ESPN Wisconsin blogs - Tom Lea
By TONY CARTAGENA
Jon Leuer has come a long way since his days as a Wisconsin Badger.
Leuer started his professional career as the 40th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2011 NBA draft. After his selection -- in light of the NBA lockout -- he opted to play professionally in Germany for the Skyliners Frankfurt. Leuer returned to the United States in December of 2011 and appeared in 46 games for Milwaukee.
Prior to the 2012 season Leuer was traded to the Houston Rockets but was released less than a month later.
Slowly becoming an NBA journeyman, Leuer was claimed off of waivers by the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a quick stint in the NBA Developmental league with the Cleveland affiliate Canton Charge, Leuer made his way back to the big leagues and played in nine games for the Cavaliers.
His time in Cleveland was short lived.
Once again -- this former first team All-Big Ten player -- was packing his bags because he had been traded. This time to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for three players and a first-round draft pick.
The two NBA teams that Leuer actually played for – Milwaukee and Cleveland – combined to win 62 regular season games in the 2012-2013 season. The Memphis Grizzlies won 56. Include post-season wins and the Grizzlies win total surpasses the Cavaliers and Bucks by a margin of 64-62.
As a member of the Grizzlies Leuer has competed in 19 contests including three games this post-season.
More importantly his Grizzlies are currently playing in the Western Conference finals, hoping to make the NBA finals for the first time in their franchise history. Not to mention a picture that went viral of Leuer shaking hands with hip-hop superstar Lil’ Wayne, who was sitting courtside.
In Memphis Leuer is playing alongside NBA All-defensive first team member Tony Allen, NBA defensive player of the year Marc Gasol, two-time NBA all-star Zach Randolph, and former Ohio State foe Mike Conley Jr.
Not a bad place to landing place for someone who has been on four teams in less than two years.
By: TONY CARTAGENA
MADISON – Kids, the year was 1999 and Badgers running back Ron Dayne was 23 yards shy of breaking the NCAA’s all-time rushing yards record. Late in the second-quarter against Iowa he took the handoff and rumbled right for 31-yards cementing his permanent footsteps in college football history.
More than 13-years after that historic night, Dayne will be recognized by the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class.
“I’m very excited and thrilled to be mentioned with the greatest names in college football history,” he said. “This is a tremendous honor for me and the university.”
Dayne finished his career rushing for 6,397 yards, a milestone which still holds as the NCAA record. Had the NCAA recognized Bowl Game stats while Dayne was playing he would have been credited with 7,125 career rushing yards.
Dayne joins his former head coach and current Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez in the Hall of Fame.
“No one is more deserving that Ron,” Alvarez said. “To have rushed more than anyone in the history of college football. He is very deserving. It’s an honor to have coached him.
“I’m thrilled for him.”
The induction ceremonies will begin December 10th at an awards dinner in New York City. The 2013 class will then be honorary guests for the AllState Sugar Bowl in January and officially inducted the following summer.
“Its hard for it to sink in exactly what Ron has just achieved,” Alvarez added. “I don’t think it really sinks in until you show up in New York in December and see the magnitude of the celebration of the induction, and you see the other people you are inducted with, and their credentials.
“Then, I think it sinks in how big a deal this is.”
The other 2013 player inductees:
Ted Brown: NC State
Tedy Bruschi: Arizona
Tommie Frazier: Nebraska
Jerry Gray: Texas
Steve Meilinger: Kentucky
Orlando Pace: Ohio State
Rod Shoate: Oklahoma
Perry Snow: Michigan State
Vinny Testaverde: Miami
Don Trull: Baylor
Danny Wuerffel: Florida
By TONY CARTAGENA
Madison – Surveying a college campus there are dozens of different types of students. Undergraduate students. Graduate students. International students. Students who balance course credits with a part-time job. Students who manage class work while participating in collegiate athletics.
Then there is Alexis Mitchell.
Mitchell dedicated her four years of eligibility – and seemingly all of her spare time -- playing Volleyball for the University of Wisconsin. Following her senior season she decided to join the women’s track and field team and finish her college career the only way a two-time All Big Ten honorable mention could see fit: competing.
Her experiences as a two-sport student athlete – though overwhelming at times – have prepared her for life after college and fueled inspiration to one day become an associate athletic director and help mentor young student athletes facing the same hardships that she once endured.
Set to graduate in May with a degree in Consumer Affairs from the School of Human Ecology, Mitchell attests her success outside of athletics to what she learned on the Volleyball court, and most recently on the track.
