So when he donned his Big Ten Championship hat following a 70-23 win over Northwestern Nov.27, Carimi admitted this title was special because his team never wrote ‘winning the title' on any of their preseason goal lists.
"This was the first year we didn't do that," said Carimi of winning the school's first conference title since 1999. "We just had daily preparation. That's what this team is all about, preparing daily to win, and that's what the result was. That's the only reason why we're having success."
There were two other big reasons Wisconsin (11-1) is in the position to win its first Rose Bowl since 2000 when it plays an undefeated TCU January 1, and those ideals were recognized Tuesday.
Carimi and John Moffitt, anchors on the left side of the Badgers' offensive line, were named first-team All-Americans by the Associated Press, and celebrated the only way they knew how: they practiced first, and argued about who deserved the honor more after.
"I don't think anyone deserves it more than Gabe and I love working with him," Moffitt said. "He probably helped me get to that honor, just by playing next to him."
"That's my quote," Carimi countered. "That's what I say about him. We hit it off right away, just being a part of the lineman group. We hung out a lot our freshman summer and really became close. It's awesome. It's well deserving."
This isn't the first award Carimi and Moffitt have been paired together in. Both, along with senior tight end Lance Kendricks were consensus first-team All-Conference selections by the coaches and the media while Carimi was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.
The duo was part of an offensive unit that led the Big Ten with 45.2 points and 242.2 rushing yards in conference games. In all games, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten and is tied for fourth nationally with 43.3 points per outing while also ranking among the top 20 nationally in rushing offense (12th) and total offense (18th).
"It's really been a pleasure to coach them and watch them get better," Offensive Line Coach Bob Bostad said. "I think being on the same page, it's such a team sport and working as one, has really made those guys effective. When you see it on film, you see them do everything right."
Carimi, one of only two Badgers to win the nation's most outstanding lineman trophy, has started 48 games in his career, including the past 32 games in a row. All of his starts have come at left tackle after he replaced Joe Thomas, the only Outland Trophy winner in school history.
"It's unbelievable that we had back-to-back left tackles get it," said Carimi, who has also been named the Big Ten's lineman of the year and an AFCA All-American this month. "It's pretty cool."
Moffitt meanwhile has established himself as one of the more versatile linemen in the conference, having started 15 games at center and 26 games at left guard, including all 12 this season. At this time last year, Moffitt was already planning on making the jump to the NFL, but changed his mind after talking to Head Coach Bielema, Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst, Bostad and, most importantly, Carimi.
"I am so thankful and that's prime example of how much can develop and change in one year," Moffitt said. "Last year, I was a lot different person than me this year, which is a good thing."
Wisconsin is one of five teams with two players on the first team and was joined only by Oklahoma State and its top-ranked offense to put two players on the offensive side of the ball (WR Justin Blackmon and RB Kendall Hunter).
The other teams to have two representatives were Oklahoma (receiver Ryan Broyles and safety Quinton Carter), Nebraska (cornerback Prince Amukamara and kicker Alex Henery) and Auburn (quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley).
Tight end Lance Kendricks and defensive end J.J. Watt were named to the second team, while running back John Clay was named to the third team. An impressive accomplishment, seeing as the Badgers hadn't had a player recognized by the AP since 2006, when offensive tackle Joe Thomas was a first-team pick.
"It really shows the types of leaders we have and how hard we work," Kendricks said. "It's just a great honor for all of us as a team."
The leaders for Wisconsin start up front, as six offensive linemen were honored in some regard by the Big Ten. But while the individual accolades are impressive, the only thing the Badgers' leaders are focusing their team on is winning the school's fourth-straight Rose Bowl.
"Right now, it's living in the now and I'll enjoy it after the season when the smoke clears," Moffitt said. "We did enough celebrating when we went to the Rose Bowl, which is really important. Now it's time to buckle down and prepare for that."