Recently in Lucas at Large Category

Lucas at Large: 'Raw' talent Southward rounding into form

FB_110926_Southward_Dez.jpgWhen Shelton Johnson beat out Dez Southward for a starting job at safety -- in a tightly contested training camp competition -- Southward never once thought that he was getting a raw deal.

"Kudos to him because he brought it,'' Southward said.

Being labeled "raw'' is another deal; something that has been following Southward since he began playing defensive back as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale.

Up until then, he had not played any organized football.

"I never played Pee Wee or junior varsity or any other kind of football,'' he said. "Most players can remember playing football growing up. Basketball is the only thing I remember playing.''

Southward felt like basketball was his ticket to a college scholarship, and much more.

"I thought I was going to be the next NBA superstar,'' he said.

Reality intervened when the basketball recruiters didn't knock down his door.

His stepfather, Eli Rasheed, also had a hand in pointing him in another direction.

"My dad always told me that my future was in football,'' Southward said.

Rasheed, a former defensive lineman at Indiana University, has an eye for talent, too.

He coached high school football in the state of Florida before breaking into the college ranks as an assistant at Florida Atlantic. He has been coaching the defensive line at Toledo the last three years.

Despite his dad's encouragement, Southward wasn't completely sold on the sport.

"I was kind of scared to play football,'' he confided. "Finally, I said, 'Hey, I'll give it a shot.'''

Cliché but true, there are no free lunches at Aquinas, one of the top high school programs in the country. Southward had to prove that he belonged on the field.

"I really didn't do much of anything the first couple of games my senior year,'' he said. "I really felt out of place. They had me playing deep middle, some man-to-man and blitzing.

"I definitely got it into by the end of the season. But I can honestly say that when I came here (Wisconsin) football still wasn't something that I loved to do.''

But his Badger teammates started to rub off on Southward.

"Seeing how hard they worked, how they watched film, how they worked their craft, I've come to love the sport,'' he said. "I want to do anything I can to get better and further my play on this team.''

But he wasn't looking to get playing time at the expense of his friend, Shelton Johnson, who was injured in the first half of Saturday's game against South Dakota and left the field on crutches.

"It was like Coach B (Bret Bielema) always says, 'Next man in,''' Southward echoed, "and that's how we approached it. I tried to make sure I was playing hard and there was no drop-off.

"I love Shelton to death. But if he can't make it this week, I'm going to be ready.''

Whether Johnson returns or not for the Big Ten opener against Nebraska, there's no question that the Badgers are going to need to see development out of Southward, a third-year sophomore.

"Throughout fall camp,'' said linebacker Mike Taylor, "Shelton and Dez were competing for the starting spot and you didn't know who it was going to be because they were both playing so well.

"They're both very similar in their speed and hitting. I definitely think Dez is ready.''

Southward is a naturally gifted athlete who lacks fundamental training and repetitions.

The best way to describe him?

Raw.

"When I hear that, I know that I don't quite have the instincts that others have,'' Southward said. "I need to have a little better feel for the little things in the game.

"Where I am now is a world of difference from where I was (as a freshman). But I still have a ways to go. I have to keep working on it by getting in the film room and picking Aaron's brain.''

Aaron is Aaron Henry, the UW's senior free safety.

"A guy like Aaron has a million snaps under his belt,'' said the 6-2, 200-pound Southward. "I just want to keep getting more and more snaps and keep progressing.''

Southward has put an emphasis on improving his mental preparation from practice to practice.

"I have to come every day with the mindset to get better,'' he said, "because I have days when I'm playing like a starter and I'm making plays and I'm doing everything right.

"But I also have days where I have a million mental lapses and I look like a freshman. There's nothing out there that I can't do. I just need to be consistent.

"I need to gain the trust of my coaches and teammates -- I need to show them I can help.''

The players won't need any help getting motivated for the Cornhuskers.

Said Southward, "The atmosphere coming into the locker room (after the South Dakota win) was, 'It's Big Ten time -- it's time to get locked in and focused and ready -- it's time to go.'''

Lucas at Large: Watchful eyes on him, Johnson performs well

FB_110923_Johnson_Shelton.jpgWisconsin's Shelton Johnson doesn't mind having DeMontie Cross looking over his shoulder.

On the contrary, it's been helpful, instructive.

"That's the way anyone gets better,'' Johnson said.

Johnson is a fourth-year safety and Cross is a first-year safeties coach.

It's not like Cross is literally looking over Johnson's shoulder, either.

During practice, Cross likes to stand 20 to 30 yards behind the secondary.

"I know that he loves being back there,'' Johnson said. "When he's anywhere else on the field, he says that he can't tell what's going on.''

Cross, a former free safety at Missouri, doesn't have any problem with his voice carrying.

"He definitely makes sure you hear him,'' Johnson said.