“It is definitely exciting to be graduating in about two weeks,” she said. “Throughout my time here it has been a huge balance between academics and athletics. My freshman year it took me a while to get the grasp of being an athlete full-time as well as being a full-time student. It is still a challenge every year and every day because classes aren’t getting any easier and the travelling gets really tough, especially with doing two sports in one year it takes up a lot of my time.
“I have definitely accomplished a lot on both ends of the spectrum and I am just happy that I have made it and I am about to graduate.”
When she receives her diploma it will symbolize a dream years in the making. A dream she set to accomplish when she committed to the Badgers early in her recruiting process.
“I made the decision to come to Wisconsin pretty quickly. This was only my second (official) visit and I committed when I got here. I just really fell in love with the campus and the coaches seemed like the right fit for me.”
Originally an outside hitter in high school, moving from the small town of Davenport Iowa to Madison wasn’t the only big transition Mitchell would make during her first few weeks on campus.
“Once I got here I kind of went through a roller coaster,” she said. I was originally supposed to come in and be an outside hitter and then I was switched to middle. Then I was told I was going to redshirt and then I ended up not redshirting.
“My first month here was pretty intense and a huge adjustment for me.”
She quickly made the adjustment and her freshman year transitioned from the potential redshirt to being named on the All-Big Ten freshman team. Her triumphs on the court helped motivate her in the classroom as well. As any freshman would agree, acclimating to the college lifestyle can be difficult. Class is stressful and life away from home can get overwhelming.
“I had to learn quickly to separate volleyball from school because there is a lot that you can hang onto after you leave the court and after you leave practice that prevents you from doing what you need to do when it comes to school. I did a good job of keeping what was on the court on the court and my emotions there. When I got home and was studying I tried not to think about it as much and I just focused on my school when I needed to and then focused on the transition on playing when I had to.”
At the conclusion of Volleyball season, Mitchell, who wasn’t accustomed to having “free time” in college, returned to the sport she once dominated at the prep ranks. In high school as a long-jumper Mitchell won the state championship as a junior and finished as a runner-up her senior year.
For the Badgers, her original plan was to train as a heptathlete competing in the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump, javelin throw, 200 and 800 meter runs.
The athletic transition has not been easy, and a recurring Volleyball injury deterred Mitchell’s heptathlon aspirations, but she had come to far and learned too much in her college career to go down without a fight.
“The transition has been tough because it is a lot more of an individualized sport,” she said. “I am with my coach a few times a week one-on-one and a lot of what I have to do is on my own so I learned how to become an independent athlete. I find that challenging because you don’t have someone there watching you telling you if you’re doing everything correctly so I definitely am learning a lot.”
Since then Mitchell has competed in the long and triple jump events, posting personal collegiate bests of 18’ 9.75’’ and 37’ 7.25’’ respectively.
Not too shabby for someone literally learning on the run.
A noticeably emotional Mitchell admits that the college experience has taught her more than words could convey. Every single one of her teammates, coaches and friends have made college a four-year journey one that she truly will never forget.
“The experience is not something that everyone is fortunate enough to have. Especially experiencing two different sports I have been really fortunate to be in that position.”
Although the Volleyball team never qualified for the NCAA tournament during her tenure, Mitchell’s most memorable college moment came when her Badgers knocked off Penn State at the Fieldhouse her junior year.
“No matter how the season went I will never forget that we were able to beat (Penn State) and we took it to five games so we beat them in the most exciting way that you can.”
Immediately after graduation Mitchell plans to do something she is unfamiliar with yet well deserved.
Rest and relaxation.
After catching up on some overdue sleep she plans to get right back into competition. This time in grad school actively pursuing her next life chapter -- which if history has taught us anything – will be nothing short of successful.
Mitchell is on the Dean’s List in the School of Human Ecology.
By: TONY CARTAGENA
MADISON – It is that time of year again. Months of training, pro days, combines and interviews have all come down to this. Sitting anxiously for one, two, maybe three days to hear your name called over the pulpit of the NFL draft in New York City. Since the inaugural draft in 1936, names like Payton, Butkus, Sanders, Bradshaw, and Manning have been summoned by the commissioner, hand-picked by a particular head coach or general manager, and called to duty. Hearing your name called in the NFL draft represents so much more than a paycheck for former collegiate athletes. It represents years of hard work, late nights, dedication, blood, sweat, and lost sleep, finally being worth every second.
As a program Wisconsin has seen 258 of their former football players names’ be called on draft day – 27 of them as first round selections. Currently 29 ex- Badgers are on NFL rosters, most notable 2011 first round pick J.J Watt and 2012 3rd round selection Russell Wilson.
