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December 25, 2010

Badgers take flight

Imagine being Lance Kendricks for a minute.

Not necessarily Kendricks the football player because being as good as that is almost hard to imagine. Instead, focus on being of similar size and stature as Kendricks the human being.

Imagine being 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds of solidly ripped muscle. Then imagine that body frame, one where the legs are consistently going to be crunched, in between the likes of Peter Konz, John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi.

Such is the life when traveling on a chartered plane with two sides of three-chair seating separated by an aisle.

"I normally fall asleep before we even leave the runway," Kendricks said. "I don't know what it is. It's a natural habit, I guess."

Kendricks falls asleep, Aaron Henry studies his playbook, Culmer St. Jean and David Gilreath watch movies, J.J. Watt assumes the role of a prankster and John Moffitt eats. A lot.

"I remember the trip out to Vegas when we had our white shirts on," quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "It was a long flight and when the trip ended I looked over at Moffitt and he had green, yellow, orange, burger stains and ketchup... He had a rainbow of colors from all the food he'd been eating."

If you're trying to picture this scene, one where upward of 100 larger than average people, cram into a 747, this will help.

"The offense is on the right and the defense is on the left," junior J.J. Watt said. "I'm a little bit scared that the offensive line is a little heavier than the defensive line so they might off set it.

"But no, they have us evened out pretty good. I'm just happy I'm in an exit row so I have some room to stretch my legs."

And if you're wondering about the coaches, they're usually in front of the plane in the first class area.

"They're in first class probably asleep," Kendricks said. "I don't know what they do."

Scheduled to leave sometime this afternoon (Saturday), the Wisconsin football team is en route to Los Angeles exactly one week before the 97th Rose Bowl game against TCU. Flying direct from Madison, the flight will probably take somewhere in the 4-to-5 hour range.

That's a little different than what the team is used to, because most of the time they fly to or from a Big Ten city, it's a much shorter flight. And there isn't a game the following day after they land.

Bowl season is a little bit different.

"Obviously we don't have a game the next day," Watt said. "I sit next to Patrick Butrym and we always just pull jokes and stuff. During the trip to Vegas Beau Allen was sleeping with his head back and his mouth open. So we took a couple of salt packets and dumped them in his mouth.

"Just little things like that make a trip fun. We've got a week to prepare for the game so we just want to make the trip as fun as possible the first couple of days. That's kind of the stuff we do."

All joking aside, there are some risks involved with a longer flight, particularly with players that are dealing with issues regarding nicks and bruises.

Last season when the Badgers traveled to Hawaii, a 14-hour flight, Peter Konz learned a lesson. After being diagnosed with potentially dangerous blood clots in his lungs, Konz is plenty aware of the dangers associated with staying stationary during a long period of time.

"All I have to do is wear compression socks that help move the blood," Konz said. "The deadly blood clots, the ones that would keep me out, are in my legs because the veins are so big. Those are the ones that will stop your heart. As long as I keep getting up and drink lots of water I'll be fine.

"I've just got to be smart about it."

Those clots kept Konz out of the Hawaii game and the Badgers Champs Sports bowl win over Miami. With such an important game upcoming, being the Rose Bowl and all, the players have been plenty educated of the importance of moving around during a long flight with hopes of preventing a similar outcome.

"You definitely have to hydrate a little more and you obviously have to make sure you get up and walk around," Watt said. "Obviously Pete had the blood clot issue so we all got educated from that point forward. They give us little things to do, but the biggest thing they want us to do is rest, get some sleep and try not to over think ourselves."

So between the endless amount of food, the vast array of movies and music, sleeping and rehashing the game plan and playbook, there are several different activities happening at any given time during a particular team flight.

Guys sit next to the same person each and every time, they get a few rounds of food and snacks throughout and settle into their particular routine.

"Depending on how much room we have it's usually me and Niles Brinkley with a space in between," junior safety Aaron Henry said. "If not, it's me, Niles and Antonio Fenelus. It's very comforting. That's what works for me. I'm sure different guys have different routines. Opposite of me is John Clay, David Gilreath and Nick Toon. Those guys are all doing pretty much the same thing.

"Everybody listens to their music. That's what works for me."

But as Watt intimated earlier, the good-natured fun is also a staple.

"A lot of us start roasting people as they start going down the line," senior wide receiver David Gilreath said. "We say, you're old…Isaac Anderson actually started it with Matt Lepay. He said, 'You're old, Capitol Ford.' It just started going from there. It was just so funny.

"Anytime we get on the plane we start roasting people."

Tolzien, the levelheaded leader his is, is impressed with the amount of class the team travels with.

"The one thing I've learned is that the Wisconsin program really is first class," Tolzien said. "They're going to do everything they can to make us comfortable. They're going to treat us like kings when we travel.

"I think we're fortunate and something where you're done playing you'll notice how good you had it."

Maybe Watt already knows how good they have it.

"We could have a 45 minute flight to Michigan and they give us so much food that it's outrageous," Watt said. "I flew down to California for the Lott Trophy presentation with my parents. I was in a regular seat that wasn't in an exit row, had no legroom and no food. I'm sitting there and looking around like 'Where is everything?'

"It's definitely a culture shock when you get back to a real flight."





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