MADISON—Cornerback Derrick Tindal walked into the post game media area after the Wisconsin Badgers’ 38-14 win over Iowa two Saturdays ago, mere minutes after locking down the Hawkeyes’ offense to only 66 total yards.
While speaking with reporters, Tindal sported a pair of blue Spider-Man socks under his Under Armour sandals.
According to a couple of his teammates like cornerback Nick Nelson and safety Joe Ferguson, he is well-known for wearing them.
“He loves stuff like that. Got a whole bunch of socks, got every color—red, blue, black white,” cornerback Nick Nelson said last week. “You go in his room, he’s got Spider-Man, I think I’ve seen in his room a picture of a Wisconsin with like No. 25 with like Spider-Man arms. He’s got a bunch of Spider-Man stuff in his room.”
There is absolutely no doubt Tindal is a huge fan of the web-slinger. When asked, the 5’11, 186-pound Tindal believes he personifies some of the characteristics of one of Marvel Comics’ greatest characters. That can be seen in the confidence in his play on the field, and those lighthearted actions like dancing during some timeouts.
“Yeah man, I feel like I am Spider-Man,” Tindal said last week. “Little witty, joking on the field, but I get things done. I’m very athletic. Spider-Man’s athletic. I feel like I get my swag off of Spider-Man.
“They call me ‘The Amazing Tindal’ sometimes.”
Wait, just who calls him that? The senior defensive back quickly responded with a laugh.
Nelson exploded with laughter upon hearing that.
“I’m going to start calling him that, ‘The Amazing Tindal,’” Nelson said. “That’s my new nickname for him.”
Regardless of moniker, self-appointed or given, Tindal’s love of Spider-Man is more than apparent in the locker room and to those who know him best. He is also having a strong senior campaign for a Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) team looking to head into the Big Ten Championship game undefeated, with College Football Playoff aspirations still intact, as they face Minnesota (5-6. 2-6) on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CT, ABC).
More on Derrick Tindal’s fandom
|Derrick Tindal's Top Five Comic Book Movies|
|Derrick Tindal's Top Five Comic Book Movies|
|1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)|
|2. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)|
|3. Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)|
|4. Spider-Man (2002)|
|5. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)|
Tindal cannot exactly pinpoint when his love for the Marvel superhero began age-wise, but there is a moment when he knew he became a fan.
“I think I turned on the TV one day, saw Spider-Man,” Tindal said, “and I know that was the first character I’ve ever seen really on TV. Ever since then, that’s been my favorite character.”
That is shown in his locker, which is adorned with comic book posters.
“So I got a big picture from the Spider-Man: Homecoming movie that just came out, a poster. I taped that in the locker,” Tindal said. “Then I got a motivation thing from my best friend. She drew me a picture. Every day before practice I take a look at a few quotes on there before I come out.”
Along with forming a dynamic duo at cornerback with Nelson, he and the Badgers have asserted themselves among the nation’s best defenses. UW ranks first in rush defense and second in scoring defense (13.1 points per game), total defense (246.4 yards per game) and team passing efficiency defense (94.82). The 167 passing yards allowed per game is seventh-fewest nationally.
On the season, Tindal has started all 11 games for Wisconsin, contributing 25 tackles, six pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and one interception.
Tindal was tested against Michigan in UW’s 24-10 victory last Saturday, however, during his final home game at Camp Randall Stadium. On Senior Day, he was called for defensive holding in the first quarter and gave up a 48-yard reception later in the first half on Michigan’s only touchdown drive of the game.
As cliché as it sounds, both Tindal and his favorite character know, “with great power comes great responsibility” when facing adversity.
Though with Tindal, he discussed overcoming turmoil on the field, while Spider-Man may have to save New York City from a family of aggressive alien symbiotes or another dastardly villain.
“Hey, that’s my motto, man. I love that motto because there’s a lot of people who look up to me,” Tindal said this week. “I’m not going to let two plays describe how my year’s been going because I’ve been playing great. Shoot, I’ve barely been even thrown at in the game as far as caught on. I gave two plays, gave up a holding call, but it’s about how you bounce back, man. [I] ended up picking up a big-time fumble, ended up scrapping receivers for the rest of the game, so just being a DB it’s how you responded, and I felt like I responded great.”
Last season, Tindal gave up the eventual game-winning touchdown in a 14-7 pass to the Wolverines. Rather than sulking during the game last weekend after the rough start, he fought through it.
“Ain’t going to lie, at first I was feeling bad, like ‘Man, I’m about to let my team down once again to the same team’” Tindal said, “but I had guys coming up to me, ‘Shoot, you’re good ‘DT,’ you’re good. We know you got us.’ Came back, they tried me a couple more times and it didn’t work, so I just had to stick to my technique and just trust myself, and I did.”
Tindal admitted he has grown up on the field in his time at Wisconsin, where once he would become angry if someone caught a pass off of a hitch pattern and go into a self-described “little zone” where he did not want to talk to anyone. That’s now changed with an added layer of setting an example as a senior for the younger cornerbacks, who will play a bigger role once he leaves Wisconsin after the season.
“I want them to look at me and be like, ‘Dang, ‘DT’ just got caught on but came back and act like nothing happened.’” Tindal said. “Just stuff like that just to show them a little more courage, and I feel like I did a good job of that.”
According to defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, the biggest thing that he has seen with Tindal over the course of the last year is his confidence and how he has responded to giving up a big play or a situation not going his way.
“It was pretty awesome to see during a game that he knows what went wrong now,” Leonhard said, “and you hope players over the course of their year, course of their career really take that next step in understanding [that] ‘This is what went wrong, this is how I got to fix,’ and that should give you confidence.
“That should give you a little bit more freedom to go out there and just play the game knowing that you know the answers. ‘I got beat, but this is what happened and it’s not going to happen again.’ I think he’s started to have that mentality, and I want those guys to be aggressive.”
Tindal’s time at Wisconsin is drawing to a close, as he will play in his 50th game on Saturday against Minnesota, but there’s so much more to play for these next two weekends with a group of players that could leave a lasting mark in school history.
Within his space in the Badgers’ locker room, a poster hangs showing a mix of Marvel and DC Comics characters eating together. In his eyes, it reminds him of this current team, “a bunch of guys, different guys, coming together to complete one cause.”
He believes this is the best team he has ever been a part of.
“I kick it with [offensive linemen Michael] Deiter and Beau [Benzschawel] all the time. I love Tyler [Biadasz], my dog ‘Tyler Badass,’ that’s what I call him,” Tindal said. “Our team is just close, man. Every position converses with each other, hangs out with each other. Shoot man, [redshirt freshman running back Garrett] Groshek and I are going to the movies Thursday, just stuff like that.
“It don’t matter about color on this team, don’t matter about where you’re from, what you been through. Everybody just loves each other, and that’s what makes us so great as a team.”
As for his newly, self-credited nickname, Tindal will continue to show he is worthy of the title for at least three more games in a Wisconsin uniform. According to him, a couple people now have started to call him that, including inside linebacker T.J. Edwards.
“It’s catching on. It’s coming on. I might get a tattoo when people start really calling me that.”