Football Floridians headed home

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoFor the vast majority of the Badgers’ roster, a December trip to Orlando serves as a warm, southern vacation miles away from home. For others, it’s not only a chance to escape the blistering Wisconsin winter but also an opportunity to return to their native state and play in front of their families and friends.Eight players on the UW football team call Florida home. Not surprisingly, the eight players are anxious to return to the Sunshine State — the state in which Wisconsin has played a bowl game for the past four seasons — to face Florida State Dec. 27 in the Champs Sports Bowl.“Any time you get the chance to go back home to the warm weather, you can’t really argue about that,” said sophomore cornerback Aaron Henry, who medically redshirted this season and will be unable to play in the bowl game for the second straight year. “It’s a true, true blessing.”The Seminoles, led by Bobby Bowden — the second-winningest coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history — of course will be playing much closer to their Tallahassee campus.“It’s my fourth year in a row going back to Florida, so that’s always a good thing,” said middle linebacker Jaevery McFadden. “They’ve got some players on Florida State that I know; running back Anton Smith, Preston Parker, the wide receiver. There will be a little trash talking on the field, a little bragging rights, but it’s going to be all good; we’ve got love for each other and everything.”McFadden grew up in Riviera Beach, Fla., rooting for the University of Miami, the Seminoles’ archrivals.“When I was growing up, it was all about Florida State and Miami, that’s all you heard about back then,” he said. “I was a big Hurricane fan, so when recruiting time came out, I was waiting for Miami to give me that nod, which they did, but I felt that Wisconsin was the right school for me.”Though the opposite was true for Henry in Immokalee, Fla., both he and McFadden ended up in cardinal and white.“I was a crazy Florida State fan growing up, so we’re going to go down there and handle business,” Henry said. “You want to go back and show them that there are other schools, there’s other talent elsewhere. As bad as I wanted to go to Florida State, Wisconsin was looking at me as well, so you want to go back and show them what you’ve got.”In terms of recruiting, the opportunity to play in Florida allows local high school players to see what Wisconsin football is all about, something that lured some of the current Badger Floridians to seriously consider UW.Sophomore running back Zach Brown was in Orlando for Wisconsin’s 17-14 Capital One Bowl victory over Arkansas two seasons ago.“It was a great experience, just to see everything,” said the Royal Palm, Fla., native. “It played a great role [in my decision to come to Wisconsin]. As a player, you know there’s a chance to come back and play in front of your home state. We’ve done that a lot in the last few years, so that’s a major thing to look forward to.”Aside from playing in the midwinter Florida heat, the mere fact of playing in a bowl game gives the team several weeks’ worth of practices, weeks used not only for bowl game preparation but for development of the teams’ young players as well.“It helps tremendously because through the year, the [younger players] have been playing scout team, so this gives them a chance to learn what we’re doing,” Brown said.“When I was a freshman and sophomore, I remember working with the coaches, getting that extra development,” McFadden added. “That definitely helped me get to that next level, helped me for the next year.”In the midst of a season in which a bowl appearance was by no means a certainty, all Bret Bielema’s Badgers are thankful to still be practicing this December. But for eight players, the trip to Orlando — and not Phoenix or Detroit — is extra special.“It’s always good to go back because my family can actually come,” McFadden said. “I’ve got a lot of family that can come watch me.”As for his non-football plans?“I’ve been to Disney World like 50 times, being from Florida,” he added. “This year I might not be going to Disney World and Universal [Studios] that much. I might just stay in the hotel.”last_img

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