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Nagy to start at center

November 11, 2010

MADISON – While they all may line up together, the differences between the guard, center and tight end positions are many. That hasn’t stopped Bill Nagy from transitioning seamlessly between the three spots this season.

Nagy, a fifth year senior from Hudson, Ohio, started the first four games of the season for the Badgers at right guard with Kevin Zeitler out with an injury. When the opportunity arose for him to fill in at tight end, Nagy jumped at that opportunity as well.

Now, with Peter Konz aggravating his right ankle injury, Nagy is set to start at center for the first time in his career Saturday against Indiana. As a senior, and one who missed all but three games last year, Nagy is savoring every chance he gets to put on the Wisconsin uniform, whether it be No. 76 or No. 89.

“Yeah, that’s probably the hardest part,” Nagy joked, referring to switching jerseys depending on the position. “It’s been a lot of fun, I’m just happy that I got the opportunity to play some tight end, too. It’s unfortunate what happened with Zeit at the beginning of the season and then obviously, Pete going down with his ankle and everything with that.

“I’m just trying to play hard, practice hard, and just have a next man in mentality.”

Nagy missed much of the 2009 season as a result of the events of July 16, 2009. On that night, as he rode his moped home from Camp Randall Stadium, going east on Dayton Street, a northbound car on Park Street ran a red light, hitting Nagy.

As a result of the crash, Nagy suffered a broken right wrist and torn ligaments in the arch of his right foot. Though he was able to tough it out through three games, Nagy eventually missed much of the season and was not 100 percent through spring practice.

“That was really tough and a freak thing,” said John Moffitt, Nagy’s roommate. “I was thinking about that the other day like, ‘Bill got hit by a car.’ How many people can say that? I was going to say something to him like, ‘Man, you got hit by a car, that’s crazy.’

“But just the way that he’s recovered and fought back, it’s not been easy. I don’t think people realize that, it’s a physical battle, but it’s also a mental battle, too.”

Having fought back, both mentally and physically, from those injuries, Nagy has become one of the most important members of the 2010 Badgers.

When Konz went down against Iowa, Nagy was more than capable of stepping in. He did, and helped the Badgers escape with the one-point victory. After the injury became an issue again at Purdue, Nagy stepped in and the Wisconsin offense didn’t miss a beat.

His performance at three positions this season has been impressive to say the least.

“Bill’s just the total team player and a selfless player. He’s in his fifth year now and he just wants to get on the field,” Scott Tolzien said. “That’s what makes teams special is when you’ve got a bunch of guys that are willing to just sacrifice their roles for the good of the team. Bill’s been a great example of that, and he’s been huge for us.

“He never dwindles in his confidence or what his role is. The great thing is he doesn’t pout, he doesn’t complain, he just takes it upon himself to just keep getting better every day. I admire his patience just for the way he’s approached it and it’s great to see it kind of come full circle and pay off for him.”

While playing three positions for the Badgers is one thing, Nagy’s ability to play center serves an even greater purpose. If he were unable to do so, head coach Bret Bielema would have to move Moffitt to center, forcing someone else to fill in at left guard as well.

With Nagy at center, the Badgers can maintain a stronger sense of continuity on the line, something that is especially important with Wisconsin’s power style of football.

“Me and Bill were talking about that, because he was like, ‘Why don’t they just plug you in at center?'” Moffitt recalled. “And well, one I said, I think I’m too fat for center right now, and on top of that I said, that’s just one change. Bill’s in, and then there’s still that consistency. Whereas, like Hawaii and Miami last year – Miami was a little easier because we had the time – but Hawaii, we moved me to center, we moved [Travis] Frederick into left guard, and that’s two changes, and that kind of changes half a line.”

As long as they’ve got Nagy, who can fill in anywhere on the line, the Badgers should not have to worry about such dramatic changes this season.

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