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Carimi and Moffitt lead along the line

ON WISCONSIN <b>John Moffitt will make the 38th start of his career on Saturday at Purdue.</b>
John Moffitt will make the 38th start of his career on Saturday at Purdue.

Nov. 5, 2010

MADISON, Wis. -- Gabe Carimi is a 6-foot-7, 327-pound left offensive tackle from Cottage Grove who has 44 career starts.  John Moffitt is a 6-5, 323-pound left guard from Guilford, Conn., who has 37 career starts, including 15 at center. Both are returning first-team All Big Ten selections. As the only fifth-year seniors starting on the O-line, they have become the heart and soul of the unit. Especially during the last two victories against No. 1 ranked Ohio State and at No. 13 Iowa. Earlier this week, Carimi and Moffitt got together before practice, and shared their thoughts on a variety of topics.

Right after they both sat down on couches outside the UW locker room, John Moffitt confirmed that he was still majoring in sociology; the equivalent of lobbing a softball over the middle of the plate to Gabe Carimi, a civil engineer. Sociology? “Real tough, huh?” Carimi deadpanned.

“It’s a very hard major,” countered Moffitt, who will graduate in December. “It’s the study of people which is probably the most important study there is.”

“You’d have to think civil engineering would be harder just because it’s the study of keeping people safe,” said Carimi, who will graduate in the spring. “And people, by nature, are idiots.”

Carimi is an interesting study. So is Moffitt. They both get it. And they genuinely seem to enjoy each other’s company, though Carimi is an introvert by comparison to Moffitt, who’s likely to say anything at any time. Moffitt is the most quotable player on the team, and a fan favorite for his answers during the Ask the Badgers videos on the scoreboard at Camp Randall Stadium.

Carimi and Moffitt first met on their recruiting trip to Madison.

“I remember seeing you eating nachos,” Moffitt said to Carimi. “ I remember saying, ‘Who is that kid?’ You were freak tall. But you were a lot leaner. You’ve put on a lot of weight on your frame.”

“I was skinny,” Carmi said. “I was about 260 then. Mickey Turner thought I was a tight end.”

They got to know each other the summer prior to the start of their freshman year.

“I had a place down old University and Gabe would always come by,” Moffitt said. “It was an apartment for the summer, and it was just me living there. My mother found the place.”

“We double-scooted,” Carimi said, laughing.

The visual of Carimi and Moffit sharing a moped is priceless.

So, what brought them together as friends? Why did they hit it off?

“Because I didn’t have any other friends,” Moffitt said.

“I was his only selection,” Carimi added.

Did it matter that they were from different parts of the country?

“Moff is more of a Midwest guy anyway, even though he’s from the coast,” Carimi said. “He doesn’t act like a coastie.”

“I would agree,” Moffitt said. “I mean, I think I have that element. But I acclimated to the Midwest pretty quickly.

There are differences. But people out here are so easy to get along with.”

Were both projected to play on the offensive line from the start?

“I came in wanting to play on defense,” Moffitt said.

“I was an all-state defensive end,” noted Carimi. “Basically, I could have been a real average defensive player or a pretty good offensive player with my speed. I have the quickness at tackle.”

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UWBadgers.com Insider

Who served as their mentors while they were redshirting as freshmen?

“Tarek Saleh went to my high school,” Moffitt said of the former UW defensive end (1993-96). “Tarek would always call to see how I was doing, and he still does.”

“I felt like the older players in the locker room kind of disconnected with the young guys and didn’t want much to do with us at times,” Carimi said of the 2006 team which finished with a 12-1 record in Bret Bielema’s first season as the head coach. “They were just very focused.”

“Maybe you could say the same about us now though, I don’t know if it was to the same extent,” Moffitt said. “I remember I was in awe of a lot of those guys. I was in awe of Joe Thomas.”

“Definitely,” Carimi said.

“And you wouldn’t even approach them, (John) Stocco and those guys,” Moffitt continued. “We knew our role, and we were quiet. And that was it.”

“Quiet,” Carimi stressed. “On scout team, we tried to give them the best look we could.”

Did either one of them have doubts or second thoughts about being here as freshmen?

“I did,” Carimi said. “There was no question that Jake Bscherer was the favorite going in. He was supposed to take over Joe Thomas’ spot. There was a question if I’d even get a shot at competing for a position. But I was working so hard on scout team, the coaches gave me my chance.”

“During my career when tough things come up, you always question things,” Moffitt said. “When I first got here, I really loved it. And everything was really smooth and I was happy with the way things were going. I’m just so thankful that I came here. But I don’t think you can ever say that throughout the whole five years that you never stopped and said,
‘Did I make the right decision?’”

Was there a turning point in their individual careers?

“Probably my sophomore year, it started clicking in – being able to see everything from defenses,” Carimi said. “You’d get those linemen eyes. You’d see the blitzes, certain fronts, certain coverages. You’d see the safeties as opposed to just concentrating only on the play.”

“I would agree,” Moffitt said. “My freshman year I had no clue. But I was playing center my sophomore year and I had to adapt.  And it continues to grow right up to now where you try to recognize things very quickly. But I think it’s a process.”

Has confidence, or the lack thereof, ever been an issue?

“It’s tough when you get beat,” Moffitt said. “Those first couple of years when you’d get beat, it’s tough to play with confidence the next snap. It can rattle you the entire game and you have to fight through it. That was early-on. Now you’ve learned to let go and say ‘Next play.’”

As acknowledged team leaders, how would they define leadership?

“I feel I’m more of a lead-by-example kind of guy,” Carimi said. “I try to make sure what I do is right and I can put it on film so coach (Bob Bostad) can say, ‘This is how you block this or this is how you do this’ to guys who might be in the second group or what not. Moff definitely leads by example. But he’s also more vocal than I am. He gets more intense and I feed off what he does.”

