Jan. 10, 2012
MOBILE, Ala. -- Ladd-Peebles Stadium may look like Camp Randall South when NFL personnel descend on Mobile in two weeks for the 2012 Senior Bowl.
Wisconsin will have a school-record six players on this year's North squad, including quarterback Russell Wilson, wide receiver Nick Toon, offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler, fullback Bradie Ewing, punter Brad Nortman and long snapper Kyle Wojta.
All six players have officially accepted invitations to the senior showcase event, it was announced today. The 63rd Senior Bowl is scheduled for 3 p.m. (CT) on Jan. 28 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile. The game and all practices leading up to the event are televised live by NFL Network.
"This is the most players we've ever had at one time from Wisconsin and it speaks volumes to the amount of talent the Badgers had this year," Senior Bowl president and CEO Steve Hale said. "Every one of these players played a big role in helping Wisconsin to an 11-3 season and a Big Ten championship."
The Senior Bowl annually features the nation's best senior college football players and top NFL draft prospects on teams coached by NFL coaching staffs. Senior Bowl practices and game week festivities are attended by more than 800 general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and other front office personnel from all 32 NFL teams.
Wilson, a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection this season, was named the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year in the Big Ten after a record-setting season for the Badgers. He set the NCAA single-season record for pass efficiency (191.8) while also setting school marks for passing yards (3,175), touchdown passes (33), completions (225) and yards of total offense (3,513).
He also tied the Badgers' single season school record with 40 touchdowns responsible for (33 passing, 6 rushing, 1 receiving) and posted UW's second-best completion percentage of all time (.728) -- all while leading the Badgers to a second-consecutive Big Ten championship.
"You see some of the great players in other conferences playing but you don't always get to compete against them and now it's an opportunity to compete at the highest level against some of the best players in the country and that's always exciting," Wilson said.
The transfer from NC State closed out his career connecting on 19 of 26 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. He was named the MVP of the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game after throwing for 187 yards and three touchdown passes and catching two passes for another 31 yards.
For his career, Wilson threw for 11,720 yards and 109 touchdowns, while rushing for an additional 1,421 yards and 23 scores.
"I've played in the ACC and done a good job there and have done a good job in the Big Ten and I'm just trying to improve every day and compete with the best," Wilson said. "Obviously the height question is always a factor when it comes to me for whatever reason, and I believe that I've shown that I can play behind the fourth-biggest offensive line in the country and still be successful.
"I just have to keep proving myself and have fun with it. It's a great opportunity to play with some of the greatest players in college football this season and it's going to be a lot of fun."
Toon was named second-team All-Big Ten by the league's coaches and was an honorable mention pick by the media this season. The wide receiver had a banner year for the Badgers -- notching 64 receptions for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He recorded three 100-yard receiving games in 2011, including a 104-yard effort to close out his career in the Rose Bowl. Toon ranks third in Wisconsin history with 2,447 receiving yards and 171 career receptions. He's fifth all-time with 18 career touchdowns and made 31 career starts.
Zeitler earned first-team All-America honors from the AFCA and was also a first-team All-Big Ten pick this season after starting all 14 games at right guard for the Badgers. He helped pave the way for Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball to rush for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns this season.
He was also a key part of an offensive unit that led the Big Ten in total offense and rushing offense this year. The Waukesha, Wis., native notched 36 career starts for the Badgers, appearing in 43 games overall.
Ewing, a two-year starter for the Badgers at fullback, also helped open holes during Ball's breakout season. The Richland Center, Wis., native did not record a single carry in 2011 but did catch 20 passes for 246 yards. He leaves Madison with seven career rushing attempts for 33 yards, 28 receptions for 328 yards and four total touchdowns.
Nortman was a consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2011 after punting 46 times for an average of 42.2 yards per kick. He closed out his career with two punts for 89 yards, including a 56-yarder, in the Rose Bowl. He averaged over 45 yards a punt in four games this season and booted a season-long 74-yarder against Illinois.
Nortman finished his career ranked third in school history with a 42.1-yard average and is fourth all-time at Wisconsin with 8,383 yards. His career-long punt came in 2010, a 76-yard boomer against Austin Peay.
Wojta was a three-year starter for the Badgers, appearing in 39 games as the team's long snapper. He notched three special teams tackles this season and has six for his career.