Soothing Relief

Healthy and finally able to contribute at 100 percent, Wisconsin sophomore defensive tackle Patrick Butrym is finally showing coaches when he is capable of. Because of it, the defensive line is playing up to its potential.

MADISON - Looking back, it was all in slow motion for Patrick Butrym.

Running a simple stunt with O'Brien Schofield against Minnesota, Butrym read the running back coming around the end and reacted to the screen pass by running to his left to cover the unguarded receiver.

But when the pass was bobbled by the running back, Butrym was in prime position, cradling the pass into his arm, all while a Gopher offensive lineman was holding on to him.

"My eyes just lit up," Butrym said. "It was unreal. The best experience I've had since I've been a Badger."

The play proved vital on two accounts. Not only did Butrym's play stop a Minnesota scoring drive, giving the ball back to UW on its own 30, but the Badgers went 70 yards in nine plays to score the go-ahead touchdown, giving the Badgers a lead it would never relinquish in their annual border battle.

"It shows that you can't take any plays off, that you just have to strain and compete on every play," Butrym said. "When you do that, good things are going to happen to you. I just happened to be in the right position at the right time. If everybody does their job on each play, good things can happen and good things happened on that play."

It's been a rewarding experience for Butrym so far in 2009. More importantly, it's been a healthy one.

He was hindered by injuries two weeks into the 2008 fall camp, suffering plantar fascia in both feet and tendinitis in the knee, injuries that carried into 2009 spring practices.

After registering five tackles in 13 games his redshirt freshman year, Butrym was anxious to make an impression in spring camp, considered the biggest evaluators for young players trying to make a statement. Instead, Butrym considered getting out of bed in the morning as a moral victory.

"It felt like I had stones in your feet when I walked around," Butrym said.

Butrym watched while defensive linemen Dan Moore, Jeff Stehle and J.J. Watt got better and asserted themselves as contributors on the line while he stood on the sideline with his knee wrapped and one of his feet in a walking cast, only to rotate it to another foot the next day.

"It was really frustrating, watching everybody else get better while I just sat there," Butrym said. "It was like I was getting worse."

But the problems cleared up, the knee problems subsided and the pain left his steps, allowing Butrym to wake up in the morning pain free. Making strides in fall camp, Butrym, described coming out of Waukesha Catholic Memorial High as a typical, blue-collared worker that possess speed, toughness and versatility, finally showed what he could do - penetrating into the backfield, solid in pursuit and lengthy in batting down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Those results have yielded Butrym 16 tackles in eight games (two starts) along with 1 1/5 tackles for loss, a half sack, three pass deflections at the line and that Minnesota interception.

"He's finally healthy, so people are starting to finally see a healthy Pat Butrym," defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said. "I think it's huge and we're starting to see the results of that."

A healthy Butrym has allowed defensive line coach Charlie Partridge to accomplish his pre-season goal of rotating eight defensive linemen at will, keeping players fresh in the fourth quarter and ensuring that the Badgers have game-ready players on every down.

It's a big reason why the Badgers led the conference in rush defense, held its opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense in five of its last eight games and why the Badgers are slowly creeping up towards the top half of the Big Ten Conference.

"When you are mixing guys in there that are fresh, sometimes you keep guys off linebackers, or your pressure on the quarterback helps out the defensive backs," Butrym said. "If you can force a bad throw or get a sack, it makes things so much easier on everybody else. More importantly, it makes things fun."

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