Pressley Runs Through Personal Tragedy

Preparing for a key matchup against Penn State, junior fullback Chris Pressley didn't expect to go through multiple personal tragedies that continues to linger.

MADISON – Trials and tribulations affect everyone's life. For an athlete, whose job it is to perform at a high level at game time, personal anguish can, and usually does, significantly impact their performance.

Using that logic, junior fullback Chris Pressley's performance against Northern Illinois was remarkable, considering everything he had been through the past two weeks.

The junior finished with season high five attempts for 31 yards – he had just one attempt for five yards entering the game - and scored his first touchdown as a Badger just over a week after he buried his grandma and his uncle.

While the team prepared for the week leading up to the Penn State game, Pressley flew back to his hometown of Woodbury, New Jersey on Thursday to be with his family and attend the joint funeral of his grandma and uncle, both of whom died unexpectedly.

"It's just putting your life in perspective," said Pressley. "You have to enjoy it while you are here. We were taking losses pretty hard, but at the same time, you've got to thank the Lord to help you get through it."

Spending Thursday and Friday in Woodbury, Pressley flew to State College Friday night to play what he called "one of his toughest games." Pressley didn't carry the ball once in Wisconsin's 38-7 loss, admitting he was there physically but not there mentally.

But the situation got even worse while Pressley was home. His older brother, Steven Ross, was stabbed multiple times in the neck, chest and leg the night Pressley left for State College. His leg wounds were so severe that Ross spent multiple days in the intensive care.

"I thought I was going to lose my brother," Pressley said. "Saturday during the game I'm thinking, 'I can't wait to get to my phone and hear the news, see what's going on.'"

Pressley said his brother spent four days in intensive care and on life support, but has since improved. He spoke with him Wednesday night for the first time since the incident.

"He's good now so I am happy he's doing well," Pressley said.

Even with all the battles going on off the field, Pressley never considered not playing against Penn State, saying he never gave it a second thought because of how he wanted to help his team try and win.

"I did think about (not playing) but I wanted to step in for a team and do whatever I could do," Pressley said. "I don't want to leave my team out, even when things are going on. It's one of those things where I had to make a decision and I looked at it and wanted to focus (on football) the best I could."

Wanting to get Pressley more involved in the offense the past few weeks, head coach Bret Bielema informed Pressley that he would be playing a key role in the Wisconsin offensive workload against Northern Illinois. Challenging Pressley to become a fixture in the offense, Pressley responded the way his head coach hoped he would.

"He's a tremendously focused young man," Bielema said. "Nobody is more caring about the team and about winning than Chris Pressley and I think that was a rough stretch for him. We challenged him this week to run the football and that's something that benefits the whole offense."

Coming into the season, Pressley's career high for attempts and yards was in his first career game against Central Florida in 2004, carrying the ball eight times for 22 yards. Now, Pressley looks to be a so-called ‘secret weapon' that can be used in a multitude of different ways.

"Coach always emphasizes if you have an opportunity, take advantage of it," Pressley said. "I just kept telling him to let me carry the rock a little bit and he finally let me show him. Hopefully, coach can utilize me as a fullback that's more versatile than just blocking."

Whether he becomes a permanent cog in the Wisconsin offense or he goes back to his role of being a glorified lineman, the tragic two weeks Pressley has gone through has given him a new perspective on life, one that parallels his life on the field, as well.

"It was tough to get my mind into it, but at the same time, you have to be a grown man and know that you have a job to do," Pressley said. "You have to take advantage of our opportunities. You only have one life to live. You just have to go out there and give it your all in everything you do."

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