Six-pack of seniors leave memories in Camp Randall finale

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoFor John Stocco, it was knowing before the game he wouldn’t get to play. For Joe Stellmacher and Joe Thomas, it was during the final run onto Camp Randall before the game began. For Mark Zalewski, it continued after the victory and into post-game interviews, where he fought back tears even an hour after all was said and done.Emotions ran high before, during and after Senior Day at Camp Randall Stadium, and no matter when it hit each Badger in the final home game of his career, every senior was clearly saddened by saying goodbye to Saturdays in Madison.Stocco, Stellmacher, Thomas, Zalewski, Joe Monty and Roderick Rogers each came up big in saving the No. 10 Badgers from a colossal upset against the Bulls Saturday, and they were instrumental in helping UW to a memorable 11-1 regular season that seemingly came out of nowhere.Stocco was unable to play in his final home game, as he suffered a right shoulder injury two weeks ago against Penn State, but he couldn’t have been happier with the way his senior year turned out.”It was tough, last time in Camp Randall, I wanted to be out there with my teammates,” Stocco said. “But I just couldn’t be happier for my team. This has been the most fun I’ve ever had playing, and [I’m] just happy with the way it ended.”Stellmacher ended the regular season in second place on the Badgers with 78 tackles, though his main contribution to Saturday’s victory was of a different nature. In his 41st game at Wisconsin, Stellmacher recovered the first fumble of his career.The senior safety said the pregame festivities of Senior Day were what got his emotions rolling. After the underclassmen ran onto the field, each of Wisconsin’s 19 senior players were announced and ran out individually to greet their parents and loved ones.”I was pretty emotional before the game,” Stellmacher said. “I think we were all choking ’em back; they were falling down. [With] senior parents out there on the field after five years of work, it is emotional.”Those sentiments were echoed by Thomas, who anchored a line that sprang P.J. Hill for 1,533 rushing yards through 12 games, good for seventh on the all-time list for freshman running backs.”I think it was real emotional, especially right at the beginning of the game, when you see your parents [as you’re] running out of that tunnel for the final time,” said Thomas, one of the most highly touted offensive linemen ever to come out of Wisconsin.The most emotional of all the seniors, at least after the game ended, was Zalewski, without question. The middle linebacker fought back tears as he answered questions about the experience of saying goodbye.”This is so crazy,” Zalewski said. “It goes by so fast. It’s something that I love so much. It’s hard to deal with, it’s the last one.”Everything about this day has been hard. It’s been fun, but it’s hard.”Zalewski now leads the Badgers with 81 tackles, with his five bring-downs against Buffalo. One came on a second-down play inside the UW 5, and helped the Badgers turn away the Bulls from a first-and-goal opportunity from the 3 without any points (courtesy of a missed Adam Tanalski field goal).”It was pretty tough to run out there, just realizing … I just love it so much,” Zalewski said. “It’s hard on something like that, you’re not going to get to do that again.”Monty, perhaps the least heralded of the starting six, sacked Bulls quarterback Tony Paoli late in the second quarter, forcing a fumble that was recovered by UW linebacker Mike Newkirk. Tyler Donovan promptly took the Badgers 46 yards in just three plays and 23 seconds, with a touchdown pass to Luke Swan putting Wisconsin out of reach with a 21-3 lead going into the locker room.When asked if he was thinking “fumble” upon rushing Paoli’s backside, Monty proved to be in more of a joking mood than his fellow seniors.”I’m thinking, don’t miss the tackle,” Monty said in one of the most matter-of-factly delivered comments of the year. “Wrap him up. [If I don’t,] I’m going directly to the sideline.”After drawing laughter from those around Monty, the defensive end from Ft. Collins, Colo., reflected on his final game in a Badger uniform.”It was unbelievable, so much emotion coming out of that tunnel for the last time. A little slow in the first half, but just picked it up in the second half. Just unbelievable.”I’m not even talking about that [Capital One Bowl], because I’m still hoping for a Rose Bowl,” Monty added.Rogers helped out with a tackle against Buffalo, two weeks removed from being UW’s defensive player of the week for his effort at free safety against Penn State.Though they didn’t start throughout the season, contributors Zach Hampton and Dywon Rowan got into the act as well in their final Camp Randall contest. Hampton managed the punt return game without any fumbles, which was a constant struggle for him throughout the 2006 season.Hampton also downed a Ken DeBauche punt on the 4-yard line of the Bulls, something he and DeBauche were able to do many times over Hampton’s tenure at Wisconsin.”I kind of took the time out just to look around, and the whole game, I just had a sense of pride looking around, being proud of what myself and my teammates have accomplished this year and the past four years with the seniors,” Hampton said.Rowan, in his last game, chipped in to a balanced scoring attack, as five different Badgers found the end zone Saturday. Rowan capped the scoring with an 11-yard dash into the end zone with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the last time UW would score at home with the 2006 seniors.last_img

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