week's game.
Ivan B. Williamson Scholastic Award
Presented annually to a player who has been exemplary in the area of scholarship and sportsmanship. The award is given in memory of Williamson, a former Wisconsin football coach (1949-55) and athletics director (1955-69).
Badger Power Award
Jake Bryne and Andrew Lukasko
Presented annually to the player that consistently performs at a high level in all aspects of the Strength and Conditioning program, one that has a great work ethic coupled with a positive attitude that garners the respect of teammates, is dependable, buys into the program and shows constant improvement.
Wayne Souza Coaches' Appreciation Award (Offense)
Josh Oglesby and Nick Toon
Presented annually to the offensive football player who has contributed to the team's success to the best of his abilities. It is based upon improvement, attitude and willingness to help the program in all areas. The award is given in memory of Souza, a UW football letter winner (1977-78).
Jay Seiler Coaches' Appreciation Award (Defense)
Aaron Henry and Kevin Claxton
Presented annually to the defensive football player who has contributed to the team's success to the best of his abilities. It is based upon improvement, attitude, and willingness to help the program in all areas. The award is given in memory of Seiler, a former player.
Tom Wiesner Award
Kevin Zeitler and Patrick Butrym
Presented annually to a Wisconsin-born student-athlete whose loyalty, hard work, spirit and dedication are unselfishly directed to the success of the Badger football team. The award is given in memory of Wiesner, a Wisconsin football letter winner (1958-60).
Special Teams Award
Presented annually to the most valuable player on the special teams as selected by the coaching staff.
The Captains' Cup
Presented annually to an individual, other than a player or coach, who has shown tremendous dedication and unselfish commitment toward the betterment of the football program. The recipient is selected by the head coach and team captains.
Most Valuable Player
Montee Ball and Russell Wilson (offense), Antonio Fenelus and Mike Taylor (defense)
Presented annually to an offensive and defensive player who were most instrumental to the success of the football team.
Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has some history with championship games. Indirectly, he also has some history with the infamous Sports Illustrated
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.
When Marcus Cromartie was informed of the number, he did a double-take.
The number was 24.
Shaking his head, the Wisconsin cornerback conceded, "Wow, I honestly didn't know that.''
Cromartie paused to reflect on the number before continuing.
"I just know that he's in there a lot,'' he finally said.
"In there'' is the end zone.
Montee Ball has been "in there'' a lot -- 24 times through nine games.
That matches the school record set by tailback Brian Calhoun in 2005. For perspective, Ron Dayne had 21 touchdowns in 1996 and 20 in '99 -- the year that he won the Heisman Trophy.
Ball is two touchdowns shy of the Big Ten record which is shared by three prominent former running backs: Ohio State's Pete Johnson, Indiana's Anthony Thompson and Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter.
(Note: In 2006, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan threw for 58 touchdowns, the NCAA record. In 1988, Oklahoma State tailback Barry Sanders had 39 touchdowns in 11 games.)
"Whenever I'm sitting on the bench and getting a breather or the coaches are talking to us about some adjustments,'' Cromartie said, ''when I hear, 'Touchdown' I know it's Montee.
"He just has a knack for the end zone.''
Having a "nose for the end zone or the goal line'' is an old sports cliché. But it would seem to be a fair assessment on how Ball has accounted for 46 touchdowns in 30 career games (13 starts).
"I'm surprised Montee doesn't have more touchdowns; he's extremely talented,'' said quarterback Russell Wilson. "You notice that on the practice field and in the film room.
"He always wants the ball in his hands and that's a great thing to have in terms of a running back that can make big time plays when things aren't necessarily always there.''
When UW coach Bret Bielema was an assistant at Kansas State, he came to appreciate the running talents and work habits of Darren Sproles. Ball has reminded Bielema of Sproles.
"I loved the kid (Sproles) and his competitive nature and I knew he'd have success,'' Bielema said. "It reminds me a lot of Montee's personality; just the vibe that he can give an entire team.''