So far this season, Johnson has been making some noise with his play -- including sharing UW's Defensive Player of the Week award for the Northern Illinois game with linebacker Mike Taylor.

"It's a great feeling to see how far you've come and what your coaches think of your play,'' Johnson said of the recognition. "I'm getting more comfortable with everyone around me and the calls.''

That shows up in the stats. Johnson leads the defense with 3.5 tackles for loss. Maybe the biggest difference in his game has been his comprehension of what he's seeing from the offense.

"It's probably just making my reads,'' he said, "and actually believing in my reads.''

In 2010, Johnson got one start against Minnesota while being the backup to Jay Valai. That was a stage in his development where he was still coming to terms with the nuances of the position.

"I know last year I hesitated a lot,'' he said. "If I saw something -- I'd know what I was supposed to do -- but there was that moment of hesitation where you're really not sure.

"I've been able to pull the trigger a lot more this year.''

Even though he's now a starter, he hasn't prepared any differently.

"When I was with Jay (Valai), we would definitely stay together on the game plan,'' Johnson said. "So I don't know that my preparation has changed a lot or been affected by starting.

"Like the coaches always say, 'You're always a play away as the No. 2.' So you have to prepare like a starter. Is there more urgency this year? Definitely.''

Johnson, who hails from Carrollton, Texas, was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team last season. Up until now, though, he has been known primarily for two things.

During a practice, he caught David Gilreath from behind.

During a game, he caught Kyle Middlebrooks from behind

Gilreath can run. So can Middlebrooks. That speaks to Johnson's speed, especially in context with Gilreath who returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Ohio State last season.

Middlebrooks had something similar in mind for Arizona State, but Johnson tackled Middlebrooks before he reached the end zone on the final play of the first half.

Dez Southward slowed him down and Johnson made the touchdown-saving play.

Johnson later said, "I hope that I'm known for more than just that one play someday.''

That's what he has been working on this season. More than anything, he has enjoyed working closer to the line of scrimmage. At times, he'll even line up as the nickel back.

"You're right there in the action,'' he said. "You're around the ball. Who wouldn't love that?''

UW coach Bret Bielema loves the way Johnson has responded to an expanded role.

"He's playing his butt off,'' he said. "He had a really, really good game (against NIU).''

Who was the first person he called when he was recognized as Defensive Player of the Week?

"I didn't have to call and tell anyone,'' Johnson said. "My mother (Angela) is on UWBadgers.com all the time. She finds out stuff before I do sometimes. She's my No. 1 fan.''

Johnson's mom is an assistant principal.

"When I went to school,'' he said with a smirk, "I couldn't do anything wrong.''

He's finding the same holds true on defense.

"You have to take the coaching,'' Johnson agreed.
110922_FB_Havenstein_Rob.jpg

There's more to Rob Havenstein than meets the eye. Well, actually, there's less; much less than the 380 pounds that the UW offensive tackle carried into his freshman season at Wisconsin.

In advance of his first college start Saturday against South Dakota, the 6-foot-8 Havenstein is listed at 345 in the Badgers' media notes; and even that's an overbid. He's slimmed down closer to 335.

"I can actually move,'' Havenstein said.

But one thing hasn't changed.

"He's big,'' said UW senior right guard Kevin Zeitler, who will be lining up next to Havenstein instead of the injured Josh Oglesby. "But he's also very motivated. He wants to do well.''

Added defensive end Tyler Dippel, "He's lost the weight, but he hasn't lost any strength. If anything, he's gotten stronger. You can't say enough about how hard he works.''

A Sports Illustrated writer was recently dispatched to Madison to delve into the success of the offensive line. Work ethic, no doubt, will be one of themes when the story runs in next week's issue.

Dippel has had a front row seat for Havenstein's development.

They've been ramming helmets in practice since last fall.

"Just to see a guy of his size and stature move the way he does is really impressive,'' Dippel said. "He's come a long ways since he first got on campus as far as speed and the way he moves his feet.

"He's a guy who has a great attitude; he's always smiling, always happy. But when it's time to get to work, he does -- and that's what I really like about him.''

Havenstein has been bolstered by all the work that he got during spring practice.

"The spring was a big help for me, especially working with the ones for half the spring,'' said Havenstein, who was then frustrated during training camp after rolling an ankle. "I missed a lot of reps.''

But he's back to where he was before the injury, which is timely. Oglesby, who had been starting at right tackle, injured his knee during last Saturday's win over Northern Illinois.

"I guess the best advice I've gotten,'' Havenstein said, "is probably from Josh. He just said, 'Don't worry about all the outside pressure of everyone telling you that you're a starter. Just play your game.'

"Josh has been unbelievable to me. He has kind of helped me out with the defenses and my techniques. I've hung out with him all last year and this year. He's one of my best friends on the team.''

What's the best thing Zeitler could tell Havenstein?

"Prepare and play your butt off,'' he said. "Watch the film, get every rep you can, learn everything, know it before it happens, take a deep breath and just go play. That's the biggest thing.''

