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August 28, 2011

Taking it all in stride

MADISON - Russell Wilson probably knew his highly publicized transfer to Wisconsin after a highly successful and prominent career at NC State would warrant plenty of media interest and hype.

What he probably didn't realize, though, was the extent the media demanded his attention and his cooperation. Like the picture painted by the countless words written or spoken about him suggest, Wilson has handled everything in stride.

But at some point the media circus surrounding him needs to subside just a bit so he can hone in on the season, now just four days away from beginning.

"About 10 days ago I basically nixed everything going on with him," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "He's getting the New York Times and Sports Illustrated…. So really about 10 or 12 days out from our game I said enough is enough."

Wilson has been just as impressive on the field as he has off it throughout his brief time in Madison. He hasn't sat out any practices, he's earned enough respect from his teammates to be named captain, he possesses a skillset unseen in Madison and seems to be a natural leader willing to do whatever it takes to bring his team to victory.

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past five weeks, you've heard that all before.

"It really comes natural to him," Bielema said. "I don't think it makes him think it makes him think any bigger than who he is or what he is. I think the kids were kind of overwhelmed by it."

Dating back to the annual Big Ten meetings in Chicago in late July, most questions any reporter has been asking regarding Wisconsin football has, at least in some small part, had something to do with Wilson. Nick Toon, considering he was Wilson's host during his recruiting visit, has been a stalwart in nearly every piece written about Wilson.

In fact, it's probably gotten to the point that Toon has grown as sick of answering the same questions over and over just as Wilson has. It comes with the territory, but it's redundant all the same.

Regardless, it's a problem the Badgers love to have because it means people care. It means Wilson's impact on this team, though he's had an almost obsessive amount of media requests, has not done anything to hurt the chemistry on the squad.

"I've been around a bunch of teams where the chemistry hasn't always been the greatest," Bielema said. "Obviously I think just the way that he's handled his business I think it's helped that he had to transition with the Colorado Rockies. It wasn't the first time he walking into a strange locker room with a bunch of new faces. He has been a professional athlete and he knows the pro side of sports.

"I think that has helped him with his transition here."

Even though fall camp is firmly planted in the rearview mirror now and the season opener is well within sight, it's obvious that Russell Wilson will continue to get requests from various members of the media.

But now when the media surrounds Wilson all the talk will be regarding his play on the field instead of his journey to get there. It's going to be hard to put a limit on that.


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