Badgers' Frederick takes lead
MADISON When he arrived on campus in the summer of 2009, Travis Frederick's main goal at the University of Wisconsin was to not get lost, build his football IQ and find out where the food was.
In this past summer coming off Wisconsin's second straight conference championship, Frederick's goals from years earlier hadn't changed, but the desire to become a leader first popped into his head.
"I realized that guys that were leaders on the offensive line were gone, and that it was up to guys like me to bring the offensive line back to where we need to be," said Frederick. "Ricky (Wagner) and I really took the group together, teamed up and tried to bring the whole group together. As a result, I think we brought the whole offense along with."
Hearing that, it was no surprise that Frederick, along with seniors Montee Ball, Shelton Johnson, Mike Taylor and Wagner plus junior Chris Borland, were all elected captains by their peers in a team vote held during fall camp. One of the first orders of business for Frederick will be to walk out for the coin toss when No.12 Wisconsin opens its 2012 season by hosting Northern Iowa Saturday at Camp Randall.
"I feel very humbled by that selection," said Frederick. "It wasn't something I expected. I set myself up this summer (to be named captain) by what we were doing. It was a goal to be named captain my senior year, but to have it now is really an honor to me."
Frederick is a unique blend of solid talent mixed with academic prowess. He left Walworth Big Foot High School with a GPA above 4.0 and finished second in a class of 126. He is currently double majoring in computer engineering and computer science; a lot of course work in addition to being the teacher on the offensive line and to a certain quarterback.
Junior quarterback Danny O'Brien, who will make his first start for Wisconsin after transferring from Maryland in the spring, has quickly become acclimated to first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada's system, and with the playbook. It should not come as a surprise to know that O'Brien and Frederick are roommates, and spent plenty of time working together since O'Brien arrived on campus in early summer.
"He could talk football all day," said O'Brien. "He's a really smart kid in the classroom and on the field. (He's) one of the leaders on this team, so living with him has been great. He's a guy you could talk football with forever, and (he's) a brilliant guy. So I've learned a lot from him."
Following his redshirt season in 2010, Frederick spent the summer transforming his body into a massive amount of strength. Weighing a solid 338 pounds and eliminating excess fat, Frederick drew headlines for having squatted 730 pounds, which is a little more than the combined weight of UW's first-team linebackers.
Instead of building his body in terms of strength over this past summer, Frederick taught himself to keep his body lower to the ground to get better leverage on rushing 300-pound defensive tackles. It has paid off, and offensive line coach Mike Markuson calls Frederick "reliable" with the junior's ability to quickly make adjustments and calls based on different defensive alignments.
"He's a very strong individual," said Markuson. "He's one of the strongest guys I've ever worked with. He's got great punch. He's one of those guys that he's so wide and he locks on to you, it's hard for a defender to get off of him. One thing I've noticed about him is he knows the game. When he plays with good pad level and stays down, he can really roll some people off the ball."
Wisconsin enters Saturday's opener needing to replace three full-time starters on the offensive line, but that's nothing new for a group that ended up replacing two All-Americans from 2010 (Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt) with two All-Americans last season (Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler).
With the level of acceptance being set, Frederick wants this year to be known as the year the offense continues to improve under his guidance.
"The guys before us have set the bar and I don't think we've ever come below that," said Frederick. "We continue to push ourselves to be above that bar. The way that our line continues to grow, we need to replace guys every year. It's about being the best group in the country, which this group has continually been.
"We need to take what we've learned in the last couple years and move forward. It's one day at a time. That's really what our team needs to do to continue to move forward."