Left guard Travis Frederick has gone through his own transition to the starting lineup.

"His biggest adjustment now is to go out there and trust the coaching that's he had,'' Frederick said. "He's had reps. He's been in games. He practices every day. He just needs to trust his instincts.''

Frederick, who redshirted last season, started four games as a true freshman in 2009.

"Your first start is always a big thing,'' he said. "But it goes back to knowing your playbook. He's been with the ones and twos. Coach Bo (Bob Bostad) does a good job of rotating guys in and out.

"So you get used to communicating with everybody. If something happens, if someone goes down (with an injury), it makes it easier to make that adjustment when they come in.''

That would be the "next man up'' -- Ryan Groy for Frederick, now Havenstein for Oglesby. Despite the injuries up front, the offensive line has continued to function at a high rate of efficiency.

That will likely be another theme in the SI article.

"I can't wait for Saturday, it's going to be fun,'' Havenstein said.

There will be no shortage of incentive, especially playing next to Zeitler.

"Kevin knows what he's doing -- he's quick to react,'' said Havenstein, a high-profile recruit out of Mount Airy, Md. "I know I have to pick up my game to play to his speed.''

Getting up to speed is much easier -- minus the 45 pounds that he's lost.

"It's a process,'' he said. "I'm still working on reshaping my body, changing fat to muscle.''

But he's still big.

Lucas at Large: Bielema pleased with progress of special teams

FB_110920_Kickoff_Unit.jpg

UW coach Bret Bielema sounded like he enjoyed reviewing the Northern Illinois win.

"The film was great,'' he said Monday during his weekly news conference.

Not that there weren't things in all three phases that the Badgers must still work on.

"Things that we need to clean up to play better against better competition,'' he added.

But a few things stood out from Saturday; snap shots, if you will.

"Tyler Dippel has been a pure beast,'' Bielema said.

Dippel, a 260-pound defensive end, is the leading tackler on special teams.

On Monday, Bielema was raving about his hustle on the kickoff cover unit.

"If you really want to have some fun,'' Bielema said, "throw on the first four or five kicks from Saturday and Tyler Dippel's just a man-child ... ''

Bielema would like to see more consistency out of Alec Lerner's kickoffs; the last of which sailed out of bounds because of a lapse in concentration and focus, he said.

"But he's really been efficient about putting that ball deep in the right corner. Was it two weeks ago when the guy (Oregon State's Keynan Parker) ran out of bounds at the 2-yard-line?

"It's a very difficult kick to catch and bring it back to the middle -- or bring it up the sideline with some of the hang time. Even if he's hitting line drives, we're getting down there in coverage.''

Bielema's other memorable snap shot from Saturday was Chris Borland on a pass rush.

"There's a play where he took No. 68 (Keith Otis), who's 320 or whatever,'' Bielema said, "and he (Borland) just got a two-hand push right underneath his chest plate and threw the guy up in the air.''

For the first time this season, the Badgers had Borland rushing off the edge on passing downs. "Chris, as we well know, has got a little bit of a knack to be a pass rusher,'' Bielema said.

Borland often frustrated offensive tackles when utilized in that role as a freshman.

"He's just got so much power,'' Bielema said. "It's uncanny what he can do with his abilities.''

Dippel, meanwhile, wasn't the only special teams contributor that got Bielema's attention.

Starting fullback Bradie Ewing was also singled out.

"The NFL (scouts) really like what he does on all four phases of the kicking game,'' Bielema said. "I can't say enough great things about what he's doing from a leadership standpoint.''
Ewing is drawing favorable reviews in other areas, too.

"What we ask him to do as a blocking fullback is good,'' Bielema said. "But what he's been able to do with the passing game is very, very enticing to NFL people.''

Asked about Saturday's opponent -- South Dakota -- Bielema noted that the Coyotes have already upset No. 1 ranked Eastern Washington, the defending FCS national champion.

A year ago, South Dakota stunned Minnesota, 41-38. Quarterback Dante Warren accounted for five touchdowns (three passing) and over 400 yards of total offense against the Gophers.

South Dakota is a member of the Great West Conference; so is Cal Poly, which pushed Wisconsin to the limit in 2008 before losing in overtime, 36-35, by virtue of three missed extra points.

The South Dakota coaching staff has a working knowledge of what awaits them in Madison.

Coyotes head coach Ed Meierkort coached 11 seasons at UW-Stout before taking over the program in Vermillion in 2004, while one of his assistants, Jake Sprague, is a former UW defensive end.

It sounds like their players are ready for all-comers, too, including the Badgers.

South Dakota sophomore defensive end Tyler Starr, an Iowa native, said of the matchup, "We'll hit them in the mouth and see what happens. It's just football. Anything can happen.''

Someone brought that up to Bielema.

