Former University of Wisconsin quarterback Brooks Bollinger was chosen to speak on behalf of the former players at the reception for Barry Alvarez prior to his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in New York City earlier this month.
I heard from several people that Bollinger gave an impressive speech, full of emotion, when talking about the influence his former coach had on his life.
I spoke with Bollinger recently for another story and asked him about his speech. He said he wasn't surprised about getting emotional.
"I have a tendency to get that way," he said. "It's important to me. I grew up around football coaches and I understand what they sacrifice in their own lives. It's not always what the outside world necessarily perceives as far as glamour.
"I like the guy (Alvarez). I was certainly floored that I got to speak, on behalf of his players, because I know how many great guys, how many people could have represtened his players, that I have a ton of respect for."
Alvarez was officially inducted at a dinner in the Waldorf-Astoria on Dec. 7 and Bollinger spoke at a reception the night before.
"It was such a cool event," Bollinger said. "A ton of people from Madison, some of the former players, some of his family and close friends from back in Pennsylvania.
"It was a blast. It was one of those deals where it took you an hour to go to the bathroom or oder a drink but you didn't mind it, you wanted to talk to everybody, whoever you ran into. It was that kind of night."
The point of Bollinger's speech was to emphasize the impact Alvarez made in the lives of so many of his former players.
"Kind of thinking back on the whole thing, the amount of experiences and things I've learned that I never really thought I would accomplish," Bollinger said of his focus. "(To) experience all of that, as a result of playing for him at Wisconsin and the impact he had on all of our lives."
Bollinger currently lives in the Twin Cities. He and his wife have two sons, ages 4 and 2, and are expecting a daughter in February.
After two years of playing for the Florida Tuskers in the United Football League, Bollinger is deciding what to do next in his life.
In addition to playing for Alvarez, Bollinger feels fortunate to have played for Mike Berg at Grand Forks (N.D) Central High School.
"You appreciate it all the more as time goes on," Bollinger said. "Just getting around kids from other places, in the NFL, guys who played in colleges all over the country -- not everybody got to do the things we did and were coached by a great staff like we were.
"You take it for granted, from my high school (coach) to Barry at Wisconsin and the staff he had. In the NFL, not only talking to other guys but being around more and more coaching staffs. You think, `God, I thought everybody had it this way.' It's certainly not like that everywhere."