On the final day of the Platteville Pride Youth Football Camp, Platteville head football coach Scott Statz had a special treat for his young pupils.
At the request of Statz, former Platteville High School standout and Wisconsin Badger Louis Nzegwu, along with a pair of his former Wisconsin teammates, linebacker Chris Borland and defensive tackle Beau Allen, made the 142-mile round trip to Platteville to visit with campers, pose for pictures and sign autographs on July 19.
The Badger trio spent roughly 30 minutes answering questions from the young athletes last Thursday afternoon before spending more than an hour signing footballs, T-shirts, jerseys and hats for everyone that wanted an autograph.
“I really enjoyed speaking with the kids,” said Nzegwu. “Some of the kids I actually knew when they wer really young so it was cool to see how much they’ve grown. They asked a lot of questions and I believe it was very beneficial to the kinds that we had the opportunity to come and share our journey and views about football through the year.”
The Badgers answered a number of questions from the crowd addressing training schedules, getting nervous before big games and their memories from youth sports.
“I still have inside jokes and memories from playing Little League and youth sports with my friends from back home eight-nine years ago,” Borland, the Badgers’ starting middle linebacker, told the crowd. “Those were some great times. Just hanging out with friends and having fun. Cherish these times. They will be gone before you know it.”
“I still remember my times here in Platteville,” added Nzegwu. “I started playing football in middle school and a lot of my friends were way better than me back then. I started to realize that maybe I could have a career in football when I was a junior in high school. So you just never know. Keep working hard and good things will happen.”
“It’s an awesome feeling to run out of the tunnel at Camp Randall and hear 80,000 fans cheering for you,” added Allen. “I used to get nervous about playing in front of so many people as a freshman, but now I don’t get nervous about the game. I get nervous about messing up my assignment and letting down my teammates.”
When Nzegwu was asked by a not-so-shy youngster how it felt to make it to the Rose Bowl two years in a row, but lose both times, Allen jumped in to add some context.
“For guys like Lou it wasn’t necessarily about the final destination, but more about the journey,” said Allen. “It was an incredible five-year ride that might not have ended the way Louis would have liked, but it was still an incredible accomplishment winning two Big 10 titles and getting to back-to-back Rose Bowls. For underclassman like Chris and I, it serves as motivation for this season to get back there and win it this time around.
“It was an amazing experience playing for the Badgers,” added Nzegwu. “I had a lot of fun, I traveled all over the country and met a bunch of new friends.”
Nzegwu, who finished his Badger career by scoring a touchdown in Wisconsin’s 45–38 Rose Bowl loss to Oregon this past January, will begin his first NFL training camp with the Atlanta Falcons later this week.
Nzegwu reported to Atlanta on July 26. The Falcons opened camp Friday morning the 27th.
Nzegwu, who was a starting defensive end for Badgers each of the past two seasons, will technically still play defensive end in the pros, but in the Falcons 3-4 scheme he will also be playing linebacker at times. Nzegwu also hopes to make the 53-man roster as a special teams contributor.
“My goals are to take advantage of all the reps I get in training camp and to perform to the best of my ability and nothing less,” said Nzegwu. “Like everyone my goal is to make the team of course and get on the field somehow, some way.”