When Wisconsin takes the field Saturday, several crucial things will be on the line: a winning season, a bowl invitation and the infamous Paul Bunyan's Axe. But for nine UW seniors, this game will mean much more.
For seniors Brooks Bollinger, Al Johnson, Ben Johnson, Jason Jowers, B.J. Tucker, Jake Sprague, David Braun, Russ Kuhns, Ryan Simmons and possibly Lee Evans, it will be the last time they run out of the tunnel at Camp Randall to the cheers of 76,000-plus screaming fans, covered head-to-toe in cardinal and white.
"This is where I spent the last five years of my life," senior Jake Sprague said. "There have been a lot of great times and I am going to miss it. When the fourth quarter is over Saturday I am really going to miss playing here in front of everybody and all the fans, and playing with the guys that I have been playing with since I have been here."
For a senior class that has contributed to both the '98 and '99 Rose Bowls, this was not exactly the ending that they had dreamed up. But even though their careers might be tainted due to their final two seasons at UW, this is still a class that has brought greatness to Wisconsin.
"Even though it is a very small class, I think they have given us as much leadership as they possibly can," Coach Barry Alvarez said. "Some of them were directly involved with the Rose Bowl and been on the field with the Rose Bowl. The fifth-year guys have participated in that event twice. They understand the program and I think they've tried to talk about what the program is all about to our younger players."
Yet it seems like only yesterday these were the young guys that were learning the system and adapting to big-time college football. It's hard to imagine their final day at Camp Randall is just two days away.
"You always remember the last one, and walking out of that stadium for the last time," said Bollinger, who led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl championship as a freshman. "No matter what, it's going to be something I will always remember."
For some seniors, the end hasn't hit them yet. But when it does, it will no doubt provoke emotions that most of them never thought were inside them.
"It will be more emotional after," senior offensive lineman Al Johnson said. "That's what I am going to try to do, is put the emotions until after [the game], when you sit down and say now I am done, now there are no more home games."
Regardless of Saturday's outcome, this game will provide the senior class with a memorable experience filled with emotions unlike anything they've experienced before in Madison.
"It's hard to believe," Bollinger said. "It's going to be so many different emotions at once. It's an exciting day and it's always fun for the seniors…It's going to be a lot of things, but we are just trying to get a win and get the chance to put on that uniform one more time."
Seniors Prepare for Camp Randall Farewell
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