Matt Lawrence and Jason Palermo, the Badgers' starting guards this season, are a pair of fifth-year seniors who played bit roles their first four seasons. But they have been integral parts of UW's lineup this year.
"Obviously you want to come as a true freshman and start right away but you don't have to look any further than Jason Palermo and Matt Lawrence to see that it doesn't always happen right away," Weininger said.
Weininger has looked up to Palermo and Lawrence as mentors since he first arrived on campus.
"They really took care of me when I first got here and I just watched them develop and they are hell of players right now," Weininger said. "So I just hopefully, if I can follow in their footsteps I'll be real happy."
For Weininger, this season marked his first opportunity to be a part of UW's travel roster.
"Me and Jason were talking about it after the first game," Weininger said. "I asked him how it was like to finally start his first home game here. He asked me how it was like to travel for the first time. I didn't really realize it, but it was a big deal for me to be a part of the travel team and go to the hotel."
"He went through the same things I did," Weininger said of Palermo. "…. He's been a real leader to me."
Palermo and Lawrence earned a starting spot their fifth years. Weininger's time could come as a fourth-year junior next season. Weininger has spent most of this season as a second-team right guard and will compete along with Andy Kemp and Danny Kaye for the open guard spots this spring.
"Going into the spring I just need to physically get stronger like everyone else and just play hard," Weininger said. "The job won't be handed to me… Hopefully, if I take care of my business I'll have a good chance at it."
Weininger has played in 11 games this season, including mop-up duty at right guard in several games.
"I got to earn a letter this year, which was a big deal for me," Weininger said. "I feel like I put my feet in the water and hopefully it will lead to bigger things next year and the year after."
Weininger stands 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, two pounds lighter than when he first arrived in Madison. Though he feels he still needs to build strength and improve his footwork, he has come a long way in those regards.
"When I was a freshman I got mono," Weininger said. "So the only good thing about that was I got down to about 295 and started back over. I like my weight to be around 305. Obviously in the holiday season it's a little hard to strip some weight right now. But in the spring I'm going to try to get down to 300 or 305."
After redshirting as a true freshman, Weininger was buried on the depth chart in 2004 and played in just one game. This season, due to the lack of depth in UW's program on the offensive line, Weininger has been used on the scout team at times. "But as far as when we did live work, I always got live work with the second-string," he said.
When Wisconsin faces Auburn in the Capital One Bowl Jan. 2, Weininger will have one last opportunity to watch Palermo and Lawrence in action. Then, the book on the 2006 Badgers will open, with Weininger competing for his chance to go from the second-team to starting at right guard.
"I feel like that's my strongest point is that I'm going to play hard," Weininger said. "I'm going to get the most from my ability."