Cross Finally Makes it to Wisconsin

After nearly being hired on Wisconsin's staff for the past three years, DeMontie Cross brings his knowledge of special teams and the NFL secondary to Madison.

MADISON - DeMontie Cross had a feeling that one day he would end up on Bret Bielema's coaching staff at the University of Wisconsin. After spending the previous five seasons in various positions with the Buffalo Bills, Cross had spoken to Bielema at length about the opening UW had coaching its linebackers, a position that eventually went to UCF defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable. After hearing the decision, Cross, who had coached in the college ranks at Missouri, Sam Houston State and Iowa State, found his new home at Purdue. That home didn't last long. When Greg Jackson took a job in the NFL, Bielema called Cross again, convinced him to bring his knowledge to Wisconsin and irritated Purdue coach Danny Hope in the process. Badger Nation: The NFL to the college level, what translates well from a secondary and special teams standpoint. Is it pretty close that you can draw a lot from your experiences in Buffalo?

Cross: What you learn, at least from what I've learned from the NFL perspective, is the way some of the coaches approach and see certain things. I was able to develop a different eye of studying film and see things so to speak. To bring it here to the safeties now, it's like being the quarterback of the defense. You've got to know the run pitch, the pass game and when you combine the two, you need to be good with your eyes and your keys. It really comes down to the fundamentals, but just the speed of the NFL and the college game is different in itself. The NFL was definitely a good help for me being there for five years because it gives me a different perspective.

Badger Nation: How much fun is it working with Chris Ash again, whose niche is the secondary?

Cross: (laughing) There is no doubt of our comfort level because the beauty of it is we've worked with each other before at Iowa State. I've gotten to know his style and his philosophy and I knew he would be a heck of a coach and a coordinator, which he is now, back then because of his attention detail, his drive and his determination. I feed off that stuff as well and knowing that, it was an easy decision to come here. He's made the transition as smooth as it can go because some of these guys have had three coaches in the last three years. It's fun and exciting because I want to come here, win some ball games and be successful.

Badger Nation: Well, you've had three jobs in three months, too, you know?

Cross: Oh man, don't remind me. Yes, that's been a whirlwind as well. It happened. It was tough to leave the situation at Purdue like I did. Nobody could understood it the way I did because I lived it, but I am excited to be here. I can't look back and I am excited to be here to do great things for Wisconsin.

Badger Nation: I have to ask if you read Coach Hope's comments about your departure and if you did, what's your reaction to that?

Cross: I heard about them and he's entitled to his opinion. I do know this, when I committed to him, his job and the opportunity he presented to me, I was excited about it and I am still thankful for the opportunity. It's just unfortunate that Coach Bielema inquired about me when I visited with him. The opportunity was right and so I made the decision to come here. It was definitely the right decision.

Badger Nation: Bret said he has been trying to hire you for three years. When did he first try to hire you and talk about the interview with him in Dallas this past year for the opening on this staff?

Cross: He's been always up front with open, honest communication with Coach B. He's unbelievable and that's what made all the opportunities that didn't work out work out this time. It always was a good thing because we always left on good terms. Having him approach me that way made it easy for me to make the decision to leave. His openness, his honest, the way he makes you feel when he interviews you and talks to you, you know he's coming from the heart and I want to work for guys like that.

The first opportunity came about three years ago when I was in Buffalo. He had an opportunity and I just got promoted, so I didn't want to leave then and there. There was another opportunity in transition when new staff was coming in, I was ready to join and then they promoted to the head linebackers coach. The with Coach Huxtable, he was up front and honest with me, told me why he wanted to bring the other guy in at the time and I told him that I appreciated the opportunity and told him somewhere down the road, I know we'll be together. I didn't think it would be this year. He called me again and I said, ‘Man, coach, how you going to inquire about me this year?' (laughing). He told me that he had a coach leave and that he definitely wants me on the staff. At that point in time, it was a no brainer.

Badger Nation: Talk about the safeties that you have. Aaron Henry is a senior, but it's only his second year playing the free safety position. Dezmen Southward has been playing football for three years and Shelton Johnson is young, as well. It seems you have a talented, young group to work with.

Cross: There is no doubt and the biggest things I am trying to teach the guys are the things that will get them in position faster to make plays. If I can get them in positions to make plays, their natural abilities will take over. Again, making sure they understand the fundamentals, the keys and having discipline. The youth showed up today with all three guys in the scrimmage and that's one of the things I have to do as a coach is to get them to play like five-year veterans. They are a great group, all athletic, work hard and like the game of football. We have to teach them to love the game of football and be more consistent.

Badger Nation: Talk about the special team's duties you are going to have as well.

Cross: Coach B wanted me to come in and get my feet wet first, getting to know the guys and start working with them. Coach Charlie Partridge (punt) and coach Joe Rudolph (kick return) had good units last year so he didn't want to change that right away. I am going to be doing punt return and kickoff and I just want to make some strides as a group and make sure we're all doing the same thing on Saturdays and have some success.

Badger Nation: What's your recruiting area going to be and what are you looking forward to doing after spring ball?

Cross: I am excited to walk into these schools with a ‘W' on the chest. I am very excited to represent Coach Bielema and Wisconsin out on the road. I am from St. Louis, so I will do a little bit of recruiting in St. Louis, as well as the southern tip of Illinois and then some parts of Florida down with Coach Partridge.

Badger Nation: What areas are going to be new to you?

Cross: I recruited St. Louis and Illinois area when I was at Iowa State. Going down to Florida will be a little bit new for me. I did it a little bit before but as a primary area, that will be a little new to me.

Badger Nation: You haven't done recruiting in awhile with the NFL job, so what's going to excite you about going back to recruits home and telling them about Wisconsin?

Cross: It's going to be exciting because I will be able to sell them on winning football, great people, great coaches, a great style of play that prepares them for the NFL and the academics here are second to none. We're seventh in the nation for public universities. When you combine all that with the atmosphere and the Big Ten Network, getting to see all the games every week no matter where you're at, it's a special thing. Once we get them interested and get them here on campus to see it, I think it's really hard to resist what this program can give them.

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