Bradrick Shaw put an exclamation point on his first collegiate touchdown against the Akron Zips Sept. 10 when instead of simply crossing the goal line, he somersaulted near the right pylon in front of the student section.
The 35-yard dash was one of many Shaw, a redshirt freshman running back, hopes to break during his career for the University of Wisconsin football team. Shaw has seen an increase his workload as the season has progressed, much to his pleasure.
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After all, it was that run against Akron that convinced Shaw he could make an impact on the field this season, even behind seniors Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale on the running back depth chart.
Against Illinois last Saturday, Shaw rushed 19 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. He scored the Badgers’ first touchdown against Nebraska on a fake jet sweep. That game, Shaw earned only two carries in a hard-fought contest. The two games before that, Shaw carried the ball a total of two times. But against Northwestern, he upped his workload to 11 rushes.
Shaw said the uncertainty before games regarding the number of carries he’ll receive can be hard to prepare for, but he knows he has to be ready for his number to called and make the most of it. His preparation does not change, he added.
“I know I just gotta keep practicing hard,” Shaw said. “If I don’t get my shot that week I gotta come back that next week and go even harder.”
UW head coach Paul Chryst raved about Shaw’s approach on Monday, adding that his quality as a teammate was evident. Chryst refused to put a finite number on Shaw’s workload going forward, but said he will get touches down the stretch because the team needs him to.
“I think Bradrick’s just been continuing to work and then when he does get opportunities he’s done well with them,” Chryst said. “Even the ones that have been negatives, he hasn’t let that get to him. I think he’s a guy that it’s important to him and wants to do all he can to help. I really mean it when I say we’re going to need everyone and Bradrick certainly is a big part of that.”
In addition to Chryst, Shaw’s teammates have seen significant improvement from Shaw in just a few weeks.
Redshirt sophomore center Michael Deiter said that given Shaw’s inexperience, it’s been impressive to watch him run with the amount of confidence he has. That helps the offensive line in knowing that no matter who occupies the backfield on any given play between Clement, Ogunbowale or Shaw, the unit has the potential to block for a big play.
“He’s made some really spectacular runs and that’s even given him more confidence,” Deiter said. “I think that the growth he’s made has been huge, especially with his confidence, and that’s only going to get better. He’s going to be a really good back for us.”
Shaw says that confidence increases with every snap he is on the field for.
Clement, who serves as a quasi-mentor for Shaw much like James White and Melvin Gordon did for him during their UW tenures, said he sees patience, toughness and the will to fight for extra yards when Shaw is carrying the ball.
“Brad is really coming into the character,” Clement said. “That’s one of the guys you really want on your side.”
Clement went on to describe Shaw’s running style as a strider and a galloper and referred to him as the “quiet storm” of the Badgers backfield trio.
“Once he gets the ball,” Clement said, “there’s no telling what he can’t do.”