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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Gilbert celebrates 18th birthday with UW in style

David Gilbert (11) combines with Jaevery McFadden for a tackle Saturday. He also blocked a punt on his birthday.[/media-credit]

Rising above three Purdue blockers, 6-foot-4-inch, 234-pound David Gilbert used all of his 37-inch vertical to stretch out and stuff Purdue’s punt, flipping on his head, sending the ball dribbling around the backfield where it was scooped up for a touchdown, giving the Badgers an emphatic 24-0 lead going into the half. And he did this on his 18th birthday, no less.

On defense, freshman Chris Borland recorded 4 tackles, one for a loss, forced a fumble, and recovered two more fumbles, earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors. And he did this on the first start of his collegiate career, no less.

These two freshmen made a huge impact not only on the field but also emotionally, as the team rallied around their plays, leading to a 37-0 rout of a hot Purdue team.


The University of Wisconsin defense allowed only 141 total yards and forced three turnovers against Purdue as John Clay rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns. It was an excellent day for the Badgers, but it was an even better day for the two freshmen, Gilbert and Borland, who created plays and stifled the opposition. Senior defensive lineman O’Brien Schofield praised the work ethic of the young players as well as the support around them.

“When you got guys playing with that much passion and playing that hard, how can you beat that?” Schofield said. “It’s something special when you see a young guy playing with that much emotion and passion — it’s a reflection of the coaches and what older guys, our seniors, are doing.”

Defensive line coach Charles Partridge was also happy to see these players make an impact on game and for the team.

“I think it’s just exciting anytime you have a big play like that punt block or some of the plays that Chris has made throughout the course of the season because it helps positively affect the team,” Partridge said.

Gilbert had been looking forward to his chance to block a punt, and his anticipation was justified. According to Borland, the punt block was somewhat predictable, seeing that Gilbert discussed the possibility in the week leading up to the game.

“He’s been talking about it all [the previous] week so I was waiting for it,” Borland said. “I heard the [crowd] and I smiled. I went over and congratulated him. It was a great play. He told me he was going for the ‘Chris Borland,’ but that was the ‘David Gilbert.'”

Schofield also felt Gilbert had a chance for something big.

“I heard the crowd reaction and saw Aaron [Henry] running into the end zone and when I saw the replay, my mouth dropped,” Schofield said. “I knew he was an athletic freak, and I knew he was going to make something special happen on his birthday. He just showed his athleticism, being able to jump over those guys like that.”

A Coral Springs, Fla., native, Gilbert said he was just happy knowing his friends and family were all watching from Camp Randall and he could make a play for them.

“It was real special because my parents came and my little brother,” Gilbert said. “Everyone back home was watching, everyone knew it was my birthday. With everyone at home knowing that game was going on and to watch it and for me to do something like that, it was really special.”

Gilbert came to UW in January, but didn’t turn 18 until this weekend. He says his mother had him skip Pre-K, making him the youngest person in his grade each year, though his coaches don’t seem to notice.

“He’s certainly mature beyond his years,” Partridge said. “Every once in a while you’ll hear him say something that sounds like he’s 17 turning 18, but he’s on top of his work and is a very conscientious young man.”

As for Borland, he received the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week to go along with a Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week he received after the game against Wofford. He is the first Badger to receive both awards in the same season since Jim Leonhard accomplished the feat back in 2003. His teammates have taken notice.

“Ah, that guy’s amazing,” Schofield said. “Just seeing him from the summer ’til now, he’s matured as a football player and just as a person, and he’s an impact player for our team, special teams and defense. If that guy’s in the game, you know something special is going to happen.”

Borland humbly accepted the praise.

“It’s a big honor, but it’s not like I achieved it on my own,” he said. “So many players around me were playing well and probably playing better, so they made it easy for me and helped me out on my mistakes so I almost feel guilty getting [the award].”

For the two players, it’s all about looking for that one play where they can affect the game while also supporting the team.

“It was just a good play,” Gilbert said. “So you get congratulated for it and you move on and try to do your best every play.”

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