Pressley enjoying shift to fullback

After working through offseason injuries, sophomore is focused on converting weight room strength to the field

Chris Pressley casts an imposing figure with his 6-foot, 258-pound frame. The sophomore reserve fullback is considered the strongest player on the University of Wisconsin football team — at least in the weight room — and he is learning to translate that strength into crushing blocks.

Last spring Pressley set a UW record for fullbacks with a 665-pound squat. He bench presses 435 pounds.

"I impressed myself actually," Pressley said, expressing some surprise at the numbers he posted. "I try not to back off at all down there… it's going to get me better. [Strength and conditioning coach John Dettmann] always is just pushing the guys and everyone's working hard, so we're all working together."

Pressley is the Badgers' strongest player in the weight room, but he knows that does not necessarily make him the toughest or strongest when the pads are popping on the practice field or on Saturdays during the season.

"I'm just trying to convert that onto the field," Pressley said on the Badgers' media day, prior to the start of fall camp. "Go into this season, go into camp and just show what I can do in the weight room out on the field, so that's what I'm looking forward to."

So far, Pressley has been an imposing physical presence as a lead blocker. A scrimmage session rarely goes by without an impressive block from Pressley and on several occasions he has devastated the teammate who has had the misfortune of being in his path.

This is a new concept of sorts for Pressley, who came to UW a year ago expecting to be a big, bruising tailback. Injuries at the position gave him an opportunity last year, but he struggled, fumbling twice in the Badgers' first game last season. He ended the year with 11 carries for 36 yards in five games.

Now, Pressley is competing with redshirt freshman Bill Rentmeester for the right to back up four-year starter Matt Bernstein at fullback. Both Rentmeester, another tough blocker, and Pressley are likely to see the field in spots this season.

"I think that's [Pressley's] natural position," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "I think he realizes that."

"I'm excited about it," Pressley said of playing fullback. "It's more comfortable for me too, just a little bit, because I won't have to hold the ball… I like the physicality of the position."

Pressley has actually slimmed down for the position. He came into camp last year at 267 pounds and weighed as much as 274 during the season. He looks quicker as a result, and despite his preference for blocking, has looked better running the football than he did as a tailback last season.

"I feel real comfortable there," Pressley said. "I got down a lot. My weight always varied but I've been consistent at about 258 now."

Bernstein feels that Pressley could still be a power running back for UW.

"I love Chris at tailback. He's hard to tackle," Bernstein said. "I think that if he's not the backup fullback, put him at tailback. He'll punish you."

When fall camp opened, Pressley was listed as the No. 2 fullback on the official depth chart, despite having missed most of spring practices due to injury.

Pressley converted to fullback during bowl practices last December, but he suffered a high right ankle sprain that lingered through December, into winter offseason workouts and still troubled him to some degree in the spring.

He played through the discomfort early in spring practices, only to suffer a contusion on the bottom of his right heel that limited his running and sidelined him for the rest of spring.

"I just had to ice it up and ice up my ankle," Pressley said. "Finally it all came together, just doing different little exercises, doing different rehabs, doing different things with the weight and the strength and conditioning coaches as well as the training staff, so that all helped."

Pressley said that, in part, what led to his injury problems was that his footwork was off kilter, causing his legs to be a little wild when he ran.

"I really was amped up for spring practice," he said. "Cause winter and spring is when you try to prove yourself… The little setbacks are just making me stronger because I know next time how to prevent injuries, how to stretch beforehand, get it taped up, make sure everything is in the proper place and try to keep my legs and stuff not from being so wild when I'm running on the field… Because running back, you've got to notice your foot placement… If not, you're going to have little ankle injuries and little things like that banged up."

Heading into camp, neither injury was nagging Pressley.

"It's good enough now to the point where I can actually take a good step off of it when I'm running," he said. "Before it was kind of just, ‘this is my strong foot' and I would push off it and it would hurt so much and you kind of could see I had a little limp. But now it's kind of a gone away after this, it's gotten all better. The trainers were helping me get back together and now it's working a lot better."

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