Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Raiola brings Hawaiian style to Midwest

[media-credit name=’Ben Smidt’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]NW103_400[/media-credit]It takes a strange event to turn the heads of people on a campus chock full of oddities such as a six-foot, walking, talking bratwurst mascot. Maybe that’s why nobody questioned their own sanity upon spying some large Hawaiian men taking off on cafeteria trays from the top of a snowy Bascom Hill a couple years back.

And maybe that’s why nobody seems too surprised when one of those Santa-sized sledders, junior center Donovan Raiola, jumps chaotically up and down before the fourth quarter of home football games or when he created a dance to go with it last year against North Carolina. After all, that’s normal activity in Badger country.

When it comes to Raiola’s on-field performance, however, only one aspect appears curious — his rapid ascent to the role of team leader.


After a redshirt freshman year of trying out different positions on the offensive line in 2002, the 6-foot-3 294-pound Raiola started every game at center in 2003. This year he serves as one of the team’s unsung heroes, continuing to anchor a traditionally solid Wisconsin offensive line.

“He does a lot of things for us,” offensive line coach Jim Hueber said. “He’s involved in every play. He’s got to know what we’re doing with the ball and he knows how he wants people to fit.”

His solid play earned Raiola a designation on pre-season watch lists for the Rimington and Outland Trophies, awarded to the nation’s top center and interior lineman, respectively.

In addition to performance, Hueber attributes some of that hype to the colorful yet controlled personality Raiola displays on the field. While relatively laid-back and easy going away from the game, Raiola can get a bit crazy on the field.

Along with aforementioned sideline shuffles, fans frequently witness Raiola speaking his mind to the coaching staff after a drive or growing heated with opposing players to fire up his team.

“I try and just have fun,” Raiola said. “If it [trash talk] comes out, it just happens. It’s more than likely to happen every week, I guess, but it’s about having fun.”

However, in describing Raiola, it is hard to deny his uniqueness — something he frequently refers to as “Hawaiian style.”

“It (Hawaiian style) is just real laid back, happy, real relaxed,” Raiola said. “Just having fun.”

Raiola, punter R.J. Morse and defensive lineman Lyle Maiava make up a trio of Honolulu-hailing Badgers of the 2001 recruit class. Last year, defensive back James Kamoku joined the three Hawaiians on the roster.

Along with Morse and Maiava, Raiola shares the Great Lakes with two other Honolulu football names. They include his brother, Lions starting center Dominic Raiola, and Olin Kreutz, Pro-Bowl Chicago Bears center and a close friend of the Raiola family.

Raiola spends summers working out with the two NFL stars in a small Hawaii gym and talks to his brother by phone on a regular basis.

“He helps me out a lot with little things, little parts of my game that I can improve,” Raiola said.

Dominic attended the University of Nebraska en route to winning both the Rimington and Outland trophies in 2000. Although he became a Cornhusker, it was when Ron Dayne and the Badgers visited Hawaii in 1996 that Dominic Raiola got a first hand look at Wisconsin football and liked what he saw. Dayne rushed for a school-record 339 yards that day behind the UW offensive line.

When it came time then for the younger Raiola to choose a program, his brother suggested Wisconsin, not particularly known for Hawaiian recruits.

Raiola and his fellow statesmen bring a different flavor to Big Ten football and provided an example for other players from Hawaii.

“It’s good for the kids back at home to see that there are guys off the island who are making it and getting national recognition for what they do,” Morse said.

Raiola insists he doesn’t think about that kind of role. Instead, he concerns himself with working hard every single week. He constantly needs to watch film, pick up blitzes, make calls affecting the blocking scheme, know the snap count and identify likely formations the opponents will throw at the offense, along with other responsibilities.

It’s always going to come back to the offensive line, Raiola noted. When unprepared, a center’s failures become evident very quickly.

“I’m not going to lie, sometimes I miss one or two things and a quarterback does get a hurry or get hit and I take those things hard,” Raiola said.

With one full season left at Madison, Raiola can keep refining those skills in hopes of advancing to the NFL, like his brother Dominic and his close friend Kreutz. Presently, Raiola said he plans to take things one week at a time, not get carried away with the future.

“It’s so far away for people to make judgment on him that I don’t know,” Hueber said. “If he progresses in the same way you’d think he’d put himself in a position to make a run at the next level.”

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