Going to college, we knew it would be a new start.
What we were in high school didn’t matter once we stepped on to the campus at the University of Wisconsin. We knew that we were going to get a taste of adulthood: living on our own, cooking and cleaning for ourselves, and taking care of our own schedules. We had to grow up fast in order to balance the hefty lifestyle we had in front of us. Every day there was new, unexpected challenges that we faced, whether it be preparing for an exam or trying to find the strength to get through another practice.
The recruiting class we began with wasn’t the same at the end. Some of us had been redshirted, moved to different positions, transferred to another school or some left the game entirely, but we still always a group that started this journey together.
This afternoon, the home portion of that journey ends for this year’s senior class with the regular season home finale against none other than the Minnesota Gophers. A rivalry that dates back to 1890, we have claimed the last 14 victories in this border battle with Paul Bunyan’s Axe on the line. For a senior, this night, this game defines your career and how you end it as a Badger.
Practices before this game are held to the highest expectations of the coaches. Your work ethic and determination have to be on the same level as theirs, especially since a majority of them have played and/or coached in this rivalry game. Our coaching staff has had the sweet taste of victory, but some have also tasted defeat to the Gophers. They will tell you, a loss to the Gophers is 10 times worse than any other loss.
From a players’ standpoint, we have multiple veterans who have played in this rivalry game. Just as the coaches go through their experiences of this game, Coach Chryst asks his seniors to stand up and explain the meaning of this game, why it is important to win this game more than any other game that season. To the young guys, it’s all about how you’re going to send off your seniors, which means giving everything you got at practice. No mental errors, no half speed and giving the looks needed for preparation of the game.
This is a defining moment for the seniors. Will they be known as the class that lost Paul Bunyan’s Axe or the one that will continue the streak?
Even though I don’t share the field with them anymore, they are still my second family. My brothers. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to come into this football club with. The memories with them I will always cherish. Like from freshman year, when TJ Edwards and Rafael Gaglianone kept arguing on who the better FIFA player was, which turned into a trash-talking video game match. The times the group would make the trip over to State Street to relax after the summer workouts, or in the locker room where the music would be blasting and people would either be dancing or playing Four Square in the middle of the locker room. Either way, there was always fun going on after a hard day’s work.
This will be a memorable night for these seniors. They will run out the tunnel to meet their families with a hand full of flowers and have their name announced to the whole stadium. Being recognized and acknowledged for their journey to becoming a Badger, it is a special moment for the players and for the families, who have seen their son/grandson/nephew/etc. grow up since their freshman year.
The moment will be one that will stick with them forever, like running around with the Axe to chop down the goal posts after the clock strikes zero. But like in life, only one of those moments are guaranteed. That’s what makes this week so important, as nobody wants to let that only opportunity pass them by.