BN: Which of your teammates in particular impressed you that season?
Nelson: I think quite a few guys did.
The year before Brent Moss wasn't necessarily in the top rotation of our running backs. He leads the Big Ten in rushing and becomes the MVP of the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. That is a pretty good jump, especially considering the company of the running backs that the Big Ten has produced.
I know a guy like Bevell coming off a fairly successful year—starting part way through the year and then taking over the reigns. Even though as far as age he was a little more mature, but as far as football experience he had a long way to go. He was only a sophomore as far as eligibility. He did a great job leading a pretty complex offense.
Defensively we had guys like myself and our starting strong safety Reggie Holt who had started for three and a half years. We had defensive linemen, who I think between the three interior guys they had over 100 starts between them in their career.
Just a group of guys that, like I said, if you screw up, somebody tells you about it. Then at some point there is going to come a time where you are going to have to tell somebody that they made a mistake. And I am not talking yelling, hooting and screaming and all that kind of stuff. It was just, ‘you've got to refocus, you guys missed one on that.' If our guys, especially on defense, are not clicking then they can hit a home run on you pretty quick and put your offense behind the eight ball and that is not a good place for us to be.
BN: What do you feel about the impact the 1993 team had the Wisconsin football program?
Nelson: As far as describing the experience and the feelings, that is not an easy thing to do unless you have gone through it.
You ride this wave of emotions up or down whether you win or lose. When you are losing you struggle a little bit. You try to figure out, well, we are working hard, we can do this, now why can't we do this? When you are winning you are thinking, ‘now we have got things going, how do we maintain this?' Because now you have people gunning for you in a hurry. You have to work that much harder every single week to maintain that level. That is the great thing about that team that I remember is that each and every week we got better and better, even after the loss to Minnesota. When a lot of finger pointing was starting and all of that, coach brought us in, we watched the film, we threw it away, said, ‘OK, we are done with that one, let's move on to Michigan.' It was the biggest game of, probably, a lot of our careers at that point. When you come back and beat them 13-10 you know you've got things back on track. Especially with the two games, Michigan and Ohio State, back-to-back, there is no rest for the wicked. It is either do or die and that was a huge, huge part of the season. If we can take one victory, and really should have had two against a very, very good Ohio State team, we knew we had gotten to where we wanted to be. Then it was just a matter of maintaining.
That is the coaches, the players, the support staff, the trainers. Everybody working together on the same page to keep motivated, to keep healthy. It was pretty impressive how coach can bring everything like that together. Every aspect of that season; he was steering the ship and we were just sitting there with an oar in the water, stroking away.
Any time you get T.V. exposure, national exposure with the "Granddaddy of Them All." We went out to California, we ended up playing teams out there. We had more and more kids from California and those kids who probably had not either heard of or even considered going to Wisconsin, seeing us play the type of ball we played, we were probably not on their radar screen. When you can see someone is maybe a blue chip All-American and we may never have had a chance to get to before. When you can pull in those kinds of players you are giving yourself a chance to not rebuild, but just reload, like some of the perennial power houses, whether it is Florida, Florida State, Ohio State. I like to say that we are close to that caliber. If you can maintain for 20 or 30 years, then you've got that perennial year-after-year and coach is pretty close to that. It is pretty impressive with what he has done and with what people perceive as Midwestern, with snow, cold, all that kind of stuff. The players he brings that plays game after game and the guys that he has produced into the NFL—I think speaks volumes for the program.
Previous editions of '93 revisited