UW football: ‘He’s a Wisconsin guy,’ teammates say of newcomer Wilson

2011-08-08T07:00:00Z 2011-09-30T15:35:03Z UW football: ‘He’s a Wisconsin guy,’ teammates say of newcomer WilsonTOM MULHERN | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

Senior transfer quarterback Russell Wilson has already been dumped in the ice tubs that sit outside the locker room by his new University of Wisconsin teammates.

He also took part in an impromptu dance contest with some of the guys.

And when UW coach Bret Bielema had Wilson get up at the first meeting and state his name and where he is from — a ritual normally limited to the freshmen — there were good-natured catcalls and hooting.

Russell-mania has gripped the state, from bar stools to gas stations, with people who can't seem to get enough of the new Badgers quarterback.

"I get it every day," UW coach Bret Bielema said Sunday. "Since I've been a head coach, I've never had so many people ... I'll just be filling up my car with gas at a gas station and somebody will come up and ask me questions about him."

Yet, around his teammates, Wilson has quickly become one of the guys.

"The other day, I got thrown into the ice tubs," Wilson said. "That was a little cold and chilly. I guess that kind of brought me to Madison a little bit."

Heaping so much attention and praise on a player before he plays a down seems like a recipe for disaster, especially at a program like UW, which prides itself on checking its egos at the door.

But the UW players were all jokes and smiles while fielding questions about Wilson during media day.

It's not only because he has shown to be the real deal on the field in the month he has been with the team, but also the way Wilson has worked to fit in from the first day.

"It's fun," junior center Peter Konz said of the attention Wilson has generated. "He's got a great head on his shoulders, so I don't worry about it one bit. I think the guys are going to have more fun with this than they're going to let it distract them."

The hysteria around Wilson has been so great, senior guard Kevin Zeitler said when players see a video camera, somebody will say, "Russell must be around."

Yet, Zeitler was quick to add, "He has his head in the right place, he's not just here to play football for a semester."

Wilson knew the expectations and scrutiny that would come with his transfer, especially with Auburn and UW as his final two teams.

"I knew that with the teams I was talking to, I thought that it was going to be something significant," he said. "But at the same time, I'm kind of a low-key guy. I just want to be part of something special."

The way to do that is by squeezing as much as he can from every day. It's as if he knows his time at UW will be short, so he has to make every minute count.

"I think the most important thing is putting in the work every single day," he said. "Do something special every single day in terms of my work ethic. Be special. Don't do the average, don't do good, do great every single day."

The approach is working, because Wilson has broken down whatever barriers could have been erected by his teammates upon his arrival.

"He really fits with who we are," Konz said. "It's a cliche at Wisconsin, but he's a Wisconsin guy."

Wilson estimated he put in about 10 to 12 hours a day with the playbook since arriving a month ago. He is so detail-oriented he takes note cards with him wherever he goes.

"He doesn't take anything for granted," Bielema said. "He doesn't want anything given to him. That's the part that is very evident in these first two days of practice."

The idea a quarterback could join a new team and be ready to play a game in two months seemed almost ridiculous at first. But Wilson is making it look plausible.

"To Russell's credit, he did a great job of getting in here and diving into the playbook, trying to learn as much as he can," sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr said. "Now, when you get out here (at practice) and you're kind of seeing it and running through stuff, it makes more sense."

Budmayr was asked if Wilson was further along than he expected.

"I didn't have any idea, but I will say I'm very impressed with how he's caught on to it," Budmayr said. "The more you're around him, you can just tell it's important to him."

When asked how much of the playbook he could realistically be expected to grasp by the opener, Wilson responded, "I'll be honest with you — all of it. Really. Like I said, I'm a quick learner. I graduated in three years (from N.C. State) for a reason."

Even normally cautious offensive coordinator Paul Chryst wouldn't rule out Wilson having a decent grasp of things for the UNLV game on Sept. 1.

"The only thing I would say is I wouldn't bet against the timetable, because I've been impressed with what he's done to this point," Chryst said.


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