With a career record of 21-4, Tolzien's arm is one of the reasons No.4 Wisconsin earned a share of the 2010 Big Ten championship and a berth in the 2011 Rose Bowl against No.3 TCU. On Monday, his arm, among many other characteristics, earned the senior from Illinois the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the country's top senior quarterback.
"When he hit campus you could see he was exactly what Paul (Chryst) described, very business-like, very focused," UW Coach Bret Bielema said of Tolzien, the first player in Wisconsin history to win the award, which debuted in 1987. "A man of few words, but what he said was very, very detailed. And then once he comes here, he just continued to do what he's kind of done over the last two years. He just handles his daily business. He's very, very determined to have success. He's got a great awareness of where he is. It's not a surprise to me."
Tolzien currently holds school records with a .685 career completion percentage and a 154.4 quarterback efficiency rating. He also ranks fourth at UW with 5,112 career passing yards and 398 completions, sixth with 32 career passing touchdowns and seventh with 581 attempts.
After leading Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) to a win over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl this season, Tolzien said his senior season would be great if he could limit his mistakes. His numbers show he accomplished that goal. In addition to throwing for 2,300 yards with 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions this year, Tolzien completed 74.3 percent of his passes (tops in the nation) and is on pace to break the Big Ten record, currently held by former Badger quarterback Darrell Bevell, who completed 67.8 percent of his passes in 1993.
"The thing that's going to be nice for Scott, he's going to have an opportunity to go on to the NFL, by everything that everybody is telling me," Bielema said. "The thing that those NFL people keep saying to me all along is he's this way all the time. He's the same guy every time on film, and he's gotten better this year, and a huge reason why we're at where we are today."
If the former winners are any indication, Tolzien should find himself on an NFL roster. Eight of the past 10 winners of the Award have started at least one NFL game while New York Giants QB Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2003) has won a Super Bowl.
"Scott Tolzien personifies everything that my father stood for," said John C. Unitas, Jr., President of The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation in a statement. "He is not simply an outstanding quarterback, but an outstanding individual who is a leader both on and off the field, tirelessly devoting himself to his team, to his community, and to being a mentor for others.
"Scott joins a long line of quarterbacks who embody the characteristics that made Johnny Unitas an enduring legend, including many who have gone on to illustrious careers in the NFL."