The road for junior Chris Maragos was slightly more challenging to get to the school of his dreams.
A native of Racine, Wisconsin, and unhappy with his situation at Western Michigan, Maragos sought the help of walk on Luke Swan through a family member to see if Swan would show his film to the Wisconsin coaches, hoping that the film would give him a shot to walk on.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not quite. Playing for the Badgers but no longer a wide receiver, Maragos was given the opportunity to take reps at strong safety during bowl preparation and did well enough to earn himself a third-string position at the start of camp. Following the transfer of Kim Royston, Maragos had to change positions and move up to second in the depth chart, still having never played a down on defense.
But instead of suffering, he has thrived.
Getting praise by the coaching staff for his quick learning and natural abilities, Maragos capped a strong spring season with a stellar spring game interception off Allan Evridge, almost guaranteeing himself some playing time in the fall. Not too bad for a kid that did not get highly recruited coming out of Horlick High School.
BN: Talk about your time at Western Michigan. You're a Wisconsin guy but you ended up going there, can you talk about the process that led to Western?
Chris Maragos: Coming out of high school, I really didn't get recruited much. I was kind of a late bloomer and more of a track guy. I transferred high schools my senior year so that probably hurt getting mixed up in the shuffle there and didn't help all that much. I was doing pretty well my senior year until my third game when our starting quarterback broke his collarbone and we had to bring up a sophomore quarterback. That was it for being a wide receiver. At the time, Western was the only school that was going to give me a preferred walk-on. I kind of wanted to go with the dream of playing division one so that is the shot that I took there.
BN: After the one year, you played wide receiver a little bit. What ultimately made you decide that you wanted to transfer and what led you back to Wisconsin?
Chris Maragos: I had the redshirt year where I played under Greg Jennings and he's doing well with the Packers now. I started that redshirt freshman year and really, just kind of had a run in with the coaches, a little bit of a disagreement, and just parted ways from there. I was looking for a school to go to and Wisconsin was always a dream for me to go to.
I got a hold of Luke Swan and he brought my film up to the coaches there. He was really kind of the guy that made it happen and by the provisions of God, getting everything together. A lot of prayer went into the decision of where I was going to go. I was going to transfer down and not have to sit out a year and I had the opportunity to walk on at Wisconsin. I said hey, I prayed about it a lot and I felt that I was led here.
BN: Swan brought your video here and when they saw that, was the response you got?
Chris Maragos: When they saw, I got a call from Henry Mason at the end of June. They said they would love to have me come in as a walk on. Luke and I developed a relationship through that and we actually ended up being roommates.
BN: How did you know him originally?
Chris Maragos: I knew him through my brother, who was Bucky the Badger here at Wisconsin. They were both really involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and they knew each other through that. Luke was a wide receiver walk on guy and my brother knew him through these events and I was looking for somehow to get an ‘in' to the Wisconsin program. My brother told me he had Luke's number, that he kind of knew him and that he could see what he could do. I called him up, talked a little bit and developed a relationship from there.
BN: How did you change your first year here at Wisconsin, knowing that you are where you want to be and that this was going to be the last stop on your journey?
Chris Maragos: I'll tell you, the sit out here was pretty trying. Definitely going from playing games at Florida State and Virginia to nothing was tough. Really though, I had to prepare for my teammates and if I couldn't be out playing physically, I had to be on the practice field competing everyday to prepare my teammates to play on Saturday and get ready to roll.
That was something I took as an attitude as well as a fact that Colossians 3:23 says ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart. Work it for the Lord, not for men.' I just had that approach. Whatever I am going to do, I am going to go at it 100 percent whether I am starting, I am a backup, I am a waterman or whatever it is. I am going to do it to the best of my abilities. That's the attitude I approached through it.
BN: How did the switch happen for you? Obviously you were brought here as a wide receiver so they saw something in you that they felt you could play the position. How did that come about and how did you receive it?
Chris Maragos: I played a little safety in high school but never like it was here. You have got a lot of responsibilities while they just put you back there in high school and you could run free and be a ball player. I got approached right around the end of the season and Coach B asked if I had ever played safety before. He brought that approach to me probably the second day of bowl prep and asked if I wanted to try out some safety. I thought if that's going to help out the team and really going to better us, then lets go.
They've obviously been coaching and been around the game a lot longer than I have so I trust in them and go under their tutelage. From there, I went through bowl prep and did some things I hoped they liked. I made a lot of mistakes and I am still making a lot of mistakes. It's been trying this spring ball. There have been a lot of ups and downs, ins and outs but you just try to grasp it as much as you can each and everyday and get better at things everyday.
BN: In bowl prep you got that itch to do it. How did you approach this spring as a full-fledged safety?
Chris Maragos: It's a different mindset. When you are playing wide receiver, you are doing a lot of forward running and as a DB, you are doing a lot of backward running. It's a whole different body system, body motion, everything like that. So it's been a lot different. Defense is a lot more reaction. Offense, you break the huddle and you go. Defense you are reacting off guys and reading different things. That's been a lot different in that sense.
BN: When did you hear that Kim Royston was going to transfer?
Chris Maragos: Probably the day they moved me to free safety right before practice. I had been working at strong safety for all of bowl prep and first few days of spring and when I heard he was transferring, I think he told the coaches that morning and we were going through our walk through. They told me I was moving to free (safety) and just moved as practice started.
BN: What was your reaction to that, as Kim has been a good athlete in this program and you were the third-string strong safety?
Chris Maragos: For Kim, I don't think he was happy with what was happening right now. I really don't know the logistics of it but I think he just wanted to try something new and that's the route he chose to take. Strong safety is a lot more run fits and things like that while free safety is more man free and you get to be a little bit more of a ball player by moving around.
BN: Where do you foresee yourself this year with this defense?
Chris Maragos: To be honest with you, even where I am at right now, I am nowhere ready to play. Everyday, I am trying to get better. Even coming to Wisconsin, I told myself that I am going to try to better myself as a teammate, better myself as an athlete, better myself for the coaches and the program. From there, whatever happens in terms of playing time that falls is what is going to happen. I wouldn't say I foresee myself starting or in a backup roll, I see myself trying to get better.
BN: Since you are still an offensive guy with an offensive mindset, who is the most impressive guy you have seen in this offense this spring looking at it from the defensive side?
Chris Maragos: I think Kyle Jefferson does a lot of good things. He's a young guy but he plays real mature. David Gilreath has been having a good spring. He's a real fast, shifty guy who is tough to cover. They are having Lance Smith out there running routes and he's a real tough man to bring down. He's a real strong, fast physical guy with some great moves. I say those guys are pretty good guys.
And you've got the guys like P.J. Hill and John Clay. I mean, loaded backfield with Zach Brown. Those guys can all do a lot of good things. We have a lot of guys that are playmakers on offense that can do a lot of good things.
BN: Do you think it is harder to play free safety or play Bucky Badger like your brother?
Chris Maragos: (laughing) One time I had to suit up in the suit for him because he was gone and I had to do the Fourth of July parade. I'll tell you what, that was probably one of the top three workouts in my life. I was sweating like crazy and I was dead tired. I couldn't move my arm. The head weights 40 pounds alone and it's strapped up with shoulder pads. I'll tell you, that was tough so I'd probably have to say Bucky the Badger is a little bit harder. I feel bad for the guy out there doing pushups during the game. I'll take this any day.