August 29, 2010

Six-pack of captains exude leadership

MADISON - Culmer St. Jean wouldn't have been surprised had there been 14 captains named earlier this week.

Jay Valai anticipates no butting of heads between the six players that were actually tabbed captains and John Moffitt never really thought he'd be labeled as a captain when his career started.

So to answer the obvious question, six captains, as many as that sounds to be, seemed deserving.

And with guys like offensive line stalwarts Gabe Carimi and Moffitt, as well as skill players Scott Tolzien and Lance Kendricks steering a rather hyped offensive machine and Valai and St. Jean doing the same defensively, it seems the senior leadership on this squad is at the highest level it's been under head coach Bret Bielema.

"That's a lot of leaders," Valai said. "The thing I really respect, and it was obvious when I was voting, I was having a tough time. The other guys, Lance, Moffitt, Scott and Gabe, those were the four guys I was thinking about on offense. Then it was Culmer and I on defense with (me thinking of) J.J. Watt and Aaron Henry as well

"I was more ecstatic for all of us being captains than I was myself."

What the Badgers are getting with this selection of captains are six players that have represented the University of Wisconsin with high marks both on and off the field. They have proven capable of leading the team with their play in addition to their demeanor as citizens.

They all came into the program at the same time (summer of 2006) and they've seen their fair share of good times (last years 10-3 season) and struggles (7-6 season in 2008). They've experienced all that together and hope to go out with one final bang, bigger than anything that's been accomplished under Bielema.

"Being able to have that much under your belt you're able to take everything in," St. Jean said. "You know what you've got to do to get where you want to go."

Tolzien, the team's first returning starting quarterback since John Stocco, echoed St. Jean's sentiments.

"There's certainly six great leaders and then there's other guys, too," Tolzien said. "That's the great thing about any team. You want as many leaders and workers and guys with good attitudes as possible.

"We've got that so it's hard to chose six but it's an honor."

But when does six leaders become too many? When do the captains start to see things on a different level and start to butt heads? Is that even a legitimate concern people should be considering?

Bret Bielema doesn't think six is too many in this instance and neither does anybody else involved because the 2010 version of UW football is already a tight knit group and it seems most guys, particularly the captains, have their eye on the prize.

"As long as we all have the same goals and intentions, I don't see any problems," Tolzien said. "Then it's power of numbers. It's when guys start getting their own agendas, that's when it becomes a problem. Just knowing the guys we have, I don't anticipate that."

Valai was adamant when it comes to any potential butting of heads.

"No, no, no," Valai said. "We've all known each other here for four or five years. We all came in together and all these dudes I'm really close with on and off the field. We talk about all kinds of stuff together so we aren't going to butt heads. We all have the same goal in mind and that's the number one thing."

Any Badger fan can directly draw parallels in regards to leadership and the success a certain team has on the field. In 2008, the Badgers didn't have the highest quality leadership and the team struggled to finish 7-6 and barely make a bowl game that they wound up getting blown out of.

Last year, with guys like O'Brien Schofield and Chris Maragos piloting the team, the Badgers stayed true to themselves and remained grounded en route to a 10-3 performance. That team never got too high and never dropped too low. It just did what it had to do and hopefully propelled the 2010 Badgers into the upcoming season with momentum after an impressive win over Miami in the bowl game.

Now, it seems as if the leaders are set once again with six guys that have been through the rigors of fall camp. They've been through the rigors of a long season. They've handled things right in the classroom and they're trying to go out with a bang.

They are tight enough to know that a defensive captain can get after an offensive player and an offensive player can get after a defensive one because in the end, it's in the best interest of the team.

"There is no defense and offense when it comes to captains," St. Jean said. "I don't think anybody looks at it that way. There are players and that's how we're going to handle it. They're players. I might talk to Moffitt or Scotty or Gabe and do this or that. I think everybody has enough respect so that you can come approach someone man to man and tell them how they feel. They'll take care of it or give me feedback so we can go over it.

"I don't feel it's an offensive or defensive thing."

Other reaction:

Kendricks on being named a captain:

"It's definitely a blessing. I think the guys that were nominated are all very hard workers. We all display leadership through our work. We're all fifth year seniors and that's what we represent."

Moffitt on whether he ever thought he'd become a captain:

"That's something I don't normally think about. I think when you're a freshman you have so many issues aside from leadership. Just getting adapted is the biggest problem. You see these freshmen now and it's the same thing. They're just learning the game."

Bielema on the criteria he laid out prior to voting for captains:

"I made it clear to the guys that it's not about who's the best player. It's about the guys that since you've been in the program you've seen do the right things not only on the football field but away from the football field and in the weight room. I just asked them to think about that when they were voting and I think our guys did a very nice job."

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