Each week, former Madison La Follette and University of Wisconsin long-snapper Kyle Wojta will share his thoughts as he auditions for a shot at the NFL, likely as an undrafted free agent.
Last week I reminisced about my first day as a Badger and how excited and anxious I was to get started. That day I achieved a lifelong dream and I wish I could put into words the feeling of joy that encompassed that situation. I also began working toward my next goal, which was to actually play and contribute to the team. For this week's journal, I will talk about my first two seasons on the team and how we fell short of high expectations during that time.
Let me begin by stating that every Badger football player will always remember the first time that he ran out of the tunnel and onto the field on game day. The first game that I was able to do so was against The Citadel on Sept. 15, 2007. I remember sitting in the locker room before the game and trying to imagine what it would be like. But the best images that I was able to conjure up in my head did not even come close to how great the actual moment was.
I had watched hundreds, even thousands of Badger players run out of the tunnel as a fan and it blew my mind that I would finally be able to experience it as a player. I looked around the locker room and was still astonished that I was even a part of the team because it still seemed too good to be true. Less than a week earlier, I was just another kid with a dream to play for the Wisconsin Badgers. Now, I was sitting in the locker room ready to put on a Badgers uniform that had "Wojta" on the back!! It was simply unfathomable.
The first time I ran out of the tunnel and onto the field was amazing. First of all, I didn't trip running down the ramp, which was a plus considering how amped up I was to get on the field. I also loved walking under the stadium before we got to the ramp because fans are everywhere, screaming and hitting you on the helmet. It fired me up that time and every time since then!!
My dad and brother enjoyed going underneath the stadium as well to see the other players and I run out before the games. I remember one time in particular when my dad's buddy, Mike Kuether, got so excited when he saw me walking out of the tunnel that he wound up and hit me on the helmet so hard that he knocked my mouth guard off my facemask. I then had to chase my mouth guard down the ramp while trying not to fall down as I was fumbling to pick it up. Needless to say, running out of the tunnel at Camp Randall never gets old!!
My first two seasons on the team I remember there being high expectations. We had just gone 12-1 the year before and everyone expected us to be as successful and hopefully make it to the Rose Bowl. My first season, we came up just short of making it to the Rose Bowl and ended up losing to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. We went 9-4, but overall we had a pretty successful year. We obviously would have preferred to have done better but we had a talented team that came up just short in a couple of games. If the ball bounces a different way, we could have had two or three more wins.
Coming off the 2007 season there were extremely high expectations and I think we had extremely high expectations for ourselves. I, along with many others, believe that the 2008 team was the most talented team that has been at Wisconsin in quite a while. We had a lot of players returning from the previous year that were extremely talented so there was definitely grounds for the high expectations.
Unfortunately, we lost some close games and the team seemed to crumble and fall apart as the year went on. There was a lot of hurt in the locker room that season because everyone knew that we had the talent to win every game but things just never seemed like they were going our way. That season we ended up going 7-6 and got blown out by Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. I know a lot of players felt awful about our performance during the season and many felt like we let the fans down. I know I did and I didn't even play!
The reason I focused on my first two seasons in this journal is because it was the low point of my Badgers football career. It was also the turning point for our football team, when we began to make strides to turn around the program and make it successful once again.
Next week I will take a break from discussing my football career as a Badger and talk about my experience during our Badger Pro Day. That's when NFL scouts, coaches, and general managers are able to meet with UW's NFL prospects, clock them doing running drills and watch them do on-field drills. Pro day is next Wednesday, March 7, and I am excited for the opportunity to show the scouts what I can do.
I have been blessed to be in the position I am in and now I just have to take advantage of the opportunity. Wish me luck!