"That shows me that he (Starr) thinks he's going to be able to do that,''he said. "So there's definitely things that show you they're a team that lacks no confidence.''

Lucas at Large: Starks back on campus to finish what he started

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FB_110916_Starks_Scott.jpegWhen Scott Starks left Wisconsin, he wasn't sure if he'd ever return to get his degree.

"I really didn't know,'' said the former All-Big Ten cornerback. "I really didn't think about it.''

That's because Starks was chasing his dream to play in the National Football League.

In the 2005 draft, he was a third-round selection (87th overall) of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Kind of my whole mindset, to be honest, was to make it to the League,'' he said.

It's not like he didn't embrace being a student-athlete.

"I still wanted to get a good education while I was here,'' he said.

But when he left school, he left -- dropping classes the second semester of his senior year.

Looking back on that decision now, Starks said, "My whole mindset was wrong.''

Six years later, Starks has come back to the UW to finish what he started.

"Now that I'm back in school, my mindset is right,'' said the 27-year-old Starks, a St. Louis native. "School is almost easier (this time around) or I'm just more interested.''

Starks is taking 17 credits this semester. He will need one more class in the spring for his degree.

If he could do it all over again, would Starks have dropped out of school when he did in '05?

"I would not have,'' he said. "That's one of the reasons why I came back -- to have an influence on these younger guys and help them make some better decisions than I made.

"Not that I made a terrible decision; but I could have made a much better one.''

The NCAA is now in the process of encouraging former athletes, like Starks, to come back for their degrees by creating opportunities for them to coach and go to school.

Less than two weeks ago, Starks began working with the Badgers as a volunteer student assistant; much to the delight of UW coach Bret Bielema, who sees the value in having Starks around.

"While he's finishing his degree,'' Bielema said, "he's got all the same rights and privileges as a graduate assistant so that he can work on the field and in the office.

"Obviously, a guy who has just played five years in the (NFL) is a good example for our kids.''

In each of his first three seasons with Jacksonville, Starks played in every game, starting once. In addition to excelling on special teams, he also served as the Jaguars' nickel back.

Going into his fourth season, he tore a pectoral muscle during training camp which put him on the sidelines for two games. In late September, he returned to play against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I was on special teams,'' Starks recalled, "and I was just running straight ahead -- I really didn't do anything -- when my knee buckled on the turf.''

Starks blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and went on injured reserve.

Over the next two seasons, he played in only a handful of games before being released.

"I was not the same player,'' he admitted. "The ACL injury put a damper on my career.''

Starks had a few nibbles to keep playing but nothing of substance.

"I just made the decision to move on,'' he said. "I wanted to get my degree and I wanted to get into coaching. I talked to coach B (Bielema) and he told me I could help out here and get my feet wet.

"Everyone has welcomed and accepted me. I can get some things on my resume and get my degree at the same time. As a coach, I'm learning the ropes and gaining experience.''

He's also sharing his experience with the UW cornerbacks.

"His first couple of years here were a little bumpy,'' Bielema said of Starks, who was forced to start as a true freshman, "and he can help guys through their own trials and tribulations.

"I love Sparky. He was a key player when I first came in (as defensive coordinator). He was a guy I knew I'd have to win over if I was going to have respect on the defensive side of the ball.

"It's funny because whenever we'd break the defensive huddle, Sparky would always hang on to my hand for an extra three or four seconds; it was like something out of Hoosiers.''

Bielema, fittingly, extended a hand to Sparks to come back on campus. "Hopefully,'' Bielema said, "if everything works out, he'll be my graduate assistant next fall.''

Starks has the potential to be a pretty good role model; especially for someone like Marcus Cromartie, who will be making his first career start Saturday against Northern Illinois.

What would he tell him?

"Just do what you've been taught,'' Starks said. "The coaches have put together a great game plan. All he has to do his play his techniques, relax and just play ball.

"It's the same game that he's been playing since he was 7 or 8. It's still football.''

Starks has been especially impressed with cornerback Antonio Fenelus.

"He has grown a lot since I've been here,'' he said. "He's playing bigger than his size. With his techniques, he's really working his craft.''

The 5-foot-9, 178-pound Starks relied primarily on his speed.

"He's more of a technician,'' he said of Fenelus. "He definitely has some things to work on but from what I've seen, if he continues to improve at this rate, he can definitely play (in the NFL).''

Starks will forever be remembered for one play.

In 2004, the Purdue Boilermakers were 2 minutes and 49 seconds and one first down away from sealing a 17-14 victory over the Badgers in a Big Ten showdown.

On third-and-2 from the 37-yard line, Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton ran a bootleg.

Starks and UW safety Robert Brooks sandwiched Orton, the ball came out and Starks scooped and scored -- sprinting 40 yards with the fumble recovery for a dramatic game-winning touchdown.

"To be honest,'' Starks said, "I still bump into people who bring that play up to me. I would have never thought that would be a play that so many people would remember.''

