First-year Badgers head coach Gary Andersen believes in the power of siblings -- a Big Brother to be exact.
That’s why, before the season even started Andersen paired up each freshman with an upperclassman on the team to help ease their transition to college.
Unexpectedly, the program has become one of the shining stars of the off-season.
“I think it is great, I wish we had the program when I was a freshman,” offensive lineman Ryan Groy said. “Because you know you have all those random questions that you don’t want to ask the coaches, and you can ask the older guys. Where to go places, where to eat, so it is nice.”
Groy’s little brother is Wisconsin Rapids native and offensive lineman freshman Hayden Biegel. Middleton, Wis., native Groy and Biegel are just two pieces of a very specific vision that Andersen has for the program.
“Hopefully, the Big Brother program, as we've gone through summer, has allowed these kids to get into the meeting room, let them understand who we are in the weight room. Let them understand what the expectation levels of them are on the field,” Andersen said. “Most importantly, they've got some Xs and Os in their mind that they can go out and be able to play at a high level.”
Another pair? Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland and California native Leon Jacobs.
Along with Jacobs, one other athlete has impressed Borland in the linebacker corps so far.
“Leon and Garrett Dooley who is also a freshman and plays inside look really good,” Borland said. “Those two guys I wouldn't be surprised if they contribute on special teams as freshman. There is a lot that goes into it, so who knows who will appear on the field but those two guys and a couple of our corners look good.”
Another linebacker pair is upperclassmen Conor O’Neill and Land O’Lakes (Wis.) freshman Austin Ramesh.
“We have never had the Big Brother program here before, but I heard about it at different programs. I think it something good to bring to the program, and just to get the younger guys under somebody’s wing and just kind of show them the ropes around a little bit,” O’Neill said.
And of course, with a ‘sibling’ inevitably comes some good memories and stories.
“We went out to a dinner place with all the linebackers with their little brothers, Coach Aranda and we had some pizza,” O’Neill said. “We were trying to figure out where it was. So we probably spent 30 mins walking around the capitol, just trying to find this place. Finally someone answered their phone that was at the dinner, we finally got there.”
He added of Ramesh, “He is a really good dude, I have always opened up if he ever needs to come over or ever needs any advice. I am already going to give him my furniture from my apartment.”
It’s not just furnishing apartments that the Big Brothers are helping the Little Brothers with, some of the most valuable pieces of the relationship is the good advice the upperclassmen can give the young Badgers.
“I would tell Hayden to take advantage of Gordon Commons, a food place over by the dorms,” Groy said. “I didn’t eat there a lot and now I miss the food. It was great, he needs to take advantage of that.”
The advice continues beyond where to eat and places to see in Madison, there is some very serious stuff to pass along too.
“I would tell Austin to make sure you don’t fall behind in school your first semester, I found that out the hard way, by taking two reading intensive courses and dug a hole. It wasn’t the way I wanted to start off my college career, but I made it through,” O’Neill said.
O’Neil proclaimed “it’s not how you start it’s how you finish” about his Badgers career and offered up that advice to Ramesh, who just so happens to be getting advice from a three time All-Big Ten Academic Selection.
Seems like the Badger’s freshman are in pretty good company.
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