Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Seniors bid farewell to Camp Randall

[media-credit name=’BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]NEW-football_bf[/media-credit]With emotions sure to be running high on Senior Day, No. 10 Wisconsin (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) will look to tie its school win-record with Buffalo (2-8, 1-6 MAC) in town Saturday.

For the Badger seniors, it will be the last time they run through the tunnel of Camp Randall to the cheers of 80,000-plus fans. Given the team's strong showing this season, however, the finale will be bittersweet.

"It's an emotional day for everybody involved," senior offensive lineman Joe Thomas said. "It's the only time we get announced by ourselves, and the parents get to come on the field."


"It's our last time to play in the Camp in front of the fans," safety Joe Stellmacher added. "It's going to be emotional, but we're all going to enjoy it."

With players like Thomas, Stellmacher, quarterback John Stocco, linebacker Mark Zalewski, safety Roderick Rogers, defensive lineman Joe Monty and many others playing their last home game in front of the Camp Randall faithful, the rest of the team will make sure they do their part to send the seniors off with a victory.

"We just really want to seal this game away," sophomore offensive lineman Eric Vanden Heuvel said. "We want to make sure that Buffalo doesn't even stick around, and give the seniors a good feeling as they leave Camp Randall for the last time."

Looking at the Badgers' schedule, it may seem odd for Wisconsin to play a non-conference team after finishing the Big Ten season, and with much of the nation eagerly awaiting the much-anticipated Ohio State-Michigan matchup, Saturday's game against Buffalo could easily be overlooked by fans.

The players, on the other hand, are treating it like any other game.

"It's just the 1-0 mentality," Vanden Heuvel said. "It's just another game. We have to play just like we would any other game, go out there as hard as you ever have."

Running back P.J. Hill echoed that mentality.

"We're not going to take this team lightly," Hill said. "We're just going to go out there and play the game that we normally play."

Vanden Heuvel anticipates a strong rushing attack against a weak Buffalo defensive front.

"They seem to be fairly easy to move," Vanden Heuvel said. "With our big line, and with P.J. running behind us, I think we'll be able to wear them down."

Defensive back Jack Ikegwuonu sees potential in a Buffalo team that has faced some decent competition this season.

"I see a bunch of guys that know the game of football, play hard, want to win," Ikegwuonu said. "They've played against top opponents. We're not expecting anything less than a dogfight. We need to be ready to play."

For the team's seniors, the past four years have provided a lifetime of memories that they will take with them after their college careers.

Two games stick out in particular in Thomas' mind.

"The first game that always sticks out in my mind is the Ohio State game my freshman year, (Ohio) coming off their national championship game," Thomas said. "Beating Michigan at home was something I've wanted to do since I was in high school. Those are the two big ones."

Thomas will also miss the gameday atmosphere provided by Camp Randall and its fans.

"I'm gonna obviously miss playing in front of the fans," Thomas said. "The Badger fans are some of the best in the country."

When all is said and done, the players who have spent their past four to five years in a Wisconsin uniform will surely look at this day as one to remember, and perhaps even shed a few tears along the way.

"It's going to be unbelievable," UW defensive end Joe Monty said. "I'm going to probably be pretty emotional, crying a little bit maybe, but hopefully not too bad so I can focus on the game."

For some of the players, it hasn't even registered that this will be the last time they suit up at home as a Badger.

"It hasn't entered my mind," Thomas said. "It's not really real until we walk down that tunnel at the beginning of the game."

Saturday's game will be extra special for Thomas. Projected as a potential first-round pick in last year's NFL draft, Thomas saw his dreams of playing professional football delayed another year after suffering a knee injury in the Capital One Bowl in January.

With his senior season winding down, Thomas is projected to be one of the top draft picks once against this year, so it's safe to say he's happy with his decision to stay.

"I think if I would have come out last year, I would have looked back at some point in my career and said, 'I wish I would have stayed,'" Thomas said. "I already know that it was the right decision for me. I wouldn't have been able to have this great year. It's been a year I'll never forget. I think this will be the year that really sticks out in my mind when I think of my college career."

Although his career as a Badger may be ending, it will mark the beginning of the next chapter of his life.

"It's kind of an ending of one part of my career and hopefully just the beginning of another," Thomas said. "It's unlike anything I've ever experienced."

While not all of the team's seniors will go on to the NFL, they will all be left with great memories of the fans, the games and their teammates.

"You build relationships here that will probably last a lifetime," Stellmacher said. "That's probably what I'll miss most."

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