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September 8, 2010

Wagner shocked, honored by scholarship

MADISON - Surprisingly enough, Ricky Wagner didn't even bat an eye when the Wisconsin coaching staff approached him about moving from tight end to offensive line.

But whether he admitted to it or not, at 260 pounds, Wagner had to have known his body was going to have to completely transform if he was going to get any playing time on one of the more massive offensive lines in all of football.

"I didn't really give it too much thought," Wagner said. "I was happy to do whatever the coaches told me. Coach Bob Bostad is a great coach so I trusted him."

Little did the young tight end prospect know that in just a matter of a couple of seasons he would add 60-plus pounds to his frame and earn a scholarship after starting out as a walk-on.

"I think my body was changing like that already naturally," Wagner said. "I didn't really try too hard. It just came on naturally."

When Bret Bielema called the redshirt sophomore into his office last week to award him a scholarship, Wagner admittedly and not surprising got emotional. All the hard work, all the long hours in the weight room and all the late nights studying the playbook had finally paid off.

He went from being a walk-on prospect to a scholarship potential starter in the matter of moments.

"I was so thankful that they had enough confidence and trust to offer me that," Wagner said. "They told me to come up and visit coach B in his office. I didn't really know what to expect. I went up there and I was just shocked.

"I'm just happy that they had enough trust and confidence."

In a press conference last week, Bielema made it clear that Wagner was emotional upon receipt of the scholarship. And in Bielema's eyes, that is one of the better feelings a coach can have simply because he's a former walk-on turned scholarship player himself.

In addition to awarding all his hard work, the scholarship gave Warner a chance to ease the burden on his parents who had been helping him pay his way through college up to that point.

"I couldn't wait to tell my parents because I knew they would be proud," Wagner said. "That was a big relief. It was awesome. They've been trying their best to pay tuition and stuff and it's been kind of hard.

"It was a great relief."

As if a scholarship offer last week wasn't a good enough start to the season, it seems the coaching staff is so high on Wagner that they are willing to put him on the same line on the depth chart as long-time starter Josh Oglesby.

During his weekly press conference Monday afternoon, Bielema made it clear that he was interested in seeing how this week of practice played out between Oglesby and Wagner in preparation for the San Jose State meeting Saturday morning before deciding who would get the start.

Considering Wagner admittedly got pushed around quite a bit when he initially moved to offensive line, the idea of him starting has really not crossed his mind simply because it's probably hard for even him to believe.

"It was a lot different than what I was used to," Wagner said of the first few days on the line. "It's a big switch to O-line, especially here with one of the best in the country."

Wagner, a soft-spoken talent, was adamant about remaining focused and tuned into the task at hand both on and off the field when approached by reporters following Tuesday's practice. He's worked as hard as he has for a reason and everything out of his control will take care of itself.

"That's not my job to worry about depth charts and stuff," Wagner said.

During Tuesday's practice, Wagner acknowledged that he received reps with the No. 1 offense. But he was also quick to point out that it didn't mean anything and that he is honed in on perfecting his craft more than he is worried about depth charts.

Still, for a player that walked-on at 260 pounds only to become a 320-plus pound scholarship offensive lineman, an opportunity to start is something that would bring everything full circle.

"It would be a big honor," Wagner said. "I've come a long way and to start on the Wisconsin offensive line would be great."



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