“Gabe says that, but I also feed off the way he plays,” Moffitt said. “The key thing, the first and foremost thing, is doing it – being a leader by example. If you don’t have that things can fall by the wayside. The second thing is knowing when to be intense and when not to. And when to jump a guy, and when to let something go. It’s something you kind of learn, which is difficult.’’

Have they had to police the locker room this season?

“I don’t think we’ve had to police situations,” said Carimi. “We’ve had a very good locker room. Everyone has the team in mind. There really has been nothing between players.”

“I agree, I think our locker room has been great,” said Moffitt. “There are times when guys may have an issue and you let them deal with it. Sometimes you have to get involved.”

Moffitt was asked about his emotional pregame message to his teammates at Iowa.

“I was thinking the night before about my own experiences of going on the road,” he said. “Especially at a place like Iowa. That’s always tough for young guys and that’s when their confidence can be shaken. I think they need to see from someone older that we’re going to do our job and being on the road won’t affect the way we do it. Usually I’m just talking to the O-line but I wanted to say something to the whole team. And that was for the younger guys to give them a swagger.”

“When you go into a new environment, you want them to have confidence in their leaders,” Carimi said. “Even though Moff didn’t have to say anything to get himself going for that game, other people needed to see some of that confidence.”

Were the wins over Ohio State and Iowa statement games?

“It was definitely a pretty big statement to beat No. 1 and go on the road and beat a really good Iowa team,” Carimi said. “We saw how good they were last Saturday against Michigan State.”

“I personally think Iowa was a big challenge,” Moffitt said. “In retrospect, Iowa was a bigger challenge than Ohio State. It was away, and you were worried about that hang-over game.”

How much have they thought about the NFL?

“Not that much at all,” Carimi said. “My parents are dealing with everything (agents). I’ll tell them, ‘Look, you can tell me your name but I’m not going to remember it to be honest with you. Go to my parents.’ They’re doing the interview process. And they’re picking the top four for me to look at so I don’t have to deal with all of the bad agents, and there are a ton of bad agents out there. Until this bye week, I hadn’t even talked to my parents about it. Just recently I told them I won’t talk to anybody until after the regular season is over. That’s as much I know about the NFL.”

“I think he’s done a better job,” Moffitt said. “After my junior season ended, I was talking to them a little bit, but I said to my parents, my father specifically, ‘Take it over for me.’ Kind of like what Gabe did with his parents. So my dad talks to all of them and I direct them all to him because it’s just the biggest distraction in the world. What we have right now (as a team) is guaranteed and it’s really special, and it’s becoming more and more special and I want to fully enjoy this.”

“You can enjoy it when you keep on winning,” Carimi said. “The losses hurt more than the wins feel good. You just want to keep winning because you know one loss is going to hurt more than all of those wins you’ve had.”

“As you play longer, you feel losses for longer,” Moffitt said. “Like Michigan State, it took me three days to shake that one. Whereas when I was a freshman, you’d lose a game, and you’d feel it, but not in the same way. As seniors, you don’t have that much time left or that many more opportunities.”

Moffitt lives with quarterback Scott Tolzien and offensive lineman Bill Nagy.

Carimi lives with offensive center Peter Konz, who keeps everybody on their toes.

“I left my Facebook open on Peter’s computer,” Carimi said, “and he proposed to my girlfriend via my Facebook so it looked like it was from me.”

“What did she say?” asked Moffitt, who had not heard the story.

“She knew it was Peter, obviously it was Peter,” Carimi said. “But my aunt and my grandmother called me (and asked about the proposal). Peter thinks Facebook is just ridiculous. He’s a goof.”

“He can always make me laugh,” Moffitt said.

“Me, too,” Carimi conceded.

Both know Konz as a damn good football player on the field.

Any chance that anybody in the UW locker room might take any one of the final four regular season opponents lightly despite knowing that a potential share of the Big Ten title is on the line?

“We don’t want to take anything lightly and risk that,” Moffitt said. “I know I’m ultra-paranoid right now just about doing things right and the team having the right mentality.”

“Oh, definitely,” echoed Carimi. “If we keep on doing what we have been doing, we’re going to win. But if we slip up and think that we can put it on cruise, there’s no such thing as cruise in my opinion. If you go on cruise, you’re going downhill.”

“You’ve got a balance of younger guys and older guys on this team,” Moffitt said. “The older guys understand. I think the younger guys need to be told repeatedly because they don’t realize yet how hard it is to win in this league. When we went 7-6 (in 2008) that was a big learning year because there’s so much difference between the wins and losses. And when you learn that, you can learn to respect the game and the preparation.”

What’s the best thing about being an offensive lineman?

“The friendships,” Carimi said. “I feel like my closest friends are O-linemen.”

“I’d agree,” Moffitt said. “I think the bond between the O-line is the tightest on the team. We’re all very close to each other. We’re always together. Plus, you can eat whatever you want. You can eat anything, and it’s all fine.’’

“You look great,” Carimi told Moffitt.

Both laughed.

So will they still be friends 20 years from now?

“Oh, yeah,” Carimi said.

“Yeah, definitely,” Moffitt said.

“We won’t have to communicate all the time,” Carimi said. “But as soon as we do hang out, it will be the same old, same old.”

Both agreed that they have a friendship that will endure.

Carimi suggested they could be drafted by the same NFL team. He’s a projected first round pick. Moffitt’s draft stock has been rising steadily since the start of the Big Ten season.

“If you take a pay cut, I’ll go wherever you go,” Moffitt told Carimi. “You can grandfather me in.”

Both shared another laugh, and headed to practice.

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