A Powerful Chatter Box

Notching a career-high with nine tackles, including eight solo stops, Antonio Fenelus shows why not redshirting last season has provided dividens for the sophomore cornerback since week one.

MINNESOTA - Senior captain Chris Maragos remembers his first meeting with Miami-area cornerback Antonio Fenelus.

Hosted by fellow Miami cornerback Aaron Henry, Fenelus was on his official visit in December 2007, attending a UW basketball game and seeing what the campus had to offer, but kept his thoughts close to the vest.

"He was the quietest guy in the whole entire world," Maragos said.

A lot has changed in such a short time, and not just with his persona. After playing primarily on kickoff coverage during his freshman season, Fenelus spent the summer working on his technique, his speed and his ‘hops.'

"I told myself this summer and the spring that's it's my time to shine," Fenelus said. "I have to go out there and do my job. If I do that, I'll end up where I want to be."

Where he ended up on Saturday was on the top of the tackle chart. In charge of helping limit Minnesota senior wide receiver Eric Decker, Fenelus led the Badgers with nine total and eight solo tackles, both career highs, helping UW's defense limit Minnesota in the second half of Wisconsin's 31-28 win Saturday.

"At cornerback, we have a lot of depth, and people don't really understand that," Henry said. "If a guy goes down or somebody goes out, there's a first-team (player) stepping up. Anytime a guy in the secondary has double-digit tackles, he's doing a pretty good job."

During the recruiting process, Fenelus choose Wisconsin over Florida Atlantic (his other favorite) solely based on the fact that he could compete for playing time right away. Although that notion dissipated after Fenelus sprained his ankle and missed two-and-a-half weeks of fall camp, the experience Fenelus got by not redshirting is paying off.

"I wasn't able to fight for that starting job after that," Fenelus said. "I just tried to do my thing on special teams and try to make a couple plays to show them that I am ready to play. I made the best of my abilities wherever they put me on the field."

Seeing how hard the hits were and how to respond in adverse situations, Fenelus has found his niche in Wisconsin's secondary. From seeing his first extended playing time against Fresno State to making his first career start against Wofford, Fenelus has warranted the playing time, making 19 tackles (17 solo) in four games.

"I made a lot of strides," Fenelus said. "In the summer, I used to get yelled at a lot because as a freshman, they want to pack all this stuff on you and expect you to know everything on day one. Since then, I've been able to take the installs and focus more on my technique and knowing what coverage I am supposed to be in or how I have to play."

After surviving his first season (and his first Wisconsin winter), Fenelus has gone through a transformation in his play, his confidence to make plays and, more importantly, his attitude.

"He got to campus and he's the loudest guy I have ever met," Maragos said. "He's a comedy act all the time, always saying something off the wall. He's small, but he'll come up and hit you. He's got great speed and he's going to be a great player."


Badger Nation Top Stories