For all of the attention we give to student-athletes at the University of Wisconsin, the truth of the matter is we don't really know them well at all.
We watch them compete, ask all sorts of questions and listen intently to their replies.
We see them interact with teammates, coaches and the public, measure them as they deal with success and failure, and, fair or not, form some sort of impression about them.
Over the course of four or five years, as maturity blooms, personalities evolve and resumes of performance expand, we fool ourselves by thinking we know what makes them tick.
We do not.
It takes years — decades, perhaps — before we truly see what they took away from their experience at UW and what they have become inside.
They were elected captains, but did they become leaders? They were woven into an atmosphere of sacrifice, friendship and loyalty, but were they genuinely committed? They spoke of character and integrity, but did they walk the talk?
Nothing exposes and defines those traits quite like adversity.
Like a horrific car accident.
Like a teammate and a friend critically injured, his pregnant wife and 1-year-old son in shock and distress.
Like a crisis of faith and humanity unfolding hours from your home and family.
What is the response?
It's been 16 years since you wore the same Badgers uniform, fought for the same cause, heard the same cheers, shared the same anguish and felt the same bond of spirit. Has time diminished those experiences or has it served to fortify a sense of personal responsibility?
In the case of Kirk Daubenspeck, the answer is resoundingly clear and heartfelt.
The Madison resident, a second-team All-America goaltender in 1997, suffered a severe brain injury Feb. 16 when his car collided with a semi in heavy fog near Dodgeville. Daubenspeck is in critical but stable condition at UW Hospital. He's in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.
Jamie Spencer and Mark Strobel were senior co-captains for UW when Daubenspeck was a sophomore in 1994-95. Tim Krug was a co-captain with Daubenspeck when the two were seniors in 1996-97.
The three close friends — all from the Twin Cities area — have taken turns in a prayerful, round-the-clock vigil at Daubenspeck's bedside. They have comforted his wife Peggy and the couple's young son Axel. They have helped set up a medical benefit fund through the State Bank of Cross Plains — donations can be made at any of its area locations, a list of which can found at crossplainsbank.com — that went active Monday.
Spencer, a vice president for sales and marketing with the Minnesota Wild who lives in Rosemount, Minn., bowed out of a major presentation to owner Craig Leipold so he could stay with Daubenspeck.
Strobel put his new job with a medical supply company on temporary hold to help his friend, while Krug, a software salesman who happens to be Strobel's brother-in-law, spent a long weekend in town before escorting members of three families back home to Hudson.
After sitting with UW men's coach Mike Eaves and his staff in Daubenspeck's room Monday, Strobel and Spencer headed out in the afternoon to retrieve personal belongings from Daubenspeck's demolished vehicle.
That gave way to a benefit get-together hosted by retired UW coach Jeff Sauer at Babe's on the West Side of Madison.
At this moment you might be asking why.
"It's who we are," Strobel said.
"It's a brotherhood," Spencer said.
It's a privilege to see what kind of people they have become.
Contact Andy Baggot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-252-6175.