Badgers’ Carimi, Moffitt named first-team All-America
So when he donned his conference championship hat after a 70-23 win over Northwestern on Nov. 27, Carimi admitted this title was special because his team never listed “winning the title” among its preseason goals.
“This was the first year we didn’t do that,” Carimi said of winning the school’s first conference title since 1999. “We just had daily preparation.
“That’s what this team is all about, preparing daily to win, and that’s what the result was,’’ he said. “That’s the only reason why we’re having success.”
There are two other big reasons Wisconsin (11-1) is in the position to win its first Rose Bowl since 2000 when it plays an undefeated Texas Christian on Jan. 1, and those ideals were recognized Tuesday. Carimi and John Moffitt, senior anchors on the left side of the Badgers’ offensive line, were named to the All-America first team by The Associated Press. And they celebrated the only way they knew how: they practiced first, then argued about who was more deserving.
“I don’t think anyone deserves it more than Gabe, and I love working with him,” Moffitt said. “He probably helped me get to that honor, just by playing next to him.”
“That’s my quote,” Carimi countered. “That’s what I say about him. We hit it off right away, just being a part of the lineman group. We hung out a lot our freshman summer and really became close. It’s awesome. It’s well-deserving.”
This isn’t the first award in which Carimi and Moffitt have been paired. Both, along with senior tight end Lance Kendricks were consensus first-team all-conference selections by the coaches and the media, while Carimi was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.
“It’s really been a pleasure to coach them and watch them get better,” offensive line coach Bob Bostad said. “I think being on the same page, it’s such a team sport and working as one, has really made those guys effective. When you see it on film, you see them do everything right.”
Carimi, one of only two Badgers to win the nation’s most outstanding lineman trophy, has started 48 games in his career, including the last 32. All of his starts have come at left tackle after he replaced Joe Thomas, the only previous Outland Trophy winner in school history.
“It’s unbelievable that we had backto-back left tackles get it,” said Carimi, a Monona Grove High School graduate, who also was named an AFCA All-American this month. “It’s pretty cool.”
Moffitt meanwhile has established himself as one of the more versatile linemen in the conference, having started 15 games at center and 26 at left guard, including all 12 this season. At this time last year, Moffitt already was planning on making the jump to the NFL, but changed his mind after talking to head coach Bret Bielema, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, Bostad, and most importantly, Carimi.
“I’m so thankful, and that’s prime example of how much can develop and change in one year,” Moffitt said. “Last year, I was a lot different person than me this year, which is a good thing.”
Kendricks and defensive end J.J. Watt of Wisconsin were named to the AP second team, while UW running back John Clay made the third team. An impressive accomplishment, seeing as the Badgers hadn’t had a player recognized by the AP since 2006, when Joe Thomas was a first-team pick.
“It really shows the types of leaders we have and how hard we work,” Kendricks said. “It’s just a great honor for all of us as a team.”
The leaders for Wisconsin start up front, as six offensive linemen were honored in some regard by the Big Ten. But while the individual accolades are impressive, the only thing the Badger leaders are focusing their team on is getting the school’s fourth straight Rose Bowl win.
“Right now, it’s living in the now, and I’ll enjoy it after the season when the smoke clears,” Moffitt said. “We did enough celebrating when we went to the Rose Bowl, which is really important. Now it’s time to buckle down and prepare for that.”