MADISON - With nagging injuries starting to pile up during his first fall camp, offensive lineman Jacob Maxwell had a hard time staying mentally in check.
One of 10 players in Wisconsin’s 2014 recruiting class who were originally committed to another school, Maxwell didn’t wait long to flip from Northern Illinois to Wisconsin after the Badgers offered him in late November, saying the opportunity to play for the home-state school was a dream.
He loved his opportunity to play at Wisconsin so much that Maxwell wanted to come right in and contribute on the offensive line, helping give the Badgers some needed depth the program had been lacking the last few seasons.
So when the injuries occurred to his ankle and he developed heel inflammation, Maxwell become discouraged.
“It was hard because I was trying to earn an opportunity,” said Maxwell. “I didn’t want to redshirt; I wanted to play. When that opportunity was taken away from me, it made me get down on myself. It was hard to stay mentally upbeat.”
Maxwell missed some practice time and when word got out that he and his family were having a sit-down conversation with head coach Gary Andersen, some fans guessed that Maxwell was leaving the program. As it turns out, the discussion turned into a much-needed pick-me-up for a lineman UW hopes to rely on in the years to come.
“They were all supportive about everything I was going through,” said Maxwell. “It gets me excited to use this year to get healthy and focus on the spring.”
Returning for a fifth season, Badger Nation does a meet and greet with the newer members of the Wisconsin football team, shedding a light on some of the unknown kids that figure to be important parts of the Badgers’ future.
Asking 15 questions, we call this segment the Freshman Fifteen.
What’s been the hardest part for you adjusting to college life?
Maxwell: Obviously not having my parents helping out. Everything is on me now. I am responsible for everything I do, so I have to make good decisions and make sure I stay on top of everything.
What’s been the hardest part adjusting to college football?
Maxwell: The speed of the game. I remember in camp I injured my right ankle and wasn’t able to play toward the end. In the first few weeks I did play, the speed and intensity of the workouts, along with the game play with the conditioning, was just ramped up a lot.
Since you arrived here, how have you changed your body to prepare for the college game?
Maxwell: I’ve learned a lot of new technique for run blocking, which has changed a lot from high school. Our technique is almost 100 percent different. I was in a spread offense in high school and here we’re running the ball down people’s throats. My pass technique is improving and that’s probably the thing I need the most work on. I think I’ve improved a lot though. I didn’t realize that being in college for a few months could make me a totally different player.
What do you think your strengths are right now where you can help this team and what your biggest areas of weaknesses?
Maxwell: My biggest strengths are my run blocking. I feel like I am a very physical run blocker. Usually I am just stronger than a lot of people. Obviously I am in college football now, but when the time comes I feel I am going to be stronger and more physical than people I go against. My biggest weakness would probably be little technique things for pass sets that I need to get more comfortable with so I can do it 100 percent every time exactly the same way.
Besides the size, how is Madison different than your home town of Greendale, Wis.?
Maxwell: Madison is huge. Greendale is a very isolated, small town. I come here, and it’s huge. In Greendale everyone is in bed at eight or nine and everybody is up here until three in the morning. It’s a lot more crowded and crazy. It’s totally 100 percent different than Greendale.
Do you have any idea what you want to study in college?
Maxwell: I was leaning toward biology, but I am not really 100 percent sure on that yet.
What’s your favorite place on the Madison campus?
Maxwell: I would have to say Ian’s pizza. I love the mac and cheese.
What’s your least favorite place on campus?
Maxwell: Probably the Humanities building because that’s where all my classes are. I get lost in it no matter how many times I go in it.
What do you enjoy doing most in your free time when you get the chance to kick back and relax?
Who are you going to live with this fall? How are those relationships?
Maxwell: I’m with Beau, and it’s going really good. I wouldn’t say I really knew him before coming here, but I played him in youth football. He played baseball with my best friend throughout middle school. When we first met, it was really easy and we got along really well. We both have similar personalities.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learn about Beau?
Maxwell: The only channel that kid watches it the Outdoor Chanel, and he makes the weirdest noises in his sleep. It can be scary and keep me up at night.
Who was your big brother and was the biggest thing you learned from him?
Maxwell: Dallas Lewallen. The biggest thing I took away from him is always compete. If you always give it your all, everything will always work out.
Where does your biggest support come from? Family? Friends? Teammates?
Maxwell: I would say my teammates and my parents. Without my parents, I don’t know how mentally I would be doing right now. I love it here, and they keep me driven, especially my dad. He taught me how to play football. He couldn’t be more proud of me, and he just wants to see me succeed. With my teammates, if I ever get down or get sick, they’ll try to help me and stuff to get me back.
What’s your parents reaction to you playing college football here, being on your own for the first time and starting your journey at this school?
Maxwell: My dad is mind blown. He was totally content with where I was going before. After the state championship game, I got a few more offers and committed to Wisconsin. That was his thing. He immediately bought everything Wisconsin and our house is covered in Wisconsin stuff. They are really excited.
What’s the best part of being a Wisconsin football player and putting on that red and white jersey?
Maxwell: You wouldn’t think I would just stand on the sidelines and watch the game, but it’s crazy. When you put that jersey on, you are part of something huge. You are a part of a national team that millions of people watch every weekend. It’s crazy. You just feel really proud of yourself.