LOS ANGELES — It was a Tuesday night ritual during the University of Wisconsin football season.
That's the night offensive players and assistant coaches are interviewed by the media after practice. Players who get the most requests do group interviews.
Every week without fail, UW junior center Peter Konz held court for reporters, talking about a variety of topics, thoughtfully answering every question until the last tape recorder clicked off.
Talking to Konz is a joyous experience, mostly because of his entertaining answers and his infectious laugh, which can regularly be heard above the din inside the McClain Center.
Konz's approach to interviews is refreshing and sincere. He embraced them from the start, never regarding them as a chore.
"I've always enjoyed it," he said. "I've always felt it was an honor, that people would respect you enough to come up to you and ask you what you think.
"I can just be a blabbering idiot, but it's flattering. I don't want to waste anybody's time. I don't want to just give generic answers, give you the old run-around sports talk. I want to talk to you like you're an actual person, you know?"
That attitude stems from his mother. Margaret Konz is a single mom in Neenah who raised two boys, Peter and Rudy, who is younger by a year.
Now that Peter is an All-American lineman for the Badgers, about to start in his second Rose Bowl on Monday against Oregon after recovering from a nasty dislocated left ankle, people come up to Margaret and ask her how she did it.
Her response is always the same: It didn't happen because of her alone.
"That's one of our rules in our house," Margaret Konz said. "Because Pete has had such great success at Wisconsin and we've always loved the Badgers and supported all of that, one of our rules is you always have to give back, no matter what.
"Whether it's to his fans, signing autographs, or to the media. He worked hard, but he wouldn't be where he is without every single person, whether it's one of our neighbors that fed him, or gave him a ride after a game, we always have said that has contributed to his success."
Margaret Konz teaches students with emotional and behavioral disabilities at Neenah High School. Peter came into her classroom all the time.
"He would sit down and work with some really rough kids I had," Margaret said. "He would sit say, 'C'mon, kid, you've got to get your math done.' These kids would work for him, it's amazing."
Peter likes interacting with all kinds of people. He is studying communication arts and seldom has there been a more perfect union of student and major.
Left guard John Moffitt and left tackle Gabe Carimi were the spokesmen for the offensive line as seniors last season. Those duties fell on Konz this year.
Konz isn't a self-promoter, he's just filling a void. The media need someone to talk to and he is happy to oblige.
"I think it's good you guys pick somebody like that," sophomore left guard Travis Frederick said. "It kind of keeps the pressure off guys like (left tackle) Ricky (Wagner) that don't necessarily want to talk to the media ... because all he wants to do is go out and work. Pete's obviously been a good spokesperson."
Margaret Konz instilled a can-do attitude in her boys. Tony Konz, Peter's dad, lives in Oshkosh and Peter saw him on weekends growing up.
But mostly it was Peter, Rudy and Margaret, in that little house, finding a way to make it work. If Peter needed money for a football camp, his mom came up with it.
"Financially, it's always been tough," Peter said. "Teachers don't make that much. She has always worked hard to get us what we need. I've been spoiled."
Margaret's family lived in Indiana, but she never was alone. It takes a neighborhood to raise a football player.
"We've trudged through it all, we've done what we've had to do to get where we are," Margaret Konz said. "That was the thing, you work hard to get what you want — and you never forget the people that helped."
Peter got his love of sports — and learning — from his mom. She saved all of the art projects he did as a kid and most of them were football-related. "It was like 'Ws' everywhere," he said of the UW logo.
He should have been a slam dunk recruit, but he made the Badgers squirm and his mom fret while talking to Duke and Stanford.
"I'm one of those people who does what you tell me not to do," Peter said, unapologetically.
During his first week of preseason camp as a freshman, a teary Peter called his mom. He was recruited as an offensive lineman, was temporarily switched to defensive line, then moved back to offense. He didn't know any of the plays, his new moped wouldn't start, his body was sore and he didn't know how to get back and forth to the stadium for two-a-days.
His mom calmed him down, told him everything would be fine and said she couldn't be running down to Madison over every little thing.
"Suck it up, that's what I always say," she said, although in a motherly way.
She even showed her football smarts, telling her son, "Just think what a good offensive lineman you'll be. Now you know both sides of the ball."
Now, he's a famous football player, but things don't change. Peter got engaged around Christmas. He came home, kicked his shoes off and asked what there was to eat.
"We were sitting here and it was just like old times because that's what we used to do, hang out and really enjoy each other's company, Pete, his brother and myself," Margaret said.
It hasn't always been smooth. Peter thought his career might be over as a redshirt freshman when he developed tiny blood clots in his lungs after an airplane flight to Hawaii.
Margaret got the phone call in the middle of the night — every parent's worst nightmare — but there was nothing she could do. Fortunately, Carimi's mom and dad went to the hospital as stand-in parents to help Peter through the ordeal.
Peter was in the midst of a terrific season when he dislocated his left ankle against Minnesota on Nov. 12. They couldn't give him any pain medicine, so Peter and his mom, who rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital, started singing songs to try and forget the pain.
Also, Peter made his mom text the mother of his backup, sophomore lineman Ryan Groy. That was because Peter was worried about how his replacement was doing.
Peter is fiercely loyal that way, to his mom, to the Badgers and to his teammates.
It's perhaps the one chance the UW program has to enjoy another year of Peter Konz.
Conventional wisdom suggests he will leave for the NFL after the season. He figures to be a high NFL draft pick. But Peter has never been conventional, so it's hard to know he will do.
"There's that loyalty piece in Pete. I think that's hard for him (to think of leaving)," Margaret said.
"I have no idea," she said of what he will do. "That child surprises me every day."
Peter will take a week to think about it, after the bowl game, then come to a decision.
"Staying at Wisconsin is a very safe decision," he said. "There's a lot of risks leaving, especially after an injury. You never know what's going to happen.
"After then, you're an adult. Right now, I'm a student. I'm still getting my education. It's going to be tough because I'm loyal to the program, I love the program."