Ball has definitely shown a presence in the red zone; dating to the late game-winning touchdown that he scored at Iowa last season. That gave him a huge confidence boost.
"I think he does know where he's at on the field,'' said UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock. "What I've tried to explain to him is if it's third-and-short it should be the same mentality.
"That's something that he has to continue to work on. We're third-and-short (in the first half) at Ohio State and we don't get it. If that was a goal line, would he have scored?
"That's how you have to have the same sense of urgency every time you carry the ball.''
In practice, Ball will "run out'' every run. Bielema remembered hearing how the late Walter Payton programmed himself to finish every run by running an extra 40 yards in drills.
Payton preached running with long strides and extended legs.
"The coaches have stressed with Montee,'' Cromartie said, "to keep running through to the end zone even if he gets tapped after a five yard gain in practice.
"That carries over to games. You want to get into the habit of running through things.''
In non-tackling drills, the tap from a defensive player signifies that the runner is down.
"I truly believe what you do in practice you do in a game,'' Hammock said. "You look at the Purdue game, he made a couple of guys miss at the second level and was running physical.
"He was also finishing runs, which is something that he has to continue to do. It's a week-by-week thing. Some weeks may not be as good as others.''
Cromartie can relate to that last point. After enduring some rough moments at Michigan State and Ohio State, he had one of his better all-around games against the Boilermakers last Saturday.
Cromartie subscribes to an old John Wooden quote:
"Success is never final and failure is never fatal.''
Wooden had a way with words.
"You have to go through hard times,'' Cromartie said, "and you will see good times at the end of the road. Part of football is having good days and bad days, the ups and the downs.
"As long as you keep competing, you're going to be OK in the end.''
On successive defensive possessions against the Boilermakers, Cromartie attacked the ball aggressively and broke up passes to wide receivers that could have kept the drives alive.
Along the Purdue sidelines, coaches and players were chirping for pass interference.
There were no flags.
"A lot of times they're trying to take the physicality out of football,'' Cromartie said. "But I was looking for the ball, I was going for the ball and I was trying to make a play on the ball.''
Opposing defenses have taken the same steps on the Ball with little success -- Montee Ball.
"I'm happy to see him do well after everything he went through last year,'' Cromartie said.
"Saturday is the reward for all the hard work that he has put in,'' said Hammock.
"The way he's wired has just kind of been special,'' Bielema said.
David Gilbert celebrated his 18th birthday by learning how to fly.
That was 2009; the last time Purdue played Wisconsin in Madison.
Late in the first half, Gilbert, then a true freshman, went airborne and flew over 6-foot-6 Peters Drey -- one of the blockers in the Boilermakers' shield -- and smothered Chris Summers' punt.
Aaron Henry scooped up the ball and ran nine yards for the touchdown. That gave the Badgers a commanding 24-0 lead at halftime. The overwhelmed Boilers never recovered and got skunked 37-0.
Earlier that year, Gilbert had been on the receiving end of punt block when he fell on the ball in the end zone after Chris Borland had leaped over the shield to block a punt against Wofford.
That convincing late October win over Purdue was a turning point in the '09 season for the Badgers, who had lost consecutive games to Ohio State and Iowa before getting back on track.
Wisconsin ended up winning five of its last six, including a bowl victory over Miami (Fla.).
The Badgers are hoping to use the Boilermakers as a springboard again here Saturday.
While Gilbert's punt block was memorable, the game itself was not; it was a rout.
But there have been a handful of memorable games in the Purdue-Wisconsin series.
Here's the short list from Camp Randall Stadium:Nov. 6, 1971
Wisconsin 14, Purdue 10
Trailing 10-7, the Badgers had the ball on the Boilers' 3-yard-line with no timeouts left and 13 seconds remaining in the game.
"It was a real gamble to go with Allan Thompson up the middle,'' said UW coach John Jardine, who knew if the "A-Train" had been stopped there would not be enough time to run another play.
