BN: What is your biggest memory from the 1993 season?
Nelson: As far as that one goes winning the Rose Bowl is probably the biggest one. That whole experience, the week, being out in California. The whole nine yards that we got a chance to do as a team, together. That is probably the biggest single point that sticks out.
The other (big memory) is our win down at SMU. I don't think that we had won a road game in I don't know how many years. (Wisconsin had won one road game, a 19-16 decision at Minnesota in 1991, since the 1987 season and had not won a non-conference road game since 1985). That was the first one that really came together pretty closely with the team. We fell behind in the first half and came back to win it in the second half. I think that was pretty much a springboard for our season, the way we finished up our non-conference.
BN: How unexpected, or was it unexpected, for the team to have the kind of success it enjoyed in 1993?
(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Nelson: I don't think it was necessarily unexpected. Going 10-1-1 overall probably wasn't exactly what we had realistically looked at. Obviously you would like to be undefeated all of the time. Looking at the teams we had in the Big Ten, with the caliber of teams like Ohio State, Michigan—those guys being perennial Top 25 teams. Everything just fell into place. We knew we were going to be pretty good just based on our last couple years of being 5-6 and almost turning the tide at that point.
I think those two years with the seniors and juniors that had been pretty instrumental in those couple years of games; everybody was hungry. We knew we had been close a couple years—two or three points here-and-there in a game and we would have been in a Bowl game two years in a row. This gave us a chance really, especially the seniors, fifth-year seniors really, to leave our mark. We came in as a group as freshmen in 1989 and like every freshmen group you've got a little cockiness to you, a little swagger. We said, ‘We are going to be the class that turns this around.' We were very fortunate that coach Alvarez came in and gave us the tools and the knowledge to do that and then it was just a matter of going out and producing and performing.
They obviously did a great job recruiting guys. It was a cohesive group where everybody got along and everybody clicked. Everybody demanded the best out of everybody all the time and if you didn't give your best, somebody was there telling you that and you knew you had to pick it up.
BN: Could you talk a little more about that camaraderie?
Nelson: During the summer months I think was when we really started to bond. Before that year we had had 50 or 60 guys who stuck around for the entire summer to do workouts. When you are sweating and you are working out and you are doing all of those things together—whether it is a skill position or a lineman position—you really start to form strong bonds. Offensively and defensively we had some great competitions during the summer and some drills that we did together. Then you get into camp and everybody is already a step ahead of where we were in years before just because of the little extra things we knew we had to do to in order to be successful.
It was more sibling rivalry kind of stuff—your are pushing me and I am pushing you. It is intense and it is competitive, but that is all on the field. Once you get in the locker room and classes together you are there supporting one another as much as you can. As much as you see each other, when you've got 100 guys out there together, you've got 99 brothers out there that are fighting, sweating and crying and cheering and everything for you all at once. It is pretty amazing.
Previous editions of '93 revisited