MADISON, Wis. – It’s the end of the semester, and many seniors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have already received their degrees. And while it would’ve been a good feeling for anyone to walk across the stage, the moment was a little extra special for Badgers senior safety Aaron Henry. With his family from Immoklee, Fla., there to watch him, Henry rounded off his time as a Wisconsin student, and can now focus fully on going out on top in his last game as a Badger.
"Graduation was amazing … it was everything that I’d hoped for," Henry said after practice Wednesday. "When I was a little kid, all my grandma talked about to me was she didn’t really care what I did in life, she just wanted me to graduate. And so for her to be up here and see me walk off that stage, that’s definitely a great feeling."
And when it comes to leaving a senior legacy as a senior class, defensive tackle and fellow co-captain Patrick Butrym said a Rose Bowl win would be a great way to cap off five years at Wisconsin.
"That’s what you want to do: to leave a senior legacy that will be something special, hopefully with a cream at the top, winning the (Rose Bowl)," Burtym said. "Just to win the last game and to be Rose Bowl champs is the most important thing. We talked earlier in the year [that] it’s a three-step process. Win our division, win the Big Ten Championship, and now it’s on to the Rose Bowl."
And while Burtym and Henry are happy with the legacy they and the other seniors have laid down so far, they both agree there’s still something missing yet.
"I think (our legacy) would change with a win in the Rose Bowl, because [we] haven’t done it before," Butrym said. "We’ve won a lot of games, I think we’re really proud of that. To be the team to replicate seasons like this with two Big Ten championships … it’s special."
"[We] just have to win the Rose Bowl."
"So far, (the legacy) has been getting to the Rose Bowl, but I don’t want to just leave it at that," Henry said. "If we lose, we’re just going to be a team that got there, that didn’t finish. If we go out there and win it, we’ll be a team who not only won the first Big Ten Championship Game, but a team that won the Rose Bowl."
But with the game still about two weeks away, the realization will eventually dawn on Henry, Burtym, and the other Wisconsin seniors: this is the last time they’ll take the field as Badgers. With that in mind, Butrym was feeling grateful for the opportunities he’s had as a Badger.
"I have so much pride in the school and it’s been really good to me," Butrym said. "Hopefully I return [the] favor. I just really love this program, all the coaches have been so good to me. I wouldn’t be the player I am without the coaches, and I’ve made so many good friendships."
As for Henry, he felt like the senior class has tried and succeed in leaving the program better than how they found it when they were freshmen.
"I definitely think I’m leaving the program that much better," Henry said. "Whether it’s on the football field or off the football field, I think when you do come into a program like this or come into a program in general as a player, each person wants to get better. But I think that speaks volumes of you if you can go and make someone else better."
And at the end of the day, Henry has his degree. We don’t know yet whether or not the Rose Bowl will be his last football game, or if he’ll see the field professionally, but the education he received as a student-athlete will always stick with him.
"It’s meant a ton," Henry said. "I was able to walk off that stage, get my degree. That’s something whether I go on to play football after this or I don’t, I think that’s something that will be with me forever."
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