Looking to Make Big Brother Right

Following the 2011 Rose Bowl, Derek Watt's oldest brother was overcome with emotion, but managed to say the Badgers would win the next time they came to southern California. After winning the starting fullback job in the fall, Watt is looking to fulfill his brother's promise in his first Pasadena opportunity.

MADISON – Prior to starting his final semester at Pewaukee High School, Derek Watt sat in the stands in the shadows of the San Gabriel Mountains and felt agony for his brother.

Watt had a good idea that his older brother, J.J. Watt, was going to skip his senior season and head to the NFL. So he knew watching the 2011 Rose Bowl unfold that it was going to be the last time J.J. played for the cardinal and white; a program he transferred to, transformed his body for and bleed for.

So it was no surprise when Derek heard that following the 21-19 loss to TCU that J.J. started to get emotional on the interview podium.

"He put a lot into the game," said Watt. "It's an emotional game. You put everything into it and it hurts when you come up short."

Watt also found out later that his brother made the proclamation that Wisconsin would win the Rose Bowl on its next visit.

"We didn't get the job done the next time we were there," said Watt, referring to last year's 45-38 loss to No.6 Oregon, "but hopefully we get it done this time."

After watching the pageantry from the stands and the sidelines, Watt will get his first chance to run around on the field when Wisconsin (8-5) takes on No.8 Stanford (11-2) in the 99th edition of the game Tuesday.

"Amazed" isn't the right word to describe Watt's redshirt freshman season considering his family's lineage, but his season is still impressive since he literally is learning a new position on the fly.

In addition to playing on all four special teams units this season (registering 12 tackles and a forced fumble), Watt was switched from linebacker to fullback in the second week of fall camp in hopes of utilizing his abilities quicker on the offensive side of the ball. He started out sharing time with Sherard Cadogan, but won the job and hasn't backpedaled since.

"I am proud with how I handled the situation, worked my way up and developed myself into a better fullback than what I was when I first got the job," said Watt. "Just working day in and day out to develop more skills, watching film to read the offensive linemen and help get to my blocks … has been a fun process all year."

More than just the lead blocker for Montee Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon, Watt has developed, much like predecessor Bradie Ewing, into a solid weapon in the passing game with 12 catches for 150 yards on the season.

"He's come a long way," said running back coach Thomas Hammock. "He's kind of learning by trial by fire. He's starting to come through on the other side, really getting better week to week and continuing to grow as a player."

Playing offense wasn't new to Watt, who played tailback, linebacker, punter, kicker and returner in route to being named the AP's state player of the year as a senior. Coincidentally, the only thing Watt didn't do was take on the level of blocking assignments he's required to now.

In order to help educate himself on the nuisances of the position, the 6-2, 227-pound Watt would text back and forth with Ewing after almost every game, getting little tidbits to add to his arsenal.

"Bradie and I were always pretty close and good friends, but we would go at it pretty good on the scout team," said Watt. "We gave each other a pretty good practice every time. We collided and had some good impacts, but we made each other work. My goal was to make the offense better, and I felt I did that." With him and the offensive line at a high level of confidence following the dominant rushing performance it put on in the Big Ten championship game, Watt is hopeful that he'll be a part in helping his brother's guarantee come true … albeit one year off.

"If you need motivation, you are in the wrong business," said Watt. "This is our third straight trip out there and the environment gets you going. Being in the ‘granddaddy of them all' gets your blood flowing. We don't need any extra motivation because Coach Alvarez has been successful and he's going to get us where we need to be."

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