Transferring from Western Michigan to Wisconsin before the start of the 2007 season, Racine native and then wide receiver Chris Maragos was ready to start contributing for his home state team but in form of defending the ball, not catching it.
Despite the Badgers losing two senior wide receivers (Paul Hubbard and Luke Swan) and Wisconsin having a group of unproven receivers, Maragos had the most experience of anyone at the position. Still, that didn't persuade Maragos to change his mind about becoming a contributor on defense.
"It's funny that people couldn't believe that I wouldn't play wide receiver," Maragos said. "People thought I had some potential playing time at wide receiver and not sitting behind an All-Big Ten selection at safety, but I really felt at peace with that situation and that's where I needed to be."
Starting as the team's third-string strong safety at the beginning of spring football, Maragos was shifted to the backup free safety after Kim Royston transferred from the program. By the team's sixth game, Maragos was starting at safety and playing some of the best football of his career.
Now, Maragos will be the starter in Saturday's Champs Sports Bowl when the Badgers take on Florida State.
"It's amazing to see what the Lord is just bringing into my path," said Maragos, who finished the season with 38 tackles (24 solos) and one interception. "I am still baffled sometimes to what is going on and how everything opens up, but I am tremendous excited about playing every game."
Due to Shane Carter's suspension for violating team's rules, Maragos will start for the second time in his career against the Seminoles.
During his freshman year at Western Michigan, Maragos and his Bronco teammates travelled to Tallahassee in November 2006 for a non conference title.
It was a memorable first college season for Maragos, as his Broncos won eight games, competed in the International Bowl against Cincinnati and played in a rabid football environment involving Wisconsin's Champs Sports Bowl opponent.
"You remember playing against good players like Tony Carter and Myron Rolle and watching Coach Bowden across the sidelines," Maragos recalled of Western Michigan's 28-20 loss. "The atmosphere was great because it was their homecoming and to go down there and play against Florida State, a program that has a great commitment with their fans."
The only player to have prepared for both the Seminoles' offense and defense, Maragos knows that the speed is what stands out from the program and how Bowden and his staff maximizes the athleticism and talents of each individual player, a trademark that gets the Badger players pumped to take on FSU in their home state.
"You get to play a big-time program and there are a lot of guys on our team that grew up in Florida, watched Florida State and either didn't get recruited by them or whatever it might be," Maragos said. "Going back for a lot of guys to play in their home state, in front of their home crowd and against guys they probably played against in high school is really exciting for our team."
Listing the highlights of his first season as celebrating with the guys after the Illinois win and defending the axe against Minnesota, Maragos said it all failed to compare to his first game with his home state Badgers, a game which he hopes will be the best memory of all for 2008.
"You always want to get the best opponent you can get and play the best that you can play in the bowl games and the best bowl game you can play in," Maragos said. "Fortunate for us, we got put in the right situation and we are really excited about this opportunity and play against them."