Not to worry. Quarterback Neil Graff, who had success on his option keepers, finally gave the ball to Thompson on the fullback dive and he scored allowing the Badgers to escape with the victory.Nov. 10, 1984
Wisconsin 30, Purdue 13
The Badgers exploded for 551 yards of total offense as tailback Marck Harrison ran for 225 and quarterback Mike Howard threw for 290, offsetting the presence of Purdue's All-American Jim Everett.
"I think that's the best team in the Big Ten,'' said Boilermakers coach Leon Burtnett.
In the end, it was a devastating loss for the Boilermakers - costing them a trip to the Rose Bowl.
In the end, it was the perfect ending for the UW seniors.
"I remember taking the final lap around Camp Randall Stadium,'' said wide receiver Al Toon, reflecting on his final home appearance. "Wearing that uniform was pretty special.''
Toon went out in style, catching seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
The following spring, Toon was one of three UW players taken in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft. Joining Toon were defensive tackle Darryl Sims and defensive back Richard Johnson.
Center Dan Turk, tackles Jeff Dellenbach and Kevin Belcher, tight end Brett Pearson, linebacker Jim Melka, defensive tackle Scott Bergold, tailback Gary Ellerson and corner Ken Stills were also drafted.
That might have been one of the most talent-rich teams ever assembled at Wisconsin.
Yet the '84 Badgers finished with a 7-4-1 record and a loss to Kentucky in the Hall of Fame Bowl.
How do you think that would play today? Exactly.
Oct. 18, 1992
Wisconsin 19, Purdue 16
UW coach Barry Alvarez didn't mince words after a lifeless first half.
"We were extremely flat on both sides of the ball,'' he said.
After falling behind 16-6, the Badgers started the third quarter with a few defensive stops and wound up limiting the Boilermakers to only three first downs and 80 yards over the final 30 minutes.
Backup quarterback Jay Macias, who was forced into action after the starter Darrell Bevell injured his shoulder in the first half, helped spark the rally with some clutch throws to Lee DeRamus.
With 38 seconds remaining, Rich Thompson, a fifth-year senior, kicked a 49-yard field goal for the win. It was his fourth field goal of the game and 15th of the season (15-of-17).
"There was no question when I hit - no question,'' Thompson said.Nov. 2, 1996
Wisconsin 33, Purdue 25
The Badgers had lost by three points to No. 3 Penn State; three points to No. 2 Ohio State and four points to No. 14 Northwestern before getting blown out by 17 points at Michigan State.
Saddled with an 0-4 Big Ten record, they had no margin of error against the Boilers.
That may have explained the urgency in Ron Dayne's play.
Dayne, who had lost a fumble in the closing seconds of the Northwestern loss, gashed Purdue for 244 rushing yards; the most ever by a UW freshman.
Dayne credited his offensive line, which included Aaron Gibson at tight end.
The 378-pound Gibson, a converted offensive tackle, traded his No. 79 for No. 81.
Gibby was a physical freak: 47-inch waist, 33-inch thighs, 20-inch neck.
"I thought the best line of the day,'' Alvarez said, "was when one of the officials came over and told me one of the Purdue kids wanted to know if there was a weight limit on 80 numbers.''Oct. 10, 1998
Wisconsin 31, Purdue 24
The year before, the Boilermakers had embarrassed the Badgers, 45-20, in West Lafayette.
Looking for an edge, Alvarez got one when the kickoff was scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
"It's very hard to execute when the crowd is at a fever pitch,'' Alvarez said.
Tell that to Purdue quarterback Drew Brees who completed 55-of-83 passes for 494 yards.
"We were in the two-minute drill basically the entire game,'' Brees said.
Wide receiver Randall Lane had 18 catches. Moreover, the Boilers had the ball for 103 plays.
But the Badgers limited the damage. Brees longest pass completion was for 21 yards.