They still haven't forgotten -- or forgiven -- in West Lafayette.

Lucas at Large: Gilbert develops instinct to complement physical tools

FB_110915_Gilbert_David.jpegUW coach Bret Bielema likes to be consistent when he walks into the locker room at halftime.

"Usually, I kind of come in and give my 'The score is 0-0 ... We're going to play well (in the second half) ... Let's hydrate,''' he said.

That would be standard operating procedure; his business-as-usual message to the team.

But it took a different turn for Bielema at halftime of last Saturday's game against Oregon State.

That's when he crossed paths with defensive end David Gilbert.

"A lot of times,'' Bielema said, "kids take a big step when they kind of have that -- for the lack of a better  term -- that killer mentality, that sense of 'Okay, I got something here.'

"I know on Saturday, he was having his way with an (Oregon State) offensive tackle and David was going nuts about 'Whoever gets this guy, you should own him. He can't block you.'''

Bielema had not often seen this side of Gilbert -- the raging bull.

"He had been this nice, baby-faced David Gilbert,'' Bielema said, "who I had seen kind of grow into a man right in front of us.''

Physically, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Gilbert has always looked the part.

"David has always been genetically gifted,'' Bielema said.  "He's just naturally had some intangibles that a lot of people don't have ... (they) don't have the same blessing that he does.''

But it has been a process for Gilbert, who's young for his class. He's a junior and only 19.

Nonetheless, Bielema saw Gilbert in a much different light last Saturday.

"I think that light bulb has finally come on,'' he said.

Bielema was not alone in that assessment of Gilbert.

"It was his best performance since he's been on campus,'' said defensive line coach Charlie Partridge. "He got pressure on the quarterback, and he did a nice job in the run game.

"You can see a guy who's starting to peek around the corner -- he just kind of needs that confidence boosting performance -- hopefully that's something that he takes and builds on.''

That's what co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash saw out of Gilbert, too.

"Saturday was probably the best day of football that he's had since he's been on campus,'' Ash said, "or at least since I've been on campus with him. He played at a high level.

"What we saw out there on Saturday is what we've been hoping to see out of David.''

How did Gilbert handle such a favorable report card from the Oregon State game?

"I'm less disappointed than I have been in my career, but I'm not satisfied,'' he said after Wednesday's practice. "I'm glad the coaches thought that I stepped up my game.

"But I know, for me, that's nothing compared to what I can do -- and will do in the future.

"It just pushes me harder each week.''

Gilbert said the biggest difference has been being "more confident in my pass rush.''

That has taken some time to hone if not master. It's still a work in progress.

"I think the thing that he's probably taking to the football field now,'' Bielema said, "is the fundamentals that Coach Partridge teaches on every play.''

Partridge explained, "It has taken him a couple of years to get his steps and hands in line.''

That would be the coordination of feet, hands and/or strikes to huge offensive tackles.

"When you come from Florida,'' said Gilbert, a native of Coral Springs, "we have small (offensive) linemen and people tell you that you're undersized.''

With the help of Ben Herbert and the UW strength and conditioning staff, he has bulked up.

"That's always been one of his issues -- his weight,'' Ash said. "He's tall and lean. But he's gotten a lot stronger and put on a lot of weight. We just have to keep it on him during the season.''

What excites Gilbert the most? "If I can put on a couple of more pounds here and there, I know that it will help a lot,'' he said. "I still have a lot of growing to do.''

At the same time, Gilbert has been growing more and more confident in his own abilities. That was the backdrop to Bielema searching for the right term to describe Gilbert's development.

How about killer instinct instead of killer mentality?

Gilbert nodded approvingly.

"Right before the half when I was getting a lot of pressure on that (Oregon State) quarterback,'' Gilbert said, "you could smell the blood in the water. You could feel that tackle was not comfortable.

"That's just a great feeling because I feel like I'm in control at that point. That's what killer instinct is. You smell that weakness -- that fear -- and you capitalize on it.''

Defensively, the Badgers made great strides between game one and two.

"We're most excited about the difference in effort from snap to whistle,'' Partridge said. "We got a chance to play a bunch of guys (last Saturday) and our tackling was better.

"All the things that everybody in the stands could see that we needed to improve on (from the UNLV game), we felt like we took steps in the right direction.''

It's quite possible that Northern Illinois' dual-threat quarterback Chandler Harnish will be among the best quarterbacks -- if not THE best -- that the Badgers will face all season.

"We have a lot of respect for him,'' Gilbert said.

"But we want to take his head off at the same time.''

Sounds like that killer mentality is becoming an instinct.
As part of the Legacy Reunion -- drawing nearly 300 former UW football players to Camp Randall Stadium -- what do you think some of them will be thinking about when they step on the field Saturday?

Maybe Joe Armentrout will be thinking about his 120 rushing yards against Northern Illinois in 1985.

