A New Look for Nagy

Offensive lineman Billy Nagy is adjusting to his new position at tight end as the Badgers use creative ways to get the senior on the field.

MADISON — Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema said at the beginning of the season that the UW offensive line had seven or eight players who could start without any drop in performance.

It wasn't coach-speak. It wasn't false praise. He sure as hell wasn't kidding.

Experimenting with guard Ryan Groy at fullback earlier in the year, the coaching staff liked the look of six three-hundred-plus-pound behemoths blocking for the equally hefty Clay, and decided to add some wrinkles to the jumbo package.

Enter O-lineman Bill Nagy. Weighing in at 318 lbs., Nagy had just barely lost out in a position battle for right guard with Kevin Zeitler entering Michigan State for the Big Ten opener, but the coaching staff still wanted the fifth-year senior on the field. So how does playing tight end sound?

"It makes me look thinner though, doesn't it?" Nagy said with a laugh of wearing No. 89. "But I just want to be out there. It is my senior year, so whatever I can do to help the team. If it is playing tight end, it is playing tight end. I am just trying to embrace the role."

Like going with a bizarro small-ball lineup in basketball, Bielema talked about finding a way to get the best players in the program on the field. Spread offense teams have a plethora of weapons at the wide receiver position, so they go five-wide in formation.

Wisconsin has an embarrassment of riches at offensive line, so they find a way to make it work.

"That is really cool that coach 'B' said that about the offensive line," Nagy said.

"I have always been proud to be an offensive lineman at Wisconsin. Such great tradition here. Look at older guys like Joe Thomas, Dan Buenning, all those guys. It is just a great honor to just be here and play in their footsteps and what they have made this program."

It is the first time in a while that a break has gone Nagy's way on the football field.

Two seasons ago, Nagy was set to become the Badgers starting left guard with Kraig Ubrik taking his game to the NFL. Throughout spring camp it was clear Nagy was best at the position, and the job was his to claim in fall camp.

Then adversity — most literally — struck.

Nagy was sidelined for most the season, after a car ran through a red light and crashed into Nagy who was heading home from practice on his moped scooter. Suffering wrist and foot injuries on the right side, He played just two games as a shell of himself with torn ligaments in the arch of his foot.

"That was crazy, I remember exactly when it happened," roommate and captain John Moffitt said. "Someone called and said they thought it was his scooter and I went down to the hospital. It was really difficult."

The mental recovery was just as tough as the physical rehab.

In football, most injuries have a standard recovery time attached to them that even fans know by heart at this point. Torn ACL? Out for a year. Sprained ankle? A week, two maybe.

But what is the diagnoses for a car accident that damages the entire right side of a body?

"If I got hurt on the field playing football doing something that I love, it is just one of those things that is a part of the game, and I can accept that," Nagy said. "But for somebody else's mistake and stupidity … you start thinking down at first like 'why me?'

"But I also thought how fortunate I was that it wasn't worse. I have great friends and great family that all supported me through it."

"You just have to move on and I think that has made me grow as a football player and as a person."

So in embracing his new role, what is the next step for Nagy as a tight end?

Well, he lives with quarterback Scott Tolzien, so there is always the off-chance during a broken play Nagy would get the chance to show off his hands…

"We talked about it," Nagy said with a laugh. "I have told him, you know Scott if I am open, don't be afraid to throw the ball I can catch it. But we'll see."

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