Unless, that is, you count Jamar Fletcher's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown.
That was one of five Purdue turnovers and broke a 17-17 tie.
"It was one of the craziest games I ever played in -- ever in my life,'' said Brees.
What made it even crazier was the debut of "Jump Around.''
Previously during the third and fourth quarter exchange, the UW band had struck up, "If you want to be a Badger just come along with me.'' Nice, but soft; not easy to rock to.
On this night, Kevin Kluender, a member of the UW marketing department, dialed up the "House of Pain'' and Jump Around has since become a Camp Randall tradition.
UW men's cross country coach Mick Byrne was paying Ryan Collins a compliment when he put the Virginia transfer in context with one of his former distance runners, Landon Peacock.
A year ago, Peacock won his first individual Big Ten championship while sparking the Badgers to their 12th-consecutive league crown -- which they will be defending Sunday at the University of Illinois Arboretum in Champaign.
"He's not an artist like Landon,'' Byrne said of Collins. "He's not as far out there as Landon was.''
Byrne later clarified his use of the word "artist.''
"I wasn't referring to him being an artist in the sport,'' he said, "as much as I was referring to him in general terms. Landon was a little eccentric. He was a dreamer. He'd get into his own little world.
"He wouldn't mean to. He was trying to focus on the race and he'd be off drawing some landscape in his mind. Maybe that's why he was such a good athlete. It didn't faze him.''
Meanwhile, Byrne said Collins brings a "certain amount of calmness to the team'' in addition to bringing "this amazing passion for what he does'' which has led to a seamless transition as a teammate.
"Ryan is very much in tune with what's going on,'' Byrne said, "and in a very positive way he also has a great perspective on what we do. He kind of has that sense about him.
"Like, 'This is cross country, this is what we do' but we're playing a football game Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, and what they're doing is a huge deal.
"So let's go watch the game and let's not talk about cross country.''
Byrne endorses that attitude in his athletes.
"From a coach's perspective, they have a great team and school spirit,'' he said. "They're not going to spend Saturday night in a hotel room worrying about what they have to do on Sunday.
"They know what they have to do. They know what Indiana is going to throw at them. They're excited about it. At the same time, for two or three hours Saturday night they're going to be Badgers.''
So they'll be watching Wisconsin-Ohio State from their team hotel, he said.
You can tell Bryne likes this team a lot -- his No. 2-ranked cross country team. Mostly, he likes how his runners compete and take care of their business and "get after it'' every day.
"They do the work, and they're real serious about it,'' he said. "They're real motivated, real determined and real focused on not just this Sunday but what's coming down the pipeline.''
That would be the NCAA championship on Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind. Byrne said Collins has "kind of meshed'' with that vision and his new teammates and "they're all on the same page.''
The Badgers are returning four scorers from last season's Big Ten meet: Mohammed Ahmed (fourth), Elliot Krause (fifth), Maverick Darling (sixth) and Reed Connor (12th). Collins replaces Peacock.
"I believe we've got five guys who have a really good shot at winning the individual title,'' Byrne said. "They're all leaders. Every one of those guys knows what's at stake here and down the road.
"Over the last two meets the most important thing was that we came out of them not banged up. We came out of these meets able to continue with our training plan.
"It's a process as you head from that early part of the season into the championship part.''
Wisconsin has won each of its last three meetings: the Orange and Blue Preview (Champaign, Ill.), the Bill Dellinger Invitational (Springfield, Ore.) and its own Wisconsin adidas Invitational (Zimmer Championship Course).
While the Badgers were competing in Oregon on Oct. 1, there was mini-reunion with a handful of former UW distance greats like Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp, Simon Bairu and Evan Jager, who joined Byrne's current athletes to take in the football Badgers' win over Nebraska.
"They came down from Portland where they're training,'' Byrne said. "And it's always a positive when our young guys get to see those guys and be around them.''
Success, after all, breeds success.