Ready to Jump In

After two practices at the University of Wisconsin, Russell Wilson has finally gotten back to reading defenses and learning plays. After a whirlwind offseason and huge hype being place on him and his teammates, the senior quarterback is back in his comfort zone.

MADISON – Admitting to being a guy that has watched a lot of football over the years, Russell Wilson was a bit sheepish when he was asked if he knew what to expect from a Camp Randall home game. In truth, he's never seen a live game and is dying to see what the ‘Jump Around' tradition at the end of the third quarter is all about and what songs the UW marching band is going to play after a touchdown.

It was a fitting response, since Wisconsin personal and fans are anxious to see what they can expect from Wilson, the Badgers' unquestioned prized off-season acquisition.

"He certainly is a guy that when things break down, he can keep the plays alive and do positive things with his legs or moving in the pocket," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "That's one of the things I am anxious to see as we go through camp and get a feel with him and understand him better.

"Certainly when you watch him, there's a guy that has done a lot of real good things."

The challenge over the last month since Wilson officially announced he was going to transfer to Wisconsin and play his senior season is tempering the hype. Wisconsin was picked in a conference media poll to win the Leaders Division, was pegged at No.10 in the preseason Coaches' Poll and have been mentioned as one of the handful of teams that could compete for a national championship.

All accolades that have come on the heels of the Badgers adding a quarterback that has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 8,545 yards and 76 touchdowns in his career and set an NCAA record for throwing 379 passes over two years without an interception.

One reporter referred to it as ‘Russell Mania,' and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said he's never had so many people come up and talked to him or ask him questions about one specific player, especially a player who, in his eyes, isn't guaranteed to be the team's starting quarterback when the season begins on September 1 against UNLV.

"He really is an intriguing kid," Bielema said. "He is an engaging personality, an extremely warm soul. He doesn't take anything for granted and doesn't want anything given to him. That's the part that has been very evident from the first two days of practice. He just waits for his opportunity and he capitalized on it."

Wilson called Friday a ‘relief' when he was able to go through his first practice as a member of the Badgers, and rightfully so. Since the end of December, Wilson won the MVP award at the Champs Sports Bowl with N.C. State, playing Class A baseball in Asheville, North Carolina, went through the entire recruiting process one more time and finally got back to focusing on football again, even though he had to learn a new playbook, mesh with new teammates and move his fiancé and belongings 1,000 miles north. Needless to say, it's been a process.

"For me, it's all about taking one day at a time and trying to be the best I can be that particular day," Wilson said. "Those days add up, and it's something I found here that is truly special to this football team is taking one day at a time. It's been great, it's been fun getting to know the guys, be on the football field and just get a chance to play and see some (live) defenses."

No matter the player that was asked, the answer was the basically the same, that Wilson has come right and meshed with a group that won the school's first conference championship since 1999 last season. Any fears Bielema had of Wilson not bonding with all of his teammates over the summer were quickly put to rest before the group hit the practice field.

In one of Wisconsin's first team meetings, Bielema likes to have all the freshmen stand up in the back of the room and say their name, their hometown, their high school and what position they are going to play. Sitting in the front row with the rest of the seniors was Wilson. When Bielema introduced him, he was greeted with cat calls, cackles and laughs, signifying the player's acceptance of him.

"Russell is a guy that came in with so many people saying great things about him," Bielema said. "It's fun to have interactions with him, see how he handles things (and) see how our players react to him. Seeing him on the field, he's an extremely competitive kid. He's an extremely intelligent player who is not afraid to speak, but he doesn't speak out of turn."

Wilson is one of 16 scholarship seniors, seven of whom are on the offensive side of the ball, that make up a roster that sophomore running back James White said could easily be better than the group that played last year.

"We have great leaders, great guys in general, and obviously great football players," Wilson said. "When you put those things together, there's something special there. I just want to be a part of that, be myself every single day with them and realize that when we truly connected, it was going to be a great fit. It's been perfect for me so far … and I thought my addition here would truly help."

When Wilson was granted his transfer request, Wilson said Wisconsin was one of the first teams that called him, a conversation that made him realize what a perfect fit and opportunity it would be for him.

After an influential visit to Madison in early June, Wilson said the hardest thing was figuring out at that point was whether to play baseball or football, a decision he said he prayed on for quite some time.

A tremendous man of faith, Wilson showed a piece of that during Wisconsin's media day Sunday with three bracelets on his right wrist. The first one, a blue one, says the words ‘Highly Favored' while the third one, a dark green one, says ‘Jesus Loves People,' bracelets that remind him daily of his beliefs.

The middle one, a black one, has his father's initials on it and the dates of his birth and death. It's been a year since his father died of complications from diabetes, and the wrist band is a memento that he hardly goes anywhere without.

It's one of the main reasons Wilson acts and speaks the way he does, why he doesn't feel any of the added hype and why he's confident that if he works 100 percent every day, things will take care of itself for him and his teammates at Wisconsin. It's also why people are so confident in what Wilson has to offer.

"He's definitely watching me," Wilson said of his dad. "He used to tell me that there is a king in every crowd, so I know there are a lot of people up there watching over me."

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