Although Valentine’s Day may celebrate romantic relationships, something lost in the craze are friendships and the multitude of other relationships, including those made in sports. Over the course of Wisconsin sports history, there have been many special connections between teammates, who together brought their play to a whole new level, helped their program to a new level or did both at the same time. Despite all the connections over the years, we only had room to highlight a few of the greatest pairs. Here are the Deadliest Badger duos, who may not have brought love to those they played against but certainly brought inspired intimidation over the years.
Russell Wilson and Montee Ball (Football)
Although they were only paired together for one season, quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball will go down as one of the top passer-rusher combinations in Wisconsin history. In just one season with the Badgers, Wilson almost cracked the top 10 in the UW record books for most passing yards in a career. Despite not achieving that, Wilson is still 13th all-time for his 3,175 career passing yards and has the best career completion percentage and quarterback ratings at 72.8 percent and a 191.8, respectively. Meanwhile, Ball in 2011 scored the most touchdowns in a season for any UW player with his 37 total marches to pay dirt. Those touchdowns aided him in setting the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns in a career (77), which he put the finishing touches on a year later.
Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor (Men’s basketball)
In their four years together at Wisconsin, these two Badgers created many key moments for Wisconsin men’s basketball, making it hard to sift through all of them for one that stands out from the rest. But probably none of those moments symbolized the uniqueness of these two in symphony more than one play against No. 2 Pittsburgh on Dec. 16, 2006. Off a long rebound, Taylor broke into the forecourt with Tucker on a two-on-one. Taylor proceeded to lob a feed to Tucker, who slammed it home on the alley-oop, which sent the Kohl Center into a frenzy. That level of excitement in that one play was a microcosm of what Tucker and Taylor brought to Wisconsin in the careers. Tucker would go on to score the most points in UW history with his 2,217. Although Taylor might not hold any UW records, he was still a key to the Badgers success, especially in his final two years, as he facilitated the success not only in Tucker but in the others around him as well.
Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh (Men’s hockey)
Forming one of the longer lasting connections in Wisconsin sports history, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh have now played together on three different teams for a total of 6 years, only two of which came at Wisconsin. Individually, they have been dominant in two completely different positions, as Stepan is a forward and McDonagh a defenseman. Despite the discrepancy in position, the two were potent in nearly every facet of the game at Wisconsin, leading to their departures after the 2009-2010 season for the NHL’s New York Rangers. In only his sophomore year, and last, with the Badgers, Stepan helped Wisconsin to the national championship game and led the Badgers in scoring with 12 goals and 42 assists for 54 total points. McDonagh was no slouch in the scoring department either, and in that same year he tallied 18 points, which included 14 assists, totaling 46 points in his career. Currently both are key members of the Rangers and are also in the midst of playing for Team USA at the Sochi games, the first Olympics for both. No matter what level, the two have had a knack for playing and assisting each other in the process.
Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight
If you know anything about women’s hockey, you’d know that you don’t want to be an opposing goaltender who sees Hilary Knight or Meghan Duggan step onto the ice. However, if you don’t know anything about women’s hockey, all you need to know is that separately, Knight and Duggan will each leave long, lasting impressions on the Wisconsin women’s hockey program for what they did both statistically and intangibly. Together, though, these two reached Satchel Paige potential, in that they could have sent the other three skaters to the bench and still could have competed with most other teams. The two starred together at Wisconsin for three years from 2007-2011, and even had a year together in 2009-2010 on the U.S. women’s hockey team at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Duggan had a year head start on Knight, but when the two converged on Madison together they raced toward rewriting the offensive record books at UW. Knight came out on top with her 262 career points, which is the most for any UW player in her career. Duggan was not far behind and is third all-time in Wisconsin history with 238 total points. Now, the two fill roles just as big for the U.S. women’s team. Duggan serves as captain and both play key roles in the offense. It’s hard to imagine any pair, at least in women’s hockey, matching the dual power of Duggan and Knight.
Sis Paulsen and Kerry Weiland (Women’s hockey)
Not only did Paulsen and Weiland spend four years together on the ice from 1999-2003, but the pair also had a lot of time to bond in the penalty box. In their time together as Badgers, Paulsen and Weiland’s physical play made them Wisconsin’s version of the Bash Brothers from “Mighty Ducks 2,” as they both got penalized 111 times each in their careers. Weiland has the slight edge in terms of total penalty minutes, racking up 249 to the 244 of Paulsen. Besides spending a good portion of their careers in the sin bin, the duo also contributed heavily to the Badgers offensive attack, with outputs almost just as similar as the amount of penalties. This time Paulsen led the charge with her 130 career points, while Weiland was close behind with 124 career points. To top that off, they were members of the first women’s hockey team and in a select group of the first four-year players.