Former Badger Bollinger thrilled about Wilson, direction of UW football

Russell Wilson is not your typical Wisconsin quarterback.

That much is clear.

Badger fans are not used to seeing a scrambling quarterback with an NFL arm running the offense in Madison, but that's likely what they will see this fall when Wilson takes the field at Camp Randall Stadium.

The last quarterback of that nature at Wisconsin was Brooks Bollinger, a four-year starter from 1999-2003 who enjoyed a six-year NFL career after setting the rushing record for quarterbacks at UW.

Naturally, Bollinger is pretty excited to see a quarterback like Wilson take over the Badgers' offense.

"To add Russell to this mix, with this team, I think first of all it's exciting with the talent he has," Bollinger told Bucky's 5th Quarter at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. "I heard so much about him, I've only seen him speak the one time on ESPN, but he seems like a finished product that's stepping in. Obviously he's done it and he carries himself as such, but you never know until you know."

Bollinger, who is certainly used to paying his dues (he played for four different NFL teams in six years), believes the addition of Wilson will actually have a positive effect on the other quarterbacks on the roster.

"I think Russell is going to elevate the level of play of all the quarterbacks," Bollinger said. "For Jon (Budmayr) and that whole group to go through the spring competing for the job, it's only going to make them better in the future even if they don't play this year. I think that's exciting for their development down the line."

One of the concerns regarding Wilson is how he will fit in the Badgers offense. Wilson is used to putting the offense on his shoulders and while it is certainly good that he won't have to do that, he'll have to get used to playing second-fiddle to Wisconsin's potent rushing attack.

"I was joking with Scott Tolzien, he won the Johnny Unitas Award, but there were two games he didn't throw a pass in the second half," Bollinger said. "Sometimes I think it's harder to play quarterback in that sort of system because your first four throws of the game might be on 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-7 or 3rd-and-9 and when you know you are only going to get a limited amount of opportunities, it's difficult."

Bollinger made the trip to Pasadena with his father for the Rose Bowl last season, but says it's important for this year's group to put last season behind them.

"Last year's team has nothing to do with this year's team," he said. "That's the exciting thing. We get to see how these juniors from last year really take ownership of this team and see if they can fill in for great senior leaders who are lost and fill the void and gel this thing together and make another special run. It's not easy to do in back-to-back years."

Bollinger speaks from experience. As a freshman in 1999, he helped lead the Badgers to their second-straight Rose Bowl victory and Wisconsin remains the only Big Ten school to win back-to-back Rose Bowls.

Today, Bollinger is a high school football coach in Minnesota. After playing his last season of professional football in the UFL last season, he accepted the head coaching job at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, Minnesota, just outside St. Paul.

"Livin' the dream as they say," Bollinger said about his new gig. "For a number of reasons, I was ready ot be done playing. It was time. It just so happened that the coaching position became open at Hill-Murray in the St. Paul area and it was a good fit and good time for my family. I'm enjoying it so far and I'm excited to get the season started with those guys."

Bollinger is also doing work with the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes the charitable efforts of NCAA student-athletes. A record 132 nominees for this year's Good Works Team  were announced July 19. Bollinger was a former nominee on the team when he played for the Badgers.

In the meantime, Bollinger remains a loyal Badger, despite living in enemy territory in Minnesota. He is proud of how Bret Bielema has enhanced the tradition of Wisconsin football since his former coach, Barry Alvarez, stepped down and became the athletic director.

"I think it's been really great how smooth the transition has gone with Barry stepping down and Bret stepping in," Bollinger said. "I think a) it's a credit to the foundation that was set by Barry and his staff and b) just a credit to Bret and the job he's done and taking it and really running with it and continuing to raise the bar. I'm just proud to be an alum and be a part of that program. I just have a blast watching it."

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