Maybe Neil Graff will be thinking about his two touchdown passes to tight end Larry Mialik against Penn State in 1970.

Maybe Josh Hunt will be thinking about his 89-yard punt return for a touchdown against Western Michigan in 2000.

Maybe Ira Matthews will be thinking about his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Iowa in 1976.

Maybe Matt Vanden Boom will be thinking about his three interceptions against Michigan in 1981.

Maybe Matt Nyquist will be thinking about his school record 13 pass receptions against Iowa in 1995.

Maybe Tom Brigham will be thinking about his 91-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan in 1963.

Maybe Billy Marek will be thinking about his 304 rushing yards and five touchdowns against Minnesota in 1974.

Maybe Dan Lanphear will be thinking about his blocked punt against Ohio State in 1959.

Maybe Darryl Sims will be thinking about his six tackles for loss against Northwestern in 1982.

Maybe Pat Richter will be thinking about his three touchdowns catches against Illinois in 1961.

What will Dr. Michael Brin be thinking about Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium? Will he be thinking about the crowd surge in the student sections following the 1993 game against Michigan?

Brin said that he will try not to think about it.

"I try to put into perspective what my role was not only on that team but after that game,'' he said. "To this day, I'm still grateful that I played a role.''

Aimee Jansen will likely be forever grateful for Brin, who pulled Jansen from the crush of bodies after a "human tidal wave'' washed over the sections, injuring more than 70.

Sari Weinstein will likely be forever grateful for Brin, who administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Weinsten, one of the many pinned in the stampede.

For his heroic actions in rescuing people, Brin, a walk-on receiver, was named as the ABC Person of the Week by the late Peter Jennings.

"I really don't get recognized any more for the stampede,'' said Brin, 37. "But it has come up in conversations every once in awhile.

"One of the more recent times was when one of my son's friends performed a Google search while I was coaching their flag football team.''

Brin will be bringing his two sons -- Zachary, 7; and Jacob, 4 -- to Saturday's game.

He bought season tickets for the first time this year.

"We've watched Badger games together on TV,'' he said. "And my oldest has asked, 'Daddy, did you do that?' I kind of tell him that I really didn't play too much but I was there (on the team).''

After leaving the UW with his undergraduate degree in zoology, Brin got his master's in public health at Illinois-Chicago and then went on to medical school and his residency in Chicago.

For the last six years, Brin has been living in Mequon and working as an ER doctor. He's the medical director of the Emergency Department at Columbia St. Mary's-Ozaukee.

"In reflection, it's easy to see how the lessons coach (Barry) Alvarez and his staff used in coaching us on the field were applicable to life off the field,'' Brin said.

"Many of those lessons -- like honesty, hard work without cutting corners or making excuses, perseverance and self-discipline -- are the same lessons that became a part of my personality.

"Coach Alvarez -- along with Brad Childress and Jay Norvell -- preached discipline and doing your job and after four years of getting that pounded into your head, it just becomes who you are.''

Being a walk-on also impacted Brin's perspective on life.

"If you want something,'' he said, "go out and earn it. No matter what you think you can or can't do -- no matter what people tell you -- you can do it if you really want to.''

What does the Legacy Reunion mean to Dr. Michael Brin?

"I can't wait to meet some of the people who came before me and have played for UW since I graduated,'' he said. "The football program has created an amazing legacy ...

"I'm both humbled and proud to have been a part of that, no matter how small my role was. I'm humbled because I look at what the football program has become.''

He's also humbled "to think that I too had the privilege to put on the pads and helmet and walk through the tunnel wearing a Badger uniform. Little did I know how much that it really meant then.

"But it definitely means more to me now.''

Nearly 300 former players here Saturday will likely share that sentiment with Brin.

"It's the closest thing to a fraternity that we will get,'' he said.

Lucas at Large: Fenelus continues to grow into role at cornerback

FB_110909_Fenelus_Antonio.jpegUW coach Bret Bielema reflected on what he first saw in cornerback Antonio Fenelus.

"He thinks he's Deion Sanders,'' Bielema said.

That got the attention of some people at his Monday press conference.

But the key word is "thinks.'

Few players can measure up to "Prime Time.''

 Sanders, after all, was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For the record, Bielema qualified his statement on Fenelus.

"Every South Florida corner thinks they're Deion Sanders,'' he said.

More importantly, he added, "They've just got to believe that.''

The Badgers recruited Fenelus out of Boca Raton, Fla. Although he received few scholarship offers -- Fenelus picked the UW over Florida Atlantic -- there was just something about his makeup.

"Not to sound like a know-it-all,'' Bielema said, "I thought we'd get what we got. I thought he was a very tough player. Mom raised a good kid. Coach bragged about how hard he worked.''

But there was a difficult transition period for Fenelus to college football.

"I remember sitting down with him a couple of different times,'' Bielema said. "He thought that he was getting the shaft -- typical stuff. I just said, 'Antonio, stick to it.'

