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Columnist
UW's Tolzien had the faith his big chance would come
By Marty Maciaszek | Daily Herald Columnist

Former Fremd quarterback Scott Tolzien will get his first collegiate start Saturday when Wisconsin hosts Northern Illinois.

 

Photo courtesy University of Wisconsin athletics

Although he will share quarterback duties with a redshirt freshman, Scott Tolzien (16) will get the call to start Saturday for Wisconsin.

 

Photo courtesy University of Wisconsin athletics

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Published: 9/2/2009 4:15 PM

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Scott Tolzien never stopped believing in his ability to become a big-time college quarterback.

It led the former Fremd High School star to Wisconsin as a late addition to its 2006 recruiting class.

Tolzien never stopped believing he could eventually become a starting quarterback in the Big Ten.

It led to where he will be Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. Under center as the starting quarterback when Wisconsin hosts Northern Illinois at 6 p.m.

It's a moment not only worth the wait but all the ups and downs for the senior with two seasons of playing eligibility remaining.

"I wasn't antsy, but there was a sense of urgency coming in and realizing time is short and you aren't here forever," the level-headed and humble Tolzien said. "I'm glad the coaches could see what I could do and I finally started playing to my potential."

Tolzien's emergence from a four-way battle is a testament not only to his patience and perseverance but of his coaches as well. He knew the window was likely closing on his chances.

"If you don't make a move they aren't going to wait forever before they move to the next guy," Tolzien said.

Tolzien saw his first action for the Badgers last fall. In three games he completed 5-of-8 passes for 107 yards and an interception and rushed for a touchdown.

But Dustin Sherer, who started seven games and played in 11 and threw for 1,246 yards and 6 touchdowns, was back for his senior year.

Future prospects in sophomore Curt Phillips and freshman Jon Budmayr from Marian Central in Woodstock were pushing to make Tolzien the odd man out. Tolzien's prospects didn't look great this spring, and it would have been natural to become consumed with frustration and disappointment.

"There have definitely been moments where you feel that - whether you had a bad practice or some guy got more reps than you," Tolzien said.

"One thing I can say throughout the whole thing is I never questioned the system or the coaches. I always had faith in myself and the coaches that things would work out.

"One thing I feel that helped me is I never got bitter to where I wanted to leave or stop working hard."

That's not his style. After all, he wasn't automatically the chosen one for his two years as a varsity starter for Fremd's perennial playoff qualifier.

So he set out to make the choice difficult for Wisconsin's coaches. Tolzien didn't believe much separated him and his top three competitors in a tight race for the job.

Tolzien said a hot start his first two days of fall camp continued his gradual buildup of confidence.

"Things started clicking," Tolzien said. "I probably played the best football I've ever played this fall.

"I've always known what type of player I am. I realize I'm not your dual threat (running) and I don't have a rocket attached to my right arm. My strengths are running the system and moving the chains."

Tolzien found out last Thursday that was good enough for the Badgers' coaching staff. He is expected to split time Saturday with Phillips.

"He's talented," Tolzien said. "If he's moving the chains and we're scoring, I'll be happy."

Northern Illinois would have been happy if Tolzien accepted what was his second scholarship offer. But he believed he could play at the highest level of college football.

"You have to feel that way and have confidence in yourself," Tolzien said. "If you don't believe it, you're never going to achieve it.

"If you're a true competitor you want to ultimately be the starter. You don't ever dream about standing on the sidelines."

You dream about what will finally become a reality for Scott Tolzien this Saturday.