Nov. 19, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- UW junior fullback Bradie Ewing was describing his mindset when he's hunting his prey - the two-legged variety - mainly linebackers and defensive ends.
The distinction has to be made with Ewing, an avid outdoorsman from Richland Center, who's probably more comfortable carrying a Remington .243 rifle than the football.
After all, he gets more chances to do the former than the latter.
So what does it take to be a good blocker?
"Aggressiveness," he said, "and just being confident with myself - trusting my eyes and trusting the look I'm getting and going full-speed because you can't hesitate at this level."
So what does it take to be a good hunter?
All of the above.
Especially when you're eyeing a 12-point buck.
"He looked pretty intimidating," Ewing said.
The buck was likely thinking the same thing sizing up the 234-pound Ewing.
Positioned in a tree stand, Ewing had been waiting since daybreak for something to move. It was approaching 10 a.m., he said, when he heard a grunt on the other side of the ridge.
"I took out a doe bleat can and hit it a few times," he said, hoping to draw the buck.
(Note: a quarterback bleat can is not needed to attract blitzers. They come on their own.)
The day before - on Thanksgiving morning, 2009 - Ewing shot a doe in the Earn-A-Buck management program (which entailed shooting an antlerless deer before shooting a buck).
So, he went back to the same site and his patience and persistence were rewarded. Shortly after simulating the sound of a doe, he turned and saw his target walking 30 yards broadside.
"Everything worked out," said Ewing, who nailed his trophy buck.
A few weeks ago, he got the mount back and the antlers are now hanging from a wall. "Pretty awesome to see," said Ewing, who has a picture of his prize in his wallet. "I'm pretty happy with it."
Where is Bradie Ewing the happiest? Might it be in the isolation of a tree stand?
"I just enjoy looking at God's creation - the beauty of the land," Ewing said. "I just enjoy listening to the birds, listening for the deer, just passing the time.
"It's a good way to get away from Madison; even Richland Center. You put everything behind you, and get backs to the basics. You get back to what God gave us - the great, beautiful outdoors."
Where is Bradie Ewing the happiest? Might it be running an Iso on a linebacker?
"I think I have taken on the mentality of a fullback," he said. "Things like being unselfish, having an attack mentality, never flinching and just doing what you can do to help the team."
You wouldn't know by his pleasant demeanor off the field that he can be so violent on the field. The transformation from this polite honors student to this nasty blocking back is striking.
His mean streak never ceases to amaze UW coach Bret Bielema, who likes to tease Ewing by calling him "Private Pyle" - the Vincent D'Onofrio character in the movie, "Full Metal Jacket."
In high school, he was more easily confused for Marcellus Washburn. In fact, that was the role that Ewing played in Richland Center's production of the "Music Man."
Washburn was Professor Harold Hill's old friend from River City. "It was kind of cool to get into the role of someone else," said Ewing, who had a smaller part in the musical "Anne Get Your Gun."
Jocks don't normally mix with theater arts.
"It was a chance to step out of that traditional role," Ewing said.
The choir boy image is genuine. He also sang in the choir, traditional and swing.
"I was in band for awhile - I was a percussionist," added Ewing. "I did take piano when I was younger. But I really enjoyed the snare drum and I've always aspired to get a drum set."
Last summer, he got a guitar instead. "Trying to teach myself; nothing serious," he said.
Given this backdrop, you should not be surprised to learn that Ewing was his senior class president. Did he run a "Vote for Pedro" type campaign? "No t-shirts were made," he said, grinning.
If popularity was tied solely to production, he had no equal.
Ewing had over 1,000 rushing yards by the fourth game of his senior year. Saving his best for the best - two-time defending state champion Lancaster - he had 352 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite earning all-state recognition, Ewing receiving just one scholarship offer for football. That was from North Dakota. "I really liked the place," he said. "But this is where I wanted to be."
As it turned out, Ewing had walk-on invitations from both football and basketball at Wisconsin. He was a four-year letter-winner in hoops at Richland Center and honorable mention all-state.
"It would have been fun to be a part of that (Bo Ryan's program)," he said. "But my heart was pulling me towards football, so I just followed that." And walked on.
Bielema is glad that he did. After the Badgers scored 83 points last Saturday against Indiana, there was no shortage of candidates for Offensive Player of the Week. Ewing was the choice.
"This is a guy," Bielema said of Ewing, "that from game one to where he is today is playing as good of football at that position since I've been here, and we've had some good ones (fullbacks)."
On several occasions, Bielema has volunteered how Ewing is "playing very mean." This is usually after Ewing has stirred things up in practice with his tenacity and toughness.
"Bradie is Mr. Wisconsin - I mean, he could probably be the governor here at some point," Bielema has said. "He's smart, good looking. But it took him awhile to learn how to become mean."
Bielema related how a fight broke out during a Thursday practice, a rarity.
"I'm like, `What? Who's doing that? Nobody fights on Thursdays,'" Bielema said. "And it was Bradie mixing it up, I think, with one of the linebackers. I was just chuckling to myself because it was a Thursday, and Bradie is getting in a fight. Nothing bad, I mean, it's just a little push-push."
But it was another positive sign of Ewing's aggressiveness in blocking somebody.
None of this came easy, either.
He had to learn how to block since he was usually carrying the ball in high school.
"We'd fake a run or a dive and I'd just be a personal protector on passes," he said. "Now that I think of it, I didn't have to block very often. There was a learning curve here, for sure. It took some time to be able to transition and really become comfortable and confident in the role."
He also had to learn how to run pass routes on a more consistent basis. This came more naturally because he has good hands. Did his basketball skills help?
"It may have in adjusting to the ball within competition," said Ewing, who grew up playing catch in the yard with his dad (David) and older brother (Brandon, a prep quarterback).
His family now travels to most of his games with the Badgers. That includes his two sisters. "They're pretty awesome," said Ewing, whose mom (Andrea) is from Fennimore.
That was the hometown of former UW walk-on wide receiver Luke Swan. "Our families are friends," said Ewing who got to know Swan better through Bible study on campus.
"I've always gravitated to those walk-on guys," Ewing said, also listing Jim Leonhard and Chris Maragos. "I still have some loans to take care of, but being on scholarship now is pretty special."
Maybe that's why Bradie Ewing doesn't take anything for granted.
"You can't," he stressed. "You never know what the next day is going to bring. You need to appreciate everything you have and everything the Lord has blessed you with. It can be gone so quick.
"I try to play every play like it's my last. I know a lot of people say that but I truly believe it and buy into it. Laying it on the line for your teammates and this program is pretty cool."