A Little Extra Chip on the Shoulder

For someone as motivated as Nick Toon, 2011 should be the senior wide receiver's year ... if he can stay healthy. After an injury-plagued junior season and missing spring ball due to foot surgery, Toon, the only senior wide receiver on the field for the Badgers, is improving his mental game as he anxiously awaits medical clearance.

MADISON - It was painful to watch, but Nick Toon knew it had to be done in order to finally cap off his injury-plagued season.

Sitting down a few weeks after the Rose Bowl, Toon flipped on the tape and studied it, watching his routes, his decisions and his catching attempts, trying to learn what he needs to do better when he hits the field running. Spending this spring in a walking cast, the Badgers coaching staff is counting on it.

With offseason foot surgery removing the most senior member of Wisconsin's receiving core, Toon, who is tied for 10th at UW with 107 career receptions and ranks 11th in school history with 1,521 career receiving yards, has been trying to take his game to the next level by learning from the sidelines.

After Tuesday's practice, Badger Nation talks to Toon about the Rose Bowl, the progression of his injury and the progression of his mental game as he gears towards the 2011 season.

Badger Nation: First off, do you know how exactly you hurt your foot?

Toon: I don't really know> It's an overuse injury. It could have happened at any point during the season. Obviously, I wish I was out here practicing and playing with these guys. It's better now to be hurt than in the season, so I am glad I got it fixed and taken care of.

Badger Nation: After missing four games last year and being limited in others, are you looking forward to some healthy time finally?

Toon: Yep. Hopefully, all the injuries are behind me. I had an injury-plagued season last year, but I am looking forward to leaving that in the past and keeping it healthy this season.

Badger Nation: If you had been healthy, do you think you would have pursued the NFL or were you always pretty set on returning for this season?

Toon: I did explore the NFL even after my season last year but if I had been healthy … that wasn't the case. That's speaking hypothetical, but who knows what would have happened. I am glad with my decision and I am happy that I am going to be able to finish my career here at UW.

Badger Nation: Coach Bielema said this spring was going to be important for you because you were going to develop your coaching eye and see things from a different point of view. I am curious if it has been as beneficial as he thought it was going to be for you and if so, what have you picked up from the group that is going to help you when you get medically cleared?

Toon: The biggest thing is passing the little things on to the younger guys, passing my knowledge on to them, coaching them up on some of the things they may not hear from the coaches. I have put a lot of time in the film room to really improve the mental aspect of my game. I am able to sit back and see some things you are not able to see when you are out there actually playing.

Badger Nation: Have you watched the film from the Rose Bowl or is that not something you care to see?

Toon: No, I've watched it. There are always things you can watch to improve off of and I don't want to not watch something that can make you get better. Obviously disappointed because that's not how we want to end a season, but it is what it is. You've got to learn from it and move forward. It wasn't easy to watch it, probably one of the more difficult films I have had to watch, but something that is necessary and I learned some things from it to move forward and get better. Hopefully, I can improve of it and get better this year.

Badger Nation: Was it difficult to watch because you guys lost or you felt you could have made some plays that could have possibly changed the outcome of the game?

Toon: Obviously, the biggest thing is the loss. I don't think there were a lot of things that slipped away from me. After watching the film, there was one ball down on the goal line that would have been a very difficult catch, but the defensive back made a great play towards the end of the game on the deep ball that Scott (Tolzien) threw. The DB made a great play on the ball, and that's how it is sometimes. As a receiver and being critical on myself, that's unacceptable because I want to catch every ball that comes my way. I have to learn from it and make sure it doesn't happen again.

The first ball on the first drive, I actually didn't even see the ball. I wish I would have caught it, but that's how it is sometimes.

Badger Nation: You have said quite a bit so far that you are moving forward. Is it easy to move forward or is it hard because you aren't out there practicing?

Toon: I definitely think you can still move forward even if you can't do it physically by spending time watching film and improving on the mental aspect of my game, which is one of the areas I really need to improve on. This spring still has been a huge success for me because I have learned a lot and I'll continue to move forward physically when I am able to.

Badger Nation: I noticed that you are finally off crutches and just wearing the walking boot. What's your timetable to get 100 percent healthy?

Toon: I should be ready for the beginning of summer workouts. I don't know the exact date obviously, but I should be good to go before summer conditioning starts.

Badger Nation: What has it been like working with such a young group of wide receivers and a new quarterback? Is it going to be a rejuvenating experience for you a little bit?

Toon: I think the thing a lot of people don't understand that even if you have the same group of guys back for another year, the group is never exactly the same every year. You really go through the changes every year and there are more new faces this year than there was last year, but it's not something that is different or something that we aren't used to dealing with. I am excited to work with this group of guys and I am excited to see what we can do.

Badger Nation: Who have you really worked with within the group, who has impressed you with the young group and who do you think will be playing next to you in the fall?

Toon: Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth are going to be two guys you'll see on the field a lot and two guys that really concentrated on this spring because they will be contributing the most in the fall. Also a young guy that really stands out to me is Kenzel Doe. He's supposed to be in high school and he's out here competing, making plays and I definitely think you'll see him on Saturdays this year.

Badger Nation: Do you think you are going to be a highly motivated man come September 1 against UNLV, seeing it's your senior year and you aren't happy with how last year played out?

Toon: I am a highly motivated man 365 days a year. I think the way my season went last year puts a little extra chip on his shoulder but as far as motivation goes, you aren't going to have success in this business. Motivation really isn't an issue or a factor for me. Does my season add a little extra motivation? Maybe, but it makes me want to come out and, for lack of a better team, right the wrongs of last year and I am excited to come out and play this year.


Badger Nation Top Stories