The Wisconsin football team finished its practice Friday morning with more excitement than at any other time during fall camp. The high fives, fist pumps, cheers and general revelry that erupted as the session closed was not due to a sparkling play from one of the Badgers' stars. Rather, every player on the field spontaneously sprinted around student manager Bill Kletzien, forming a huddle of congratulatory euphoria.
Following a full contact, situational scrimmage, Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez decided to make his team a deal. If Kletzien could catch two kickoffs from senior place kicker Mike Allen, the team would need to dress in just spiders and helmets, rather than more cumbersome attire for Friday afternoon's practice.
Allen's first kick went right to Kletzien, who was standing about 50 yards down field. As he caught it, the Badgers simultaneously erupted with cheers. Allen's second kick forced Kletzien to move a little to his right but the he got under it and gathered it in, creating quite a stir at the Bishop O'Connor Center.
"He became my new favorite manager, instantly," sophomore linebacker Reggie Cribbs said.
"He's a legacy too," Alvarez said. "His grandfather was a manager, dad was a manager, now he's (a) manager."
Kletzien, 21, will begin his junior year at UW-Madison when classes begin Sept. 2. He is in his first year as a Badger football manager.
"It's an exciting thing when we catch breaks because this is a time when it's all hard, it's all football, it's all stressful," Cribbs said. "You know, you've got to do this. It's all stressful, and stressful on your mind as well as your body. So when we catch a break, it's very exciting."
"We have good spirit on this team," Alvarez said. "We haven't broken their spirit. I think as a coach that's a thing that you have to watch, that you just don't keep grinding all the time. There has to be some fun involved. Our kids have learned. If you can have fun as you practice, it makes things easier. And we have some guys, Dontez (Sanders) is one of them, we have some guys that make it fun and then everybody else picks up from there."
Alvarez was happy to give his players a lighter workout Friday afternoon. The Badgers have a one-and-a-half hour scrimmage scheduled Saturday morning at Camp Randall Stadium, preceded by a one-hour practice. Both are closed to the public and the media.
"We have had live work five days in a row," Alvarez said Friday morning. "We normally don't do that but just including our competition and everything, we've gone five days in a row. So our guys have banged around pretty good."
Scrimmages throughout fall camp have included plenty of banging and Friday morning's affair was no different. The Badgers simulated an overtime situation, with the first team competing against the second team.
The first team began the session with the ball and gave it to freshman tailback Chris Pressley, who was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by strong safety James Kamoku. After Pressley gained one yard on second down, Kamoku knocked the ball out of Jonathan Orr's hands with a jarring hit, breaking up a reception that would have set up first-and-goal inside the five. Mike Allen, however, connected from 42 yards out to put the first team on the board.
The second team's opportunity did not last long. Anttaj Hawthorne led a ferocious charge to the ball carrier and forced a fumble. Senior defensive end Jonathan Welsh recovered, clinching a scrimmage win for the first team. After the win, Kletzien made his heroic catches, spelling relief for the Badgers.
King for a day
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