Konz says he’ll be on field for Rose Bowl
First, he plans to be on the field Jan. 2 when No. 9 Wisconsin (11-2) faces No. 6 Oregon
(11-2) in the Rose Bowl.
“I’m trying to get as healthy as I can to play as physical as I can,” said Konz, who missed UW’s last three games after suffering a dislocated left ankle at Minnesota on Nov. 12. “Right now, I’m getting down the mental part as far as watching film, watching the guys take the reps. …
“I’m very optimistic, especially where I’m at right now. …Because every day we’re doing a little bit more, that gives me hope.”
Second, despite the belief of several pro scouts that Konz is likely headed for the 2012 National Football League draft, the redshirt junior from Neenah insists that he has no clue whether he will give up his final season of eligibility.
Asked whether he would enter the draft if projected to be taken after the first two rounds, Konz smiled.
“How long have you known me?” he asked with a laugh. “Anybody who knows me knows I have no idea.”
The ankle injury has limited Konz to individual work during practice. But he flew to North Carolina on Wednesday to see a specialist and was cleared to practice and play in the Rose Bowl.
“I was excited because Pete sounded excited,” coach Bret Bielema said. “He had kind of hit a lull. Sometimes when you’re coming from injury you get to this point where you don’t feel like you’re getting better. He kind of hit that for two weeks. …
“Doctor gave him great news, said everything structurally looked good. My guess is when we get out to Pasadena he’ll be full strength.”
Konz initially hoped to be back for the Big Ten title game Dec. 3 but underestimated the severity of the injury.
“I was just really optimistic,” he said. “I’ve only had high ankle sprains. This was a full dislocation that was out for about two hours. I didn’t know what to expect.
“But I’m ahead of schedule as far as dislocations go.”
The decision whether to enter the NFL draft or return to UW appears murky.
Junior tailback Montee Ball said he likely will turn pro if he receives a first- or second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board. However, if the grade is third round or lower, he likely will return to UW.
By contrast, Konz says he will weigh his options no matter where he is projected.
“The only thing that matters to me is happiness,” he said. “That is the only thing that will influence my decision. I want to make sure I’m completely healthy if I decide to (leave). And if I want to be the best center in college football next year, I’ve got to be healthy for that, too.
“It’s not about the money. If I want to go challenge myself and go somewhere else, that’s what I’ll do.
“The only thing I’ve decided is that I’m not going to make a decision until at least a week after the Rose Bowl. I want to take my time. I want to take a break. I want to sit down and make a clear decision based on how I feel.”
This season has been both rewarding and frustrating for Konz.
The injury at Minnesota cost Konz three games in what could be his final college season.
Travis Frederick, a sophomore from Walworth Big Foot, has moved from left guard to center to replace Konz. Ryan Groy has filled in at left guard for Frederick.
“It’s painful to sit out a practice,” Konz said. “You kind of get this image of yourself doing all the plays, all the reps.
“So you try to go out and it’s a little painful, and you know if you push it too much you could set yourself back. It’s a fine balance.”
Until suffering the injury at Minnesota, Konz was the anchor of a line that formed the foundation of one of the more explosive offenses in the nation.
UW enters the Rose Bowl fourth nationally in scoring at 44.6 points per game. He was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, given to the best center in the nation, and was a first-team All-American according to the American Football Coaches Association and Pro Football Weekly.
Yet according to the Big Ten Conference coaches, Konz was only an honorable mention pick.
“I told myself I must be the worst All-American (ever),” Konz said, laughing. “I was honorable mention all-Big Ten and first-team All-American.”
If Konz is able to return to the starting lineup, line coach Bob Bostad should be able to shift Frederick back to left guard and field his best overall unit against Oregon.
UW was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon.
“We’ll get him involved in the game plan and see where he is at,” Bielema said. “I think those first two days, because we’ve got an extended workweek down there, we’ll start him off as the No. 2 center to see where he’s at and go from there.”