Validating the Reward

After busting his behind for three seasons, redshirt junior defensive tackle Ethan Hemer and his hard work was rewarded following the Rose Bowl with a scholarship. Now the Medford (Wis.) native is looking to validate that decision by taking his game to the next level.

MADISON - Entering his fourth year in the program, Ethan Hemer joins an impressive list as an in-state walk-on to earn a Wisconsin scholarship offer. Playing a position with no seniors in its group, that makes him one of the default leaders of the group.

Starting all 14 games a season ago, Hemer finished with 33 tackles and enters spring camp having absorbed leadership from graduated senior Patrick Butrym, added some weight to his frame and poised to turn his unit into a group of playmakers.

During Wisconsin's second week of practice, Hemer (6-6, 305 pounds) spoke with

How does your role change going into this year being the oldest guy of the group? Do you feel it has changed or not?

Hemer: I look at it a lot like we are trying to make each other better. There definitely is a lot of competition between all of us. Everyone starts off even in spring ball and you try to distance yourself throughout the weeks.

What was the big thing you focused in on winter conditioning? How did you try to make your body better?

Hemer: I tried to put on a little bit of weight and still stay quick. That was my biggest focus through the winter. I come out here and I feel pretty good. I like where my body is at. I like where my strength is at. I am working on taking the tools I learned over winter break and have them help me become a better football player.

How much weight have you added on to your body? How does that weight change how you move or work your body in a positive way?

Hemer: It's probably a solid 10 pounds. Between 10 or 15 pounds. I haven't been able to feel a big difference as far as being tired or slower, which is good. That's what I was trying to get it. I am really happy how I am feeling right now. That's very good for me.

How do you evaluate how you played last year and did that impact you wanting to add some weight in the offseason?

Hemer: I don't think the weight has everything to do with it. Learning to be a more complete player is what it's going to take for me to make that next step this year. Spring ball is definitely a time for me to increase production across the board. I am tinkering with some stuff here and there to find out what works.

What did Butrym leave your group in terms of his work ethic and his leadership? What did he tell you or do that you guys can carry on this year?

Hemer: Butrym was really big in not letting a day go by and taking advantage of overtime. That's definitely something I learned from him. Butrym came in and wasn't a defensive tackle, but he changed his body and his play techniques to make him into an All-Big Ten player. You see what it takes to achieve success, and that's the biggest thing we talk away from him. You have to put in the time and the effort.

Has that been reflective of your team's first two weeks of practice because Bret Bielema said the first two weeks were the most thorough, clean and efficient he's seen?

Hemer: Yeah. It comes back to the competitive nature. Everyone wants to play more and everyone wants to produce more. We know that the only way you can get better is through hard work. That's what we are working on now is putting in efficient work and pushing each other to be the best we can be.

Winter conditioning is one of the first times a group can start bonding together and building chemistry for the upcoming season. With a group that has playing together for a long time, how has your chemistry evolved?

Hemer: It was different because the last few years, we've had guys like Butrym and Louis Nzegwu and J.J. Watt a couple years back. It's a different group dynamic now. We're not young anymore. We're the older guys. We're the experienced guys, and it's a little bit of a different feeling to be put in that situation. I think the older guys have fallen into the role that we don't need one person to lead us. We have a group of guys that are about the same age, can feed off each other and that will be just fine for our group.

Do you grab motivation from last year's disappointments at any point or are you a guy that likes to turn the page?

Hemer: I try to focus on this next year because the past is the past. You can't forget about it, but there's nothing you can do about it. The only think I am worried about is the next day, because that's what I can control.

Coach Charlie Partridge said at points last year that the group needs to have more pressure in the backfield, which creates turnovers. Is that one of the key focuses heading into the fall – that you need more active with pressure and tackles for loss?

Hemer: Yeah. We're trying to improve every way we can. Everyone wants to get more sacks and tackles for loss. It's a matter of growing as a player through your aggressive nature and your ability to read plays. Being that we are a couple of older guys now, the game is going to slow down that much more. I think good things are going to come out of that.

What's it like to have free schooling now?

Hemer: (laughing) It is a fantastic feeling. It really is. It's really hard to describe how awesome that feeling was when you finally get that first check. After all that time, the hard work paid off, and it's a very humbling feeling and a very rewarding feeling.

I have a feeling you are the kind of guy that's going to push himself even harder now to prove to the coaches that they were right in giving you a scholarship?

Hemer: It absolutely pushes me to work that much harder. There is no slowing down for me. Every day is an opportunity that I plan on taking advantage of.

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