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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Q&A with Chris Maragos

The Badger Herald spoke with Chris Maragos to discuss his journey from receiver at Park High School to safety at the University of Wisconsin and everything in between as well as the help he’s received from roommate and former Badger Luke Swan and former Wisconsin safety and current New York Jet Jim Leonhard.

Badger Herald: First, could you just talk about the move from Park to Horlick?

Chris Maragos: I think it’s safe to say that I’m used to transition. I’m used to change. Starting out at Park, we had a lot of family ties at Park. We lived in the school district all my life, all my best friends were there, my brother was a senior when I was a freshman, my dad was a graduate, my mom was a teacher there…the whole thing was there. For me athletically, that’s really what made the change to go from Park to Horlick. It’s was tough though. I had an extremely great family and friend base at Park, and for me I wasn’t getting any recruiting attention at all. John Clay was coming up as a freshman, we played together when I was a junior and he was a freshman. Really for me, I had to look at Horlick as a situation and say ‘hey, if I really want to play and really trust my ability, I’m going to have to put myself in a position to go on to the next level.


BH: What was it like at Western Michigan, especially playing with Greg Jennings?

CM: It was awesome playing with Greg. I think that was so crucial in my development as an athlete, just having a guy like Greg Jennings there. To see the way he handled his business and the way he approached the game — you know, when you’re a freshman you’re just trying to soak up everything — to see how Greg did it, I just thought, ‘OK this is the way you do it.’ I just took that approach and continued to progress. I was a walk-on at Western Michigan and the coach said if I provided and contributed, I’d be put on scholarship and that really wasn’t what was going on. I was kind of getting beat around the bush and it really was more about integrity for me and about trust with him, it wasn’t about the money.

BH: How did you end up at Wisconsin after that?

CM: I decided to transfer and I really prayed about it. My brother talked to Luke and I Facebooked Luke and it was really crazy, random you know? I mean, who ever thinks of something like that? Luke looked at my film and he and Tyler Donovan looked it over, they brought it up with the coaches and I got a call from Coach Mason and I got a walk-on opportunity here at Wisconsin.

BH: Luke said you moved to defense because somebody got an interception and you ran after him and dove from the 10-yard line to tackle him at the five. Tell me about it.

CM: We were just finishing up a team drill and Erik Prather got an interception. He was running it in and I was playing receiver and tracked him all the way down field and I just dove for him and I stripped the ball. After the practice, Coach B said, ‘hey have you ever played defense?’

BH: Would you say Luke was your first friend on the team?

CM: Luke was by far my first friend on the team. When I first got here, I followed that guy everywhere. I was tagging along on his hip. If he made a right turn, I was right with him. He was phenomenal. Luke was huge in getting me in with the guys right away. They just knew I was Swan’s boy and it was really great because we shared the common denominator in our faith as well. We were always together with Bible studies and all that kind of stuff and we lived together right away, so he was definitely my best friend.

BH: What similarities do you see between yourself and Luke?

CM: One thing that I really see with Luke and I is our competitive streak that is just different than a lot of guys, and a willingness to never quit. I think that’s the best way to explain Luke and me similarity wise. We’re the undersized white guys that nobody expects to be good. We just continue to go out there and compete.

BH: What was your first year at Wisconsin like having to sit out?

CM: When I transferred here to Wisconsin everybody — friends, everybody back home, everywhere I went because it was in the papers — told me that I was nuts. I was in the eye doctor’s office and my eye doctor was like ‘I just don’t think that’s smart.’ Everybody was telling me, if you can’t make it at Western, what do you think you’re going to do at Wisconsin? It was a crazy transition, but I knew we prayed about it and I knew the Lord opened up so many doors for me to get here, I mean it’s unreal.

BH: Why do you think Wisconsin has a tradition of walk-ons becoming captains?

CM: There’s a lot of guys with the willingness and the passion to compete. Wisconsin’s been a program that’s been willing to accept guys like that and continue to let them progress. And I think guys like us that are in the right situation and the coaches let them develop, they can do amazing things, they just need to blossom. It’s like the ugly duckling that ends up being this great, beautiful thing. We just need somebody to push us along a little bit, give us some time to develop and give us the opportunity to go out there and compete. Fortunately for the three of us, we took that opportunity and we ran with it.

BH: What was it like working out with someone like Jim, who you looked up to when you were younger?

CM: My parents had season tickets; I can remember coming to see Jim Leonhard play. He gave me hope because I remember thinking in my head, ‘maybe one day I can be just like him.’ He can do it, I wonder if I can do it. And you know, here we are.

