The Pride of the Valley

When offensive lineman Andy Kemp graduated, redshirt freshman and Neenah native Peter Konz knew that he would have to eventually step in and represent the Fox Valley Conference ... Konz just didn't know it would be in his second career game.

HONOLULU - Peter Konz has been sick before growing up, but never when he was trying to compete for a starting position and trying to play his best football on the University of Wisconsin's offensive line.

Konz, one of the upwards of 40 Badgers that were plagued by the flu during the second week of the season, entered his redshirt freshman year as the third-string center, but had seen his reps increase when junior John Moffitt injured his pectoral muscle before the start of fall camp.

But with freshman Travis Frederick starting the season opener, Konz felt content that he could be recover on the bench while a healthy Frederick did the heavy lifting. Imagine his surprise when Frederick went down early in the first quarter with an ankle injury how quickly Konz started on the road to recovery.

"I started feeling better because the adrenaline was going and I was a on the mend," Konz recalled. "I wasn't too bad and I needed to be fine, especially since I knew we were down to our last option at center."

Konz wasn't joking. If he would have went down, the Badgers had no other options.

"I told the radio that I was the next center going in," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "For Peter Konz to go in and do what he did was just tremendous."

Heading into the regular season finale this Saturday at Hawaii (6-6), Konz has started UW's last nine games at center and was a big factor in UW's fourth-place finish in the Big Ten. Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring offense (29.5 ppg.) during conference play for just the sixth time in school history and the first time since 1991 and has averaged over 400 yards of offense.

More importantly, there hasn't been a problem with the center-quarterback exchange.

"You've got nothing if you don't have the ball," UW Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst joked. "He's done a great job and you forget, because you don't have the luxury of anything else, that he is young and learning. He's had a nice growth and he's got a chance to keep going, getting better and becoming a good player for us."

Konz still remembers the disheartening conversation the freshman from Neenah had with offensive line coach Bob Bostad. It was quick and to the point. Bostad felt that Konz's athletic nature, being a quick study and the simple fact that UW needed more centers made him the viable candidate to make the move.

"You always have high expectations for yourself, but I entered the season competing for a right tackle spot," Konz admitted. "Being a starter wasn't out of the realm of possibilities, but not at center, no way. If you would have told me this last year, I would have said you're crazy because I haven't played center since fifth grade."

"It was really difficult, especially during camp. I thought I was going to get some playing time at tackle and I had to start over where I had never been before. (Bostad) told me to learn, do my best and low and behold, here I am."

If Konz needed reassurance, he didn't have to go far to find guidance. Playing tackle in high school and starting six games at guard during his freshman season, junior John Moffitt was moved to center entering his sophomore year, but had the luxury of easing into the position rather than being thrown into it.

"It's not easy," Moffitt said of the switch. "It was tougher on Pete because after my freshman year, they worked me at center all during bowl practice, spring and fall camp. I had a lot of practice and time to adjust to it. Pete had less than a month (and) he stepped up and did what he had to do."

As it turns out, Konz felt right at home in the Wisconsin offense. Konz calls his high school, Neenah, the ‘Wisconsin school,' as the Rockets often reflected the offensive aspects the Badgers ran.

So when it came to playing center. Konz knew the basics of being the leader of the offensive line, the big thing of pointing out the mike linebacker, allowing the rest of the line to adjust accordingly, and communicate efficiently.

"Sometimes, I don't think they listen to me because they know what they need to do right away while it takes me a couple of seconds," Konz laughed. "It's weird, because I go to them for the answers."

‘Welcome to the club' says Moffitt, who felt exactly the same way last season.

"We work together," he said. "It's a shared burden. He's young, and seeing stuff sometimes takes awhile to learn."

The big thing Konz is learning is durability and film study, things that are continuing to push the Badgers, and an offensive line with no seniors, forward towards a January bowl game.

"That's what I love about this team," Konz said. "We are 1-0 every game, trying to focus and get better."


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