Notes: Letting the Emotions Flow

To say its been an emotional week for Head Coach Bret Bielema is an understatement. Not only did his former coach, Hayden Fry, get inducted into the Hall of Fame and he's saying good bye to his first class of fifth-year seniors and his defensive coordinator, Bielema didn't hold back when talking about junior defensive end J.J. Watt.

LOS ANGELES – Less than 24 hours before the biggest game of his professional life, Bret Bielema let it all out for the world to see.

He laughed and joked. He was honest. More importantly, he was emotional, letting more than one genuine tear escape for the cameras to see.

Consider J.J. Watt having sacked another one.

Posed the question if Watt leaves for the NFL, besides his football skills, what he would miss about him the most, Bielema simply stated he would miss J.J. the person, and then his mind started to drift to Watt's road to Madison.

A scholarship tight end from Pewaukee, Watt transferred from Central Michigan to walk-on at Wisconsin, switched to defensive end and constantly worked at his game to put him in position to be a first round NFL draft pick.

"He's a kid that represents a lot about Wisconsin," Bielema said, starting to tear up. "Wisconsin, we're maybe not the most sexy school, but we go to work, we play hard, we give it our all, and I think that's a little bit of what makes J.J. good … J.J. is J.J. because of what he is 365 days a year. To not coach him again would be a tough thing to take."

Fans are in the same boat with the head coach, especially after the regular season Watt turned in. A consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection, Watt leads the Badgers, ranks second in the Big Ten and third in the country with 21.0 tackles for loss on the year, and also leads the Badgers and is tied for second in the Big Ten with 7.0 sacks on the season.

When he was introduced to a crowd of 25,000 plus at Santa Monica Pier for a pep rally Wednesday, the crowd began chanting ‘one-more year,' a topic Bielema tried to use to his advantage.

"I walked down and saw his mom in the front row," said Bielema. "I said to J.J., ‘Did you see your mom?' He said, ‘yeah.' I said, ‘Did you see her chanting one more year?'"

Carimi Gets the Talk

While J.J. Watt is deciding if he will stay or go to the NFL, senior left tackle and Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi knows where he'll be playing next year, which is why his family has been getting a lot of calls from agents and training facilities to try and sign the best lineman in the country.

Originally not wanting to talk about the process until after the bowl game, Carimi came to the realization that with so much training stuff needing to be planned for the Senior Bowl, he couldn't keep his head in the dirt any longer.

So he sat down with his parents, who have handled the whole process, to talk things over the week after the Northwestern game. It made for a long Saturday, as his parents laid out every detail of the pros and cons they went over and different reasons they picked the people they did. That went on for eight hours.

"I thought I was studying for an exam," Carimi said. "I was tired after that."

Carimi's parents made the initially cut down to 10 agents and after one-on-one visits, Carimi was left with four options and is currently deciding between two agencies.

"I'm just going to have to decide between who you feel most comfortable with and who you trust the most," he said.

Carimi has started 48 games at left tackle over the last four years, taking over for former Outland Trophy winner Joe Thomas, and has spearheaded an offensive line that has paved the way for the 12th-ranked rushing offense in the country (247.3 ypg) and given up just 12 sacks in 12 games.

After Saturday, he'll have one more chance to prove himself as he practices and participates in the week long Senior Bowl.

"It's another chance to showcase your skills against the greatest defensive line in the country," he said. "It's a week where you are coming in, knowing it's like a seven-day interview with your pads."

Packer Backer

With all the hubbub centered around Carimi and senior left guard John Moffitt, the rest of Wisconsin's offensive line has quietly gone unnoticed. Bielema changed that when he went into more detail about redshirt sophomore Peter Konz.

Bielema shared a story from earlier this season, when Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson was in Madison evaluating the linemen.

"He was watching film," Bielema started. "He comes down and says, ‘Bret, I know I got to talk to you about 68 and 74, which is Gabe and John, but he said who is 66?' Peter Konz our center. He snapped the ball and blocked the right corner on the same play. That just doesn't happen a lot."

Bielema also said that nobody plays harder on our football team or has more conversations with himself than junior right guard Kevin Zeitler and sophomore right tackle Ricky Wagner has gained over 100 pounds since being switched from left tackle.

"Right now as a sophomore who has played as little football as he has at that position is absolutely amazing," Bielema said of Wagner. "If you didn't know who is who in our group, you would probably say Ricky Wagner is playing as good as anybody on our line."

Extra Points: Bielema said afterward that all the players on his team are eligible after semester grades were handed out … Bielema made it clear he isn't attempting to match the legacy established by his boss, saying, "that's not the goal, because what he did is unprecedented as far as where he came in and where he is today." … After participating in the 1991 Rose Bowl as a player at Iowa, Bielema gave his Rose Bowl watch to his father, which he proudly wears every day. After getting to Pasadena, Bielema finally got him a replacement.

"They came in on the 29th," he said. "I left a little note in his room for him and I said some things to him. But on the P.S. I said, 'Sorry it took me 20 years to get you a new watch.' I gave him the 1991 Rose Bowl watch I got and he's worn it every day since then. To give him one 20 years later was pretty special."


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