April 21, 2011
MADISON, Wis. -- Whenever Travis Frederick lines up at left offensive guard, he does so with confidence knowing that he has been mentored by John Moffitt, the first-team All-Big Ten player that he's replacing.
"He really took me under his wing,'' Frederick said.
"He's definitely one of my favorites,'' Moffitt said.
You get the idea.
There's a mutual respect borne out of proximity dating to 2009 when Frederick, then a true freshman, opened the season as the starting center for the injured Peter Konz. (Dennis Lick, Bob Winckler and Cory Raymer started as UW freshmen on the O-line. But they didn't do so in the opener.)
Moffitt would have been the logical choice to sub for Konz after starting all 13 games at center the year before. But Moffitt was also injured opening the door to Frederick and Jake Bscherer who was the starter for the first three games at left guard until Moffitt returned for the Big Ten opener.
Frederick started the first two games at center against Northern Illinois and Fresno State before getting injured himself. He then came back to start the final two games of the 2009 season at left guard for Moffitt who slid over to center to replace Konz, who was sidelined with a blood clots in his lungs.
"Right off the bat, he got rid of any angst you would have as a freshman,'' Moffitt said of Frederick. "And he dove right in and played well, too. I've always like the way he approaches things.''
The Badgers took a different approach with Frederick last season. Because of the depth along the offensive line, they asked him to redshirt and Frederick accepted knowing it was in his best interests "At first I was a little leery about it, but it turned out to be really good for me,'' he said.
Getting a taste of competition as a freshman made it easier, not harder. "Playing in front of 80,000 people is a phenomenal feeling,'' he said, "and I didn't have to sit out not knowing what it was going to be like. I understood what it was like to play in a game and I knew that I could do it.''
So there were fewer questions about making the jump from Walworth Big Foot High School to the Big Ten. And since there was no urgency to get ready for a Saturday opponent, he could grind harder in the weight room during the week. "I didn't have to worry about being fresh,'' he said.
During those weight training sessions Frederick began shaping his body and mind. "I may not have had my best practices some days after a big lift,'' he conceded. "But I was grinding trying to get a lot stronger and out on the field after grinding so hard you sometimes get a little riled up.''
That, too, was the good news.
"I finally started to play with a little mean streak,'' he said.
That was not his nature in high school.
"I was bigger than most guys,'' he said, "and I saw myself as a cerebral player.''
Once he got to the UW, he realized that in order to maximize his potential that he would have to change his temperament. "You need to be cerebral but you also have go out there and tear people up,'' said Frederick. "That's what I'm trying to do now -- watching Moff (Moffitt), he was one of the best at it.''
Video: Offensive Line Position Preview
So what did Moffitt tell him?
"That I needed to go out there and play like a bleep,'' Frederick said.
Moffitt never questioned whether Frederick had it in him.
"I think Travis has a very mean streak,'' he said. "He was still practicing on the second string last season and when we'd come off the field, I'd watch him throw guys all over the place. He's the nicest guy you'll ever meet off the field. But he definitely has a mean streak on it.''
Moffitt and Frederick talk a lot, and not just about football.
"He's a real mentor to me,'' Frederick said.
"I like the way he plays the game and I like him as a person,'' Moffitt said.
What's the best advice Moffitt could pass along to Frederick this spring?
"Eventually, he's going to be a leader on the team, maybe not right now, but he can lead in small ways,'' Moffitt said. "I would just say to him to keep improving his own game, control what he can control and maybe help lead some of the younger O-linemen around him.''
The 6-foot-4, 326-pound Frederick has been sandwiched between left tackle Ricky Wagner, who's moving over from the right side to replace Gabe Carimi; and center Ryan Groy, who has been starting on the No. 1 offense since Konz went to the sidelines with a spring-ending ankle injury.
"Coach Bo (Bob Bostad) always does a good job of flipping guys to both sides so you're used to playing with new faces all the time,'' Frederick said. "Ricky is starting to settle in nicely and Ryan has done a great job adjusting to center, too. It's been good for us to get a chance to play together.''
Moffitt was asked what might constitute Frederick's biggest challenge as a starter.
"There's a lot more riding on your shoulders and your performance,'' Moffitt said. "With our offensive line coach, Coach Bostad, it's just inexcusable to not perform. But Bob Bostad is the reason why we've had so much success in the O-line over the last few years.
"I remember my senior camp, after the first two or three practices, I was a little bit off and coach Bo pulled me aside and talked to me. It was like, `Get it together.' Perform, no excuses.''
That would also be the rallying cry for Frederick in the classroom. He has been accepted into the computer engineering program, no small feat given the school's selectivity.
"There are maybe 30 in the class and about 120 or 150 on campus,'' he said.
Frederick is also majoring in computer science. "As a redshirt, I was able to take some extra credits and catch up with things,'' he said. "I know how to work on the field and in the classroom.''
Based on his own experiences, he has seen how the UW is committed to grooming students, not just athletes. "As a freshman,'' he said, "they do a good job in structuring everything for you.
"There's a mandatory study time for 90 minutes every day. And once you get into the habit of doing it then it makes it easier to carry on. They instill that in a lot of people.''