Big Day for the Birthday Boy

With Plymouth, Minnesota native Marcus Coleman playing his final Big Ten game in his home state, the Badger senior felt like he was having another Senior Day. Good thing for him they ended in the exact same way.

MINNEAPOLIS - It's not every week that a college football senior gets to enjoy back-to-back senior days.

On the other hand, Wisconsin center Marcus Coleman is not the average senior.

A week after being introduced with the rest of the seniors before the Badgers' 37-21 victory over Michigan at Camp Randall Stadium, Coleman was one of the first Badgers to hoist the axe in front of his home-state fans, as Wisconsin beat Minnesota for the fourth-consecutive time, 41-34.

"It's definitely a unique situation to have Senior Day last week and my last regular season game here," Coleman said. "There definitely was a lot of emotions in it for me two weeks in a row."

It was a fitting regular-season culmination for Coleman, who has been knee deep in Gopher country since middle school.

Growing up in Illinois, Coleman moved to Plymouth, Minnesota in seventh grade. Being an avid Illinois fan growing up in Gopher country (his father Roger played for the Illini from 1973 to 74), Coleman, unlike his schools friends, never developed a fascination for the local team.

"Being an Illinois guy, I never really was a fan of Minnesota," Coleman said. "All of my friends around me were big Gopher guys and I still know a couple guys on the team. (In terms of playing at Minnesota), there was never really an interest in playing there."

His disinterest has become Wisconsin's gain. Starting his 25th straight games at center against Minnesota, Coleman was named to the 2007 Rimington Award (college football's outstanding center) watch list and was named team captain for the season opener against Washington State.

But being overshadowed in the past, like last year when all the attention was on All-American Joe Thomas, Coleman has stepped out of the shadows this season, being the glue that has held the offensive line together.

Being the only senior on the line, Coleman's leadership have been put to the test and strained to the maximum.

The Badgers have started two redshirt freshmen on the line this season – Joe Thomas' replacement in left tackle Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, who was pressed into duty for three games at left guard after junior Andy Kemp broke his hand at Penn State.

Two weeks ago, another veteran Badger lineman, Eric Vanden Heuvel, suffered a leg injury and missed the Michigan game.

That injury, more than others, threw a wrench into the line, as nearly the entire line was force to relocate. Junior right guard Kraig Urbik moved to right tackle (a possession he hadn't played in two years), Moffitt staying at left guard and Kemp returned and moved to right guard.

With a consistently evolving offensive line and an offense without its star running back, Coleman has made sure the offensive line hasn't missed a beat.

After helping a patchwork running game run for 232 against the mighty Wolverines, including freshman Zach Brown's first career 100-yard game, Coleman and his line mates – a group that included (from left to right) Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Coleman, Andy Kemp and Kraig Urbik – helped the Badgers run up 325 yards – 250 from Zach Brown - against a ragged Minnesota defense.

"Anytime a running back has success, the offensive line is happy, too," Coleman said. "We love to run the ball and smash the run. The running back having success is how we can gauge how our performance was. We gave him some holes and he took advantage of them."

Labeled as the second quarterback of the offense, Coleman has let his leadership do the talking; shaking off all the praise thrust his way. Coleman has led by example and has been a staple in an offensive line that had been rattled with his injuries.

"The thing about Marcus is that he's shouldered the responsibility of the offensive line and is playing as good as ever," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "Coach Alvarez always said that seniors play the best football and I think he is right now."

With roughly 20 friends and family in attendance, Coleman's second senior day proved to be just as sweet as his first, especially when his opportunity came to hoist the axe for the fourth time.

Grabbing the axe for the last time, Coleman shared the moment with his family. Finding them hanging and cheering over the railing, Coleman made sure his whole family touched the axe.

With his team's ninth victory and still a chance for a January 1st bowl game, Coleman couldn't think of a better way to spend his 23rd birthday.

"To be honest with you," Coleman said. "The only thing I wanted for my birthday was to run around with that axe on the field and that's exactly what happened."

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