This year is no different as Wisconsin athletes attempt to fulfill their lifelong dreams and etch their names to an immortalized – and pretty exclusive -- guest list.
It may be easier just to write, “has done everything humanly possible,” when it comes to talking about Ball’s collegiate career, but that wouldn’t do justice to the NCAA’s career touchdown leader (83), or as athletic director Barry Alvarez put it at the Wisconsin Sports Awards, “Montee has ran for more touchdowns than anyone in the world.”
Notable College Achievements:
Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011
Doak Walker Award Finalist 2011
Graham-George Big Ten Offensive player of the year 2011
Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the year 2011/2012
Consensus First-team All-American 2011
Doak Walker Award winner 2012
First-team All-American 2012
Grange-Griffin Big Ten Championship game MVP award
Finished his college career with 5140 rushing yards on 924 carries for 77 touchdowns. Ball also caught the ball 59 times for 598 yards and six touchdowns.
40-yard dash time: 4.59 seconds
Vertical jump: 32.00 inches
Broad Jump: 9’ 10’’
Shuttle run: 4.40 seconds
Projected by most media-outlets as a late first or second round pick. Ranked as the third best running back, and 62nd best prospect overall by CBS sports.
Many Wisconsinites have voiced their interest to see Ball in green and gold next season. In my opinion that won’t happen because general manager Ted Thompson won’t reach on Ball as a first-round selection, but he will be off the board by the time Green Bay picks again at 55th overall.
Frederick started four games as a true freshman at Wisconsin and since then has played in 32 career games for the Badgers, starting 31 of them. He follows a long line of successful offensive linemen to come out of Wisconsin including first round picks Gabe Carimi (2011) and Joe Thomas (2007).
Notable College Achievements:
Consensus second-team All Big-Ten 2011
First team All Big-Ten media team 2012
Honorable mention All Big-Ten coaches team 2012
Academic All Big-Ten 2012
Frederick was the first true freshmen ever at Wisconsin to start at center on opening day. He also spent some time playing left guard.
40-yard dash: 5.55 seconds
Vertical jump: 28.50 inches
Broad jump: 8’1’’
Shuttle run: 4.76 seconds
Listed at 6’ 4’’ and 312 lbs., and rated by most as the number one center in this years draft, Frederick is expected to be at worst a second round pick. He is the 53rd rated prospect overall.
Frederick is a player that will impress most general managers and coaches because his mind is as refined as his football abilities. Some mock drafts have him going as early as 24 to the Colts, or falling to mid-second round and joining college teammate Carimi in Chicago.
Packer fans should also keep Frederick’s name in mind when looking to add depth to their notoriously shaky offensive line. Don’t be surprised if Ted Thompson finds a franchise center with the 26th pick on Thursday.
At this time last year Wagner was a projected top-ten pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Two offensive line coaches and an injury later, Wagner may be one of the biggest sleepers in this years draft and yet another Wisconsin offensive lineman to succeed at the professional level. Wagner appeared in 51 career games for the Badgers making 37 starts.
Notable College Achievements:
Consensus Honorable mention All Big-Ten 2010/2011
Consensus first-team All Big-Ten 2012
Academic All Big-Ten 2012
Wagner came to Wisconsin as a tight end recruit but readily made the transition to left tackle.
40-yard dash: 5.15 seconds
Vertical jump: 31.50 inches
Broad jump: 8’5’’
Shuttle run: 4.91 seconds
At 6’6’’ and 308 lbs., Wagner is rated as the 15th best player at his position and 162nd overall. Mock drafts have him projected as a 5th round pick or later.
Wagner had an up and down year in 2012, but early in his college career showed flashes that made him worthy of his projected first-round status. Whatever team drafts Wagner with a late round selection will not be disappointed. He is freakishly athletic for an offensive lineman and can add depth to one of the most important, yet underappreciated, positions in football.
In his time as a Badger Mike Taylor recorded 378 total tackles, 38.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and five interceptions.
Notable College Achievements:
Big-Ten All-Freshman team 2009
Consensus honorable mention All Big-Ten 2010
First team All Big-Ten media team 2011
Second team All Big-Ten coaches’ team 2011
First-team All Big-Ten media team 2012
Honorable mention All-Big Ten coaches team 2012
Due to injury, Taylor was unable to workout in front of NFL scouts at the combine and UW’s pro day. A later workout had to be cancelled because of an injury related setback. He is listed at 6’1’’ and 234 lbs., with a draft grade of 59.9 by NFL.com.
Although no one really expects Taylor to get drafted, it will be no surprise if he is on an NFL roster come fall.
