Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Stocco unfazed by critics, just keeps on winning

He's won 19 games in two years, more than everybody in the country except for a couple of 2005 Heisman runner-ups and a Boise State QB who plays in a much weaker conference than the likes of the Big Ten.

He quarterbacked the Badgers to an unexpected 10-3 record in 2005, capped by an upset victory over the No. 7 Auburn Tigers in the Capital One Bowl, in which he threw for more than 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

He set UW season records for passing yards (2,920), touchdowns (21) and attempts (328) in a season where the starting tailback, Brian Calhoun, had nearly 40 more carries than any other runner in Division I football.


John Stocco has constructed what most would consider a good-looking career at Wisconsin. Stocco, nonetheless, still receives a more-than-steady dose of criticism from a fair amount of outside sources.

John Stocco does not care. And that, says his quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst, might be his greatest weapon on a football field.

"I think that John is his own hardest critic — and he's got a good ability, which he needs," Chryst said. "He's not going to get too high or too low. He doesn't need to read anything to affect how he feels, so I think he's tremendous there."

"He's a guy that, from sophomore year on, when he started every game, a lot of people were criticizing him, and he never really paid attention to that," adds close friend and UW linebacker Mark Zalewski. "If I brought it up just as a joke, he'd just laugh it off, and I think that's what you need out of a starting quarterback, a guy who just comes to work every day and just pays attention to what he needs to do and doesn't worry about what other people say about him."

Stocco acknowledged the freedom of fans and media alike to formulate their own opinions as they please, adding he has been able to block out all outside distractions.

"Everyone has a right to say whatever they want, so it's something that I don't let bug me. It's not something that I worry about," Stocco says. "Sometimes I kind of think about something and it does motivate me a little bit, but, for the most part, I don't think about it too much."

It puzzles the mind — especially for those who don't know Wisconsin football as well as others — how the starting quarterback can be subject to so much belittlement after accomplishing so much.

Could it be that Stocco pales in comparison to the talent of Matt Leinart and Vince Young, the two Heisman contenders who won 25 and 24 games, respectively, since 2004? Perhaps.

"No, he's not [Vince Young]," Chryst said with a laugh. "I don't think that anyone worries about any of that. So when that comes up, it's not a big deal. I think he's confident and comfortable with who he is, and it's a good thing."

Most would agree that Stocco's style falls into the category of a "managing" quarterback. His job is to make smart decisions, take advantage when and only when opportunity presents itself, and mainly not do anything stupid. In other words, Stocco succeeds more by "not losing" the game rather than making the big plays to win it, as opposed to superstar Qbs, who reign in the glitz with flashy plays.

It's easy for Chryst to say Stocco feels comfortable with this role. After all, with Calhoun in the backfield, the running game was able to carry the offensive load, as it has for much of UW's history. The 2005 Badgers were good for 34.3 points per game, a Wisconsin record.

But the new year brings an interesting scenario for Stocco and the UW offense. Calhoun is gone to the NFL Draft, and there hasn't been one back that has truly shined over the others in spring practice. However, with such a new set of receivers — top targets Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr and Owen Daniels have also left — Stocco has struggled through a bit of a frustrating spring thus far.

"John's facing — I don't want to say it's a unique situation — but a situation where he's got to improve his game and step up his game without assuming the whole responsibility," Chryst said.

One of Stocco's favorite words is consistency, symbolic of his ultimate goal as a Badger quarterback, and the soon-to-be fifth-year senior used it a lot when talking about the objectives of his new wide receivers.

"We need to get them to the point where they fully understand what they're doing so they can just play fast and just cut it loose, and that's going to be a continual process," Stocco said. "I think it's something that we won't be done with this spring. We've got to keep working throughout the summer and fall camp, and we'll be ready to go."

"I think he's doing a hell of a job, and I think that's just because he's been doing so well [since] last season," said senior defensive lineman Joe Monty, who has lived with Stocco for nearly three years. "It's going to be fun to watch and see what he can do with these younger receivers, especially."

While Chryst admitted there has been some aggravation this spring in trying to create consistency between quarterback and receivers, he said Stocco's confidence in the wake of a memorable 2005 campaign has made a difference in the way the quarterback carries himself on the field.

"Last year, he [was] coming off of his own personal development in where he needed to go," Chryst said. "Now I think there's confidence, and I think that he certainly trusts his game more, so I think there is a combination of things making him more confident."

Stocco will carry that confidence strong into Camp Randall Stadium this fall. Love him or hate him, the Wisconsin faithful will root on No. 7 and hope wholeheartedly that he and the Badgers can repeat their success from a year ago.

To Stocco, it wouldn't matter if the entire stadium supported him through the good times and cursed him through the bad. There are definitely no hard feelings, as he called Madison "amazing" as a sports city.

"The fans are just unbelievable. It's just so much fun," Stocco says. "I really haven't been anywhere better. I can't imagine what would be better. I love it here."

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