Same Strong Approach

With Montee Ball out for the team's April spring game, freshman tailback Melvin Gordon showed he had the ability to carry the load. With the Heisman Finalist out this fall for a much different reason, Gordon is approaching camp as an another opportunity to get better.

MADISON - As he stood at the center of the media blitz he created following the spring game, redshirt freshman tailback Melvin Gordon was calm, collected and unwilling to say he earned anything because of his performance.

Less than four months later, Gordon is approaching the fall camp in the exact same fashion – it doesn't matter what he's does in practice, but matters what he does in regular season games.

"I guess it opened people's eyes a little bit, but playing on Saturdays against real competition when something on the line is when the coaches really pay attention," said Gordon. "That's when they really look at things and look to see what I can do as a player."

A talented player from the minute he stepped on campus coming from Kenosha (Wis.) Bradford HS, Gordon was given 20 carries in late-game situations during last year's nonconference slate. The results showed promise, as he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and scored a touchdown against South Dakota.

A groin injury cut short is true freshman season and forced him to take his redshirt, but Gordon showed he could compete in the team's annual spring game, carrying the ball 30 times for 159 yards and a score. That gave Gordon the drive to push himself over the summer by building his frame, strength and endurance in the weight room.

"Coach Herbert did a lot of stuff with us that focused on preventing injuries, because our team had a lot of groin injuries," said Gordon. "I bought into that and I did a lot of jogging outside practice to work on my legs. It made me use to running."

While Herbert took care of the physical side, running back coach Thomas Hammock and head coach Bret Bielema took care of the mental side. Giving Gordon the autobiography of Walter Payton to read, Gordon got a sense of how hard Payton worked at everything he did from practice to jogging.

"(Payton) would do things until he threw up," said Gordon. "He wanted to be mentally strong. His coaches pushed him hard, just like out coaches push us. He wanted his coaches to push him to be the best."

With Montee Ball still recovering from a campus mugging incident in early August, Gordon has again been given the opportunity before to take advantage of an absent Ball. With the Heisman Finalist sitting out the spring game as a precaution, Gordon capped his impressive spring season by running with conviction and confidence in challenging weather.

"Last year mentally, I wasn't as strong as I am now," said Gordon. "In bad weather, you really have to focus on what you are doing, and that (mental focus is) what I am trying to work on every day."

Through three practices, Gordon and White have been sharing the carries with the first-team offense. While the team has yet to wear full pads, Gordon, like the spring game, has taken advantage of the added reps.

"It's another way to get better," said Gordon. "We're competing for a spot and this is a big opportunity. Me and all the other backs have to take advantage of the reps we are given. I am trying to get better and push myself to the limit."

Gordon knows that Ball will return and the senior will again be a focal point of the offense. He also knows that Gordon has put himself in position to be a real contributor to a team that is going for a third straight conference championship.

"Coach Hammock said he is going to push as hard as he ever has and he's been on us," said Gordon. "Whether Montee is here or not, we're going to work hard. That's not going to change. Whether it's carrying the ball or playing special teams, I am prepared to make plays to help this team win."

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