Fans' Q&A: Ryan Aiello

Ryan Aiello answers all of your questions, including who would win a game of one-on-one against Jim Leonhard, and how the ladies are treating him on campus.

Dane33: What were your expectations or thoughts about the weather coming from California?

Aiello: When I first came here it was freezing. When I came here on my trip it was December 17. I'll never forget it. I came off the plane and I wanted to jump right back on the plane. I was freezing. But I expected it to be very cold and it was. My first year here was…Ohhh my God, I just didn't want to leave the house. But I'm getting used to it now. Last winter wasn't that bad, so it was kind of nice. But I expected it to be cold and I was ready for it.

Dane33: Have you hosted any recruits from California or do you know of any possible recruits from California?

Aiello: The only recruit I've ever hosted was Greg Root, and I haven't hosted one since then. I don't know of any others.

Dane33: Are you still playing on special teams? And if not, do you miss that part of your game?

Aiello: Yeah, I'm on the punt return team and I've been playing on various special teams throughout the season, filling in for some guys that have been hurt and things like that. Yeah, I miss special teams but I'd much rather be playing defense. That's where it's at. I miss it, but it's fine.

Dane33: What is it like playing alongside Jim Leonhard in the secondary?

Aiello: He's an awesome guy. I knew going into camp he was going to be a big-time player for us. He makes a lot of plays. After the famous slam-dunk contest, he's like worldwide now with that. After that, I knew he was going to make plays for us. He takes a big weight off my shoulders. He helps me out a lot with things. He helps me make calls and things like that. He's a smart player.

Dane33: What were your other sports in high school, and can Leonhard take you in one-on-one basketball?

Aiello: I played football obviously, baseball and basketball. I don't know, (Leonhard) obviously beat me in the slam-dunk contest but I think I have a better shot than him. I think I could beat him in the power game. I'm a little bit bigger than him.

Badgers33: How do the west coast high school players view Wisconsin in terms of its reputation as a program?

Aiello: As far as when I was a senior, it was the place to be. They had just won two Rose Bowls in a row and had pretty much their whole team coming back. I mean, Wisconsin was just getting known. It was just becoming a big-time program out there, to us. I hadn't really seen a Wisconsin football game until those two Rose Bowls. Those were the only Wisconsin football games I ever saw. So it was just getting really big, and it was a prestigious program at the time and it's viewed as a prestigious program.

Badgers33: Is playing on turf a major factor when selecting a program?

Aiello: No, I like grass way better. I had never played on turf before, so I didn't know, but since I've been here, I hate turf.

Badgers33: Do you feel that your hairstyle is conducive to your west coast personality?

Aiello: Oh man. The funny thing is I never had long hair when I lived in California. I don't know if it's cold so I want to keep that extra heat on my head…I don't even know. I don't know what the deal is with the hair. I'm just letting it grow.

Badgers33: How are the ladies treating you on campus?

Aiello: How are the ladies treating me on campus? I don't even know what to say to that…they're good girls. They're Midwest girls. Let me think here for a second…I guess they're treating me very well. They are very hospitable. They are a different kind of girl, and I enjoy them.

Badgers33: Who has the most potential in the secondary to have a breakout season in 2003?

Aiello: I'd say Brett Bell. I think he's one of the better corners we have on our team right now. He's a big player, he's a strong player, he can be a physical corner, he's smart and he's fast as you know what, so I think he's going to have a breakout season next year.

Badgers33: What are your thoughts on the DL? Can it be one of the best in the country?

Aiello: Definitely it can. We have the two big pluggers in the middle with Jason (Jefferson) and Anttaj (Hawthorne) and our line is stacked. We have lots of depth, lots of guys stepping up making plays. We'll have Erasmus (James), Jonathan Welsh, all those guys, so I think they're going to be really good and a real factor on our defense.

Warwickstar: Your tackling appears to have improved throughout the year. What do you attribute this to? Work in practice or just an increase in confidence and comfort?

Aiello: I'd say a little bit of both. Playing obviously makes you increased in comfort and knowing what to do. When you're not playing, it's hard to get the speed of the game down when you just get thrown in there. I'd say it's a combination of practice, lots of practice in tackling and then game experience.

Badgerman45: What is the difference in responsibilities between free and strong safeties in the Badger defensive scheme? Have you practiced at both positions, and which do you think fits your skills better?

Aiello: I'm not really sure. I think I can play either one personally. The difference is, free safety, we're the last guy. We're it, and we have to make most of the tackles. We're like a linebacker/safety, whereas the strong safety is a linebacker but he's more off to the side. He's more of a contain player and he's more underneath coverage, whereas free safety is more over the top coverage.

WisVegas: Regarding your education, what is your major and why did you select it?

Aiello: My major is zoology, which is very different. I don't know if there's been any zoology majors on the team. I want to be a vet with it. That's my goal.

WisVegas: What has been your favorite class at UW, and why did you enjoy it?

Aiello: Probably criminology, because there were a lot of interesting facts that I had no idea were true, and I read a couple of really good books.

WisVegas: What player(s) have you learned the most from to improve your level of play since you arrived at UW?

Aiello: Oh, I'm sure people have heard this 100 times. Jason Doering. He's worked with me with everything. He's pretty much taught me a lot of tackling skills, because in high school you pretty much just hit people. You don't really wrap up. He showed me how to get in a nice position. He also helped me a lot with the overall game, to see the whole picture rather than just the guy you're covering and things like that. See the whole defense and anticipate things.

WisVegas: Explain how much credit do you give to your improvement from scrutinizing your play on Sunday's film succession?

Aiello: Watching film on Sundays helps us a lot because every week teams throw a bunch of stuff at us, especially at the beginning of the game, that we haven't seen the whole year. So that just helps us to learn and focus more on things like that, that we haven't played before.

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