November 29, 2009

Borland honored with Big Ten distinction

MADISON - In Chris Borland's mind, winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award is more of a tribute to his teammates than it is for him. Still, as a player that was fairly overlooked in recruiting, it's quite an honor and distinction. In doing so, the true freshman became just the sixth Wisconsin player to be labeled with the award.

Following a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the Ohio native. The following is a question and answer with Borland.

I guess to start, what were your reactions when you found out you were Freshman of the Year?

Borland: It was exciting. I didn't really expect it, especially not at the beginning of the year. It's an honor and I'm proud of that accomplishment but it's more important to win games and be a team player. I know I couldn't accomplish it by myself. There's a lot of factors outside of my control that allowed me to gain the award and I really appreciate everybody's help on the team.

Do you think early in the season when you were making quite an impact on special teams you started to get your name thrown around there a little bit. Then when Mike Taylor unfortunately went down and you stepped in, do you think the early season name that you made for yourself helped you?

Borland: Possibly. I'm not too concerned with those things, but that might have been a factor. I'm more proud of the fact that we have a chance to win 10 games and exceed expectations because we were expected to finish low in the Big Ten this year. The most fun I've had this year is just being part of a winning team. The awards are nice, but that's not the goal and this team doesn't focus on that. It is an honor.

Still in all, I think there are 12 or 13 guys that are named to some various form of All-Big Ten or honorable mention. What does that say about this team?

Borland: It talks about the team's success because individual accolades come about when the team is having success or magnified when the team is having success. Just all the role players and all the guys-everyone on the team- takes coaching well. We try to better ourselves, so that's the type of stuff you're proud of as a team and not necessarily the awards. They might come as a result of the hard work.

Obviously O'Brien Schofield and Garrett Graham got all-conference and they're seniors, but a lot of these guys are underclassmen. That's got to be exciting for you guys moving forward.

Borland: Yeah, we talked about that and one part about that that people don't realize is that a big reason that the underclassmen are having success is because of the seniors. Even if the guys not getting acknowledged like Daniel Moore and Jeff Stehle up front, they make the linebackers look good eating up blocks and just leadership as well. It's almost like the seniors are getting the award too, just the way the seniors have brought along the freshman, sophomores and juniors.

Considering the way your whole recruitment process went, and as a kind of under-recruited guy, did you expect you'd get the chance to be Big Ten Freshman of the Year?

Borland: No, I didn't. I knew I could play in Division One, and I didn't even know about Big Ten. In high school I was pretty undersized, but I felt I could play. Coach Bret Bielema gave me the opportunity and I tried to make the most of it.

Obviously there are still a couple of games left in the season, but you've played quite a bit this year. What do you still need to work on? Obviously you're a young guy and you probably have plenty of work to do.

Borland: I'm excited that there's a lot of things I can improve on. Everything, nothing is perfect in my game. I got a lot to work on so a little bit of everything. I'd say every aspect can get better and I can just continue to improve in all areas. I'm excited for the off-season. I love playing, but I love getting better as well. So the off-season will be a fun time.

Obviously the off-season you work on the strength and stuff like that, but do you watch film in the off-season, too?

Borland: Yeah, you can go up there on your own and just check out what other teams are doing and watch practice as well and see what you can improve on in drills. You just better yourself in the off-season. That's the time you get better. The season is the test and the off-season is all the studying.

It's kind of nice coming in as a true freshman and getting the chance to play in 10 games. That's going to benefit you down the road.

Borland: Yeah, I think the experiences really help me. Even two months ago, I wasn't feeling the game and seeing it how I am now. You can feel yourself getting better and that's exciting. You feel a lot more comfortable and you're able to make more plays.

Have you started scouting Hawaii?

Borland: Yeah, we've scouted them. (They have) a dangerous passing attack, probably one of the best in the country. It will be a good test for us.

Those WAC schools, they always have monster passing numbers.

Borland: Yeah, it's a high-flying conference. It's exciting.

Have you been to Hawaii before?

Borland: No. My brother is actually stationed there in the Army. It will be nice to see him. I haven't seen him in a year.

Is he going to come to the game?

Borland: Yeah.

Is he on leave or anything?

Borland: He just got back from Iraq when we played Indiana. So he's got a month where he's not doing too much so he'll stop by.

Have you been working on your hula dance at all?

Borland: No, no, we had a little team meeting where we were talking about some words and customs and stuff. It's a cool culture and a real gorgeous place.

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