More than the Third Wheel

Linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor have become the most notable figures on the defense for No.16 Wisconsin but senior Kevin Claxton, known mostly as 'the other guy,' has more than done his part.

MADISON - As his University of Wisconsin teammates went through preparation for Purdue last Wednesday, senior linebacker Kevin Claxton was studying formations and learning defensive calls in a sweatshirt, sweatpants and sneakers on the sideline. He wasn't happy.

Claxton had just finished playing one of the better games of his career against Ohio State, finishing with a career-high 10 tackles, 2.5 TFLs and the first sack of career on Oct. 29, but didn't have anything to show for it after the Badgers lost their second straight conference game, a 33-29 gut wrencher.

"Those guys (Ohio State) ran the ball 58 times and ran a lot of inside runs, so we were hitting people almost every play," Claxton said. "The plane ride home, you could feel those types of bruises. The main goal was to win the football game, and we didn't do that, which means we need to try to correct the things we didn't do well and learn from them."

Learning from mistakes is a staple at many collegiate and professional programs across the country, and it's something that usually comes from the seniors or the veterans. Claxton isn't the most well known senior on the roster. In fact, playing next to linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor, he's simply known as the ‘other guy' in the rotation.

"I have no problem flying under the radar," Claxton said. "Those guys earn everything, all the recognition that they get. I have no problem people outside not knowing who I am. The coaches and the players know what I am capable of."

Fact is that the ‘other guy' is playing pretty well. Entering this weekend's border battle with Minnesota, Claxton is fourth on the team in tackles with 35 stops and has 4.5 tackles for loss. Considering the fact that Claxton has started just six games due to injury, it's a credit to his ability to make plays.

Just like Borland and Taylor, Claxton has a vast knowledge of the offense, a trait he believes he picked up by being a former college safety. Recruited to Wisconsin out of Fort Lauderdale, Claxton played in 18 games his first two seasons, but mostly on special teams and rarely on defense.

That led Bielema to move Claxton to linebacker prior to his junior year to add depth to the position and potentially get him on the field faster.

"I got a chance to sit back to watch and learn every position on the defense," said Claxton, who went from a 210-pound safety to a 230-pound linebacker over the last two years. "The position that I play now is like someone who plays something like a strong safety in our defense. Knowing that position has helped and going against that big offensive line has made me a more confident player because I can hold my own against those guys."

To be quite honest, Bielema and his staff were lucking to get a guy like Claxton out of SEC country, as he committed to Wisconsin at the end of his junior yet despite having offers from Auburn and Mississippi and strong interest from Florida.

Even though Auburn and Florida have won a BCS national championship during Claxton's collegiate career, he doesn't bemoan the decision he made and stuck with throughout his senior year. It hasn't played out exactly as he hoped … it's played out better.

"Everybody that gets recruited out of high school wants to play right away and I didn't redshirt because I thought I was going to play a lot," Claxton said. "I just stuck with it, kept working hard and I think it's more rewarding now that I am a starter. I wouldn't change coming here for a national championship somewhere else."

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