Did not receive a combine invite, but clocked a 4.49 40-yard dash time at UW’s pro day. Mock drafts’ project the 5’10’’ 182 lbs., corner to be a 7th round pick at best but will most likely find himself mulling over invites to join a team for training camp this fall.
Cromartie, like Smith, did not receive an invite to the NFL combine but he was impressive at UW’s pro day. He recorded a 4.41 40-yard dash time and has a 34’’ vertical jump. Another seventh-round to undrafted prospect by most sources.
This year’s draft class for Wisconsin is a little weaker than in years past, and it certainly won’t produce six picks like the Badgers did in 2012. Nevertheless each player listed above has the skill set and potential too not only make a 53-man roster, but also be productive at the next level.
Anyone else remember Jim Leonhard?
By: TONY CARTAGENA
MADISON – Wisconsin football wrapped up their allotted 15 spring practices with the annual spring game at Camp Randall Stadium. A sparse group of Badger faithful --12,050 officially-- braved the cold and wind to enjoy two 15-minute quarters followed by a 20-minute running clock conclusion.
Sophomore Joel Stave, who is barreling down on Curt Phillips for the starting quarterback position, stole the first-half show converting 11-of-13 passing attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Playing a minimal role in the final period Stave finished the game 15-of-20 for 161 yards and the touchdown. Head coach Andersen was impressed with what he called Stave’s best performance of the spring:
“Joel was poised today,” he said. “I thought he wasn’t perfect but he doesn’t have to be perfect. We did throw the ball, and catch the ball better than we have all spring today so that was very encouraging.”
Also competing for a starting position are wide receivers Kenzel Doe and Jordan Fredrick. Unanimous number one receiver Jared Abbrederis sat out the spring game as a precautionary measure, leaving the door open for Doe and Fredrick to make big plays.
They did not disappoint.
Kenzel Doe piled up eight receptions for 93-yards including a 31-yard catch on the opening drive from Curt Phillips.
“Kenzel’s want to compete everyday is so impressive and it was very apparent today,” coach Andersen said of his versatile receiver. “He is crafty, he showed good hands (today) and I think he has continually shown solid hands throughout practice.
“His love for football brings a smile to my face everyday.”
Doe, who also took an optioned carry out of the backfield for nine yards, seems to have found a niche catching the ball in the open field and shimmying left and right in order to make the first defender miss.
“He is hard to tackle,” Andersen added.
Fredrick on the other hand hauled in three catches for 35-yards with a long of 21.
Sidetracked by all the positional battles the spring game is still, in fact, a game, a competition that the Cardinal (defense) won by a 61-47 margin over the White (offense).
Defensively, superstars like Chris Borland and Dezmen Southward watched from the sidelines, but Marcus Trotter and Joe Schobert stepped in and led the way with seven-tackles apiece.
More impressively freshmen Vince Biegel, vying for a starting linebacker position, came up with four individual tackles including two sacks for a combined 13-yards lost. His improvement this spring has caught coach Andersen’s eye:
“Vince the last two practices, when I sat down and evaluated Wednesday’s, he jumped out at me, and he did that again today,” Andersen said. He made a couple big plays and looks like he is playing with more confidence and letting it rip a little bit.
“He shined for me.”
Through the air
Joel Stave: 15-of-20 for 161 yards and a touchdown
Curt Phillips: 8-of-13 for 82 yards
Danny O’Brien: 0-of-3 for 0 yards
Bart Houston: 1-of-3 for six yards
On the ground
Melvin Gordon: 17 rushes for 74 yards and a touchdown
Derek Watt: Five rushes for 20 yards
Kyle Zuleger: Five rushes for 10 yards
Kyle French: 2-for2 on field goals hitting from 27 and 24 yards out.
By: TONY CARTAGENA
MADISON -- It’s cardinal versus white in the annual Wisconsin spring football game, the inaugural game for new head coach Gary Andersen. Check out how coach Andersen plans to score his teams performance in what is considered their last practice of spring.
Offensive or Defensive touchdown: 6 points
PAT: 1 point
Two-point conversion: 2 points
Field goal: 3 points
Safety: 2 points
Run of 15+ yards: 2 points
Pass of 20+ yards: 2 points
First down: 1 point
Failed PAT: 1 defensive point
Failed two-point conversion: 2 defensive points
Forced turnover: 5 points
Forced 3-and-out: 3 points
Blocked FG: 3 points
Stop a drive: 2 points
Quarterback sack: 2 points
Tackle for loss: 2 points
Follow ESPNMadison on Twitter for spring game updates and post game reactions.
Scoring information provided by the UW athletics department was used in this report.