"At the end of last year, I don't know if there was a corner that was playing as well as he was in our conference. Because he knows his weaknesses, he knows his strengths.

"And he knows how to play within the system.''

Mostly, he knows how to compete.

Spend 10 minutes with Fenelus and he'll use the word "compete'' at least 10 times.

"The thing I love about Antonio,'' Bielema said, "he's a great competitor; really good.''

After Wednesday's practice, Fenelus talked about learning how to compete in the Big Ten.

"Coming out of my sophomore year," he said, "I made sure I competed on every play. That's what I lacked before -- just having the confidence (to compete).''

The 5-foot-8 Fenelus doesn't feel like his lack of size is a detriment to his game.

"I treat every receiver the same whether they're short or tall,'' he emphasized. "I just go out there and compete no matter what the size.''

That played out in the opener when he was matched against UNLV wide receiver Phillip Payne, who's 6-3, 205-pounds. The Rebels didn't hesitate to try and exploit that matchup.

"I knew they were going to target me just because I was a little shorter,'' Fenelus said. "But I just had to make sure I competed.

"I'm usually much shorter than the receivers. But I still make sure that I compete so they give me the same respect that they would any taller corner.''

Bielema cited Fenelus' ball skills -- he used to return kicks -- and understanding of leverage.

"He understands body position,'' Bielema said. "And he watches a bunch of film. That's why a guy like Antonio gets better as the year goes on because he has film to watch.''

Fenelus confirmed as much about his viewing habits.

"That's how I've gotten a whole lot better -- study, study,'' he said. "If you know what those receivers are going to be running against you then you've got a better chance of winning every snap.''

In the UNLV game, Fenelus was flagged for pass interference on Payne even though it appeared that he executed his techniques perfectly and had the ideal inside leverage to break up the play.

Bielema disputed the penalty.

"I thought he had every right to the football,'' he said.

So did Fenelus.

"But the ref told me that I was kind of cutting him off and learning against him too much,'' he said.  "The refs are going to win every time. I'm just trying to fix what he said I was doing wrong.''

Fenelus doesn't come off like "Prime Time.''

Until you ask him if he wants to be a playmaker.

"Most definitely,'' he said. "I try to go after the ball every time. If they throw to my side I look at that as a challenge. I try to make a pick every time they throw my way.''

Despite finishing second in the Big Ten with four interceptions last season, does Fenelus still feel like some opposing offensive coordinators believe they can attack him?

"I really don't focus on that too much,'' he said. "I just play to the best of my ability. If they want to throw the ball my way, there are more plays for me to make. That's how I look at it.''

One last thing. "I just want to make sure I compete every play,'' he said.

Lucas at Large: Images of 9/11 still fresh for Byrne

MXC_110908_Byrne_Mick.jpeg

Sunday will mark 10 years since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center that claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Many will have flashbacks, including UW men's cross country coach Mick Byrne, who headed up his own program at Iona College in New York for 19 seasons before joining the Badgers in 2008.


Mick Byrne remembered stopping at a neighborhood deli for his morning coffee and hard roll when he heard the news: a plane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Byrne immediately returned to his home in City Island, N.Y.; which sits on the western end of Long Island Sound, south of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and east of Eastchester Bay.

"From my front porch I can see the whole skyline of lower Manhattan, and I saw the smoke,'' Byrne said. "At that stage, I don't think it hit home exactly what was going on.''

So he didn't alter his plans. He drove his oldest son, Aidan, to school and headed for work at Iona College, which is about 40 minutes north of Manhattan in Westchester County.

"By the time I got there the second plane had hit the South Tower,'' Byrne said.

"Then we all knew what was going on.''

Byrne picked up his son and they returned home.

"It was very sobering,'' said Byrne, knowing that many of the workers in lower Manhattan lived in Westchester County. "There were a lot of people from that area in the towers.''

Byrne's wife, Mary Jo -- a physician's assistant in cardiology -- was called into help.

"My next memory was that night on City Island,'' he said, "and everybody getting together in restaurants and bars and kind of watching all the reports on television about what was going on.''

Two firefighters who lived on City Island lost their lives, Byrne added.

"As the days and weeks went on,'' he said, "you'd hear more and more from people who knew somebody that was killed. Everyone knew someone who knew someone ...''

Byrne recognized the name of a former runner who had been out for cross country at Iona for only six to eight weeks before leaving the team. He really didn't know him beyond that point.

But he was one of the 341 New York City firefighters who died.

"I remember my wife waking me up one night because she thought there was a fire in our house,'' Byrne recounted. "I jumped out of bed and ran into the kid's rooms.

"After checking all the rooms upstairs, I ran downstairs and even checked out the furnace. And there was nothing. I ran outside and couldn't see anything on the street.''

Finally it dawned on him.