BH: What does your success do for younger people with the same goals and aspirations?

CM: It’s huge because it gives people something to look up to, some hope. When everybody tells you that you can’t do it, there’s always guys like Jim or Luke or myself that you can look up to and say, ‘they’ve done it, why can’t I?’

BH: When did you and Jim first meet and what was it like?

CM: The first time I met Jim, he was just around in the offseason working out and he came through the locker room and I was like, ‘that’s Jim Leonhard right there.’ I was kind of star struck, I’m not going to lie. They introduced me to him and I was like, ‘uuuhhh hi, Jim.’ He reminds me so much of Greg Jennings. He’s just this guy that’s got such a great platform and a pedestal and yet he’s still really cool, easy going, like ‘hey man, let me teach you something.’ I’ve had so many great examples, you know, Greg Jennings, Jim Leonhard and even Luke Swan, and I want to do that for other guys when I can.

BH: How has Jim helped you improve on defense?

CM: Jim has been phenomenal in my development. He’s watched film with me, he’s invited me over to his house here in Madison to watch film and meet his wife, he’s done drills with me, whatever it might be. He’s gone above and beyond. Anytime he was doing something he’d be texting me telling me what’s going on and asking me if I’m going to be up there or be around. I took advantage of that and learned from the best. That’s something my dad always taught me, he said, ‘find the guy who does it the right way and try to mimic exactly what he does. That’s what I was trying to do with Jim and fortunately it’s paying off.

BH: What role does your faith play in the way you play football?

CM: I think, when you really see guys with an inner drive, something that’s not just for playing in front of 80,000 fans or something that’s for money, it’s about God. All three of us realize God has gifted us with this ability and in turn, that’s our special gift. I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, but I can play football. That’s the way that God’s gifted us athletically and for us, God has blessed us with those abilities and in turn, we want to worship him through our athletic ability.

BH: And how does that relate to being named captain?

CM: A lot of guys really look for guys with integrity to be captain. I think the guys with the faith they really stand for what they believe in and they respect that. For all three of us, we’ve been honored captain and we really feel humbled and extremely blessed to be in those positions.

BH: You were here for senior day during Luke’s last season. Do you remember Luke coming out with his crutches before tossing them aside and walking out to meet his parents? What was that like for you?

CM: It speaks to Luke’s character. I mean, that’s who he is. One thing that Luke and I really possess is a determination and a willingness to never quit. When everyone expects you to be a certain way, we break out from it. Everybody expected Luke just to go out there on his crutches, but he was going to go out there and he was going to rehab to the point where he could walk. It’s just who he is.

BH: Do you think you’re leaving a legacy at Wisconsin like Jim did?

CM: I hope I’m leaving a legacy. I hope I’m somebody that everybody can look at and appreciate and have a tremendous amount of respect for. People might say this, that and the next thing about the ability, but hopefully I can just garner the community and the campus’ respect. That’s something I think Luke and Jim did and I’m just trying to follow suit.

BH: Luke and Jim were both the most successful players from their home towns, but you have to share the spotlight with John Clay, what’s that been like?

CM: I’ve been sharing the spotlight with John ever since I’ve been in high school, so I’m used to it by now. We’ve all been blessed in so many ways so we don’t really look at it as one guy being overshadowed by the other. I hope I can just represent Racine off the field with the way I handle my business and be someone that people want their kids to look up to or a guy that people want their kid to play their game after with the way that he works out and straining to get better.

BH: What do you see for yourself in the future after you graduate?

CM: A year ago I wasn’t even in the starting lineup and a year before that I wasn’t even playing defense yet, so a year from now I don’t even know what’s going to happen. God has been so good to me and He has led me down so many crazy paths that it’s going to be interesting to see where he brings me a year from now.

BH: Jim and Luke both said they think you have a lot of potential in football, what does it mean to have those two say that about you?

CM: It’s humbling. To hear that from two guys like that with that stature and that level, it’s just unreal. I don’t even have words to say. It just over joys me to think that those two guys would think so highly of me. I think extremely highly of them and for them to sit there and say that I have potential and to feel that way about me is just all that you can ask for.

BH: So, what’s the biggest similarity between you, Jim and Luke?

CM: All three of us have a common goal in our faith and that’s why we an inner drive that not a lot of athletes have and a willingness to compete. When the stack is against us, we don’t listen to it. We just go out there and play.

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