By JASON GALLESKE
Bradie Ewing knew how tough his odds were to fulfill his dream as a Wisconsin Badger. Still, the former walk-on lived his dream which concluded with the rich aroma of roses.
Ewing, a senior fullback from Richland Center, played his final collegiate game when the Badgers faced Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers earned the right to go to the Rose Bowl by winning the first Big Ten championship game with a 42-39 win over Michigan State on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis. Ewing said it's fine to have the rest.
"It’s been good," Ewing said. "We've had some time to get our bodies back. We're trying to get into swing of things and prepare for Oregon. We know it'll be a good challenge and we’re looking forward to it and are excited for it."
The son of David and Andrea Ewing was a star prep athlete for the Hornets as he finished his career with 3,911 yards rushing on 509 attempts including 41 touchdowns. His senior season was significant as he rushed for 2,116 yards on 258 carries and scored 24 touchdowns. Yet, no college offers were made, except one from North Dakota to play linebacker were made. So, even though Ewing had to earn his eventual scholarship he decided to take the short trek to Madison.
"Coach (Bret) Bielema gave me an opportunity," Ewing said. "I couldn’t pass it up. This is where I wanted to be."
Ewing followed in the footsteps of some former walk-ons such as NFL players Jim Leonhard, Chris Maragos and Fennimore native Luke Swan, who tried out for NFL teams.
"It was always cool, with Luke Swan down the road and being my mom was from Fennimore," Ewing said. "Maragos, Leonard, Swan guys you looked up to. Anytime you can look up to guys like that, you can’t complain. They set the footwork such as success is concerned. It's fun to carry that on and hopefully pass it on to other guys."
As far as Ewing's NFL career is concerned, he is getting some name recognition by national pundits, but that isn't his main concern.
"I’m excited for the opportunity if it comes about," he said. "If I have the chance, I’m excited. Right now I'm not focused on that. Enjoying (playing in the Rose Bowl) and just trying to end on a high note here at Wisconsin."
And what an interesting year it has been for the Big Ten champions. The Badgers, who had two of the best offensive players in the nation in quarterback Russell Wilson and tailback Montee Ball were being talked about as National Championship contenders at points of the season. That changed when they lost two gut-wrenching games back-to-back at Michigan State and Ohio State to derail all hopes of playing for the ultimate prize, but the Badgers stayed focused and eventually earned the right to play in the Big Ten title game by smashing Penn State 45-7 on Senior Day.
"We didn’t change much up," Ewing said. "We stayed true, continuing to focus on little things and it ended up paying off. It's a testament and faith of never giving up and continuing to fight and I think our coaches instill that in us."
A lot has happened since he first suited up for the Badgers. Now, Ewing feels thrilled and blessed for the opportunity to play in his second straight Rose Bowl to conclude the fast and unlikely career for the Cardinal and White standout.
"It’s gone very fast," he said. "I've tried to enjoy every bit of it. From a walk-on wide-eyed freshman to playing in front of 85,000 people to the point where at you’re Big Ten championship against top 15 time for chance to go to Rose Bowl and be a contributor. It's been a huge transformation. I've enjoyed the process just playing with the guys here and the coaches."