"It was the smoke from the Twin Towers that had blown in our direction,'' he said. "My recollection was that it was a number of days afterward; it could have been a week or two weeks.

"I'll never forget that feeling.''

Two years ago, the Badgers competed at the Iona Meet of Champions in the Bronx and Byrne took the team to Ground Zero. He's a frequent visitor whenever he's back in New York City.

"If I'm downtown, I always stop there,'' he said. "It's important. We should never forget.''

Lucas at Large: Details matter for Badgers' backfield

FB_110907_Ball_Montee.jpegTwo days before the UNLV opener, UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock reminded tailback Montee Ball to take the shortest distance between two points after catching the football.

"You're going to get in this situation,'' Hammock advised Ball who had 16 catches last season, "and when you do, just run straight. Don't look to your left. Don't look to your right.''

Why was such a reminder necessary? "There were times last year,'' Hammock said, "where Montee would start looking for another defender instead of just running.''

Last Thursday night, Ball found himself in the situation that Hammock foreshadowed. Swinging out of the backfield, he caught a pass in the flat and ran 63 yards before being pulled down.

"For it to come to fruition during the game was something that we both laughed about on Sunday,'' Hammock said. "On that pass, he cut back inbounds and then got vertical on the defender.

"I told him, 'Even though you didn't score, it was still longer than any play you've had since you've been here. Keep working and the next time try to score on it.'''

Ball's 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was also noteworthy to Hammock because Ball was able to pull through a tackle attempt and high step into the end zone.

"That's something that he has done constantly over the course of the spring and fall camp,'' Hammock said, "and it was good to see it happen in a game situation.''

Such results are a product of daily preparation in practice, Hammock stressed.

"The one thing I've tried to express to them,'' he said of his tailbacks, "is that you're going to play like you practice. They practiced hard (last week) and we need to continue to do that every week.''

When UW coach Bret Bielema was asked Monday what went into the offense's efficiency against UNLV, highlighted by eight scores in the first eight possessions, he said, "Hopefully preparation.''

Bielema then credited his offensive coaching staff for putting it all together.

"They work well together,'' he said. "Everyone understands what their roles are. They practiced very clean during fall camp that led to some very good things you saw (in the opener).

"The good news is that I think we can be better.''

That has been Hammock's message to his runners. "Details,'' he said. "It's something we can always strive to clean up and try to get as close to perfect as possible.''

He did single out a James White run that bordered on perfection.

"He made a jump cut outside,'' he said, "and with the safety coming up he had a nice stiff arm and made the guy miss for a 22-yard run. We always talk about making that last guy miss.

"Obviously, there were some more guys out there to run him down but I just think that was something we can build up. What we do every day in practice, we should be able to do in a game.

"That's what I liked most about what I saw (from Ball and White). It's always good see the carryover of what we've been trying to work on. But there are a lot of things we can do better.''

Hammock was generally pleased with the way Ball and White caught the ball. The only exception was a low pass over the middle that Ball failed to look into his hands and dropped.

"Montee has to catch that,'' Hammock said. "That's something we stress. Look the ball all the way in before you run. If he catches that ball, he's got a chance to make something big happen.''

Gordon, Lewis get their chance
The Badgers got off to such a big lead against the Rebels that they removed their starters early in the second half; resulting in valuable playing experience for tailbacks Jeff Lewis and Melvin Gordon.

"They did some good things,'' Hammock said. "But we still have some work to do.''

Heeding Hammock's emphasis on taking care of the details is the starting point.

"If you make a certain cut in practice, chances are you're going to make the same cut in a game,'' he said. "Everything I put on that practice tape is getting them ready for game situations.''

That should be the motivation to take care of all the little things in practice, he reiterated.

"But it was good that they had the opportunity to play,'' Hammock allowed.

Bielema indicated that Lewis and Gordon would get chances on special teams. "First off, Jeff and Melvin are probably two of our faster guys on the team,'' Bielema said.

That makes them both attractive for the kickoff coverage unit. "Also Jeff Lewis has enough size that he can run down the middle of the field and be faster than anybody else,'' Bielema said.

Gordon could get reps on punt coverage, too. "I'd like to incorporate Melvin,'' he said, "just because he's got some elusiveness maybe as a punt blocker.''

Gordon could also wind up returning kickoffs.

Does Bielema have any reservations about using White on that unit?

"No, not really,'' he said. "James has been doing that (returning kicks) ever since he was in high school and he wants to do it here. I asked him, 'Is this something you want to do?' And he said, 'Yes.'

"What I've done as a head coach is make sure in situations where in the second half we're up by a certain number of points ... all of a sudden, James is off the unit.''

That's also the Bielema rule of thumb for pulling Jared Abbrederis off punt returns, Jacob Pedersen off the frontline of kick returns and Bradie Ewing off all four phases of special teams.

"We need them to have the opportunity to win the rest of our games,'' Bielema said.
ON WISCONSIN