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Nugent to play D1 at Southern Miss


July 13, 2011 | 08:02 AM
Pell Lake — Hard work.

A trait that can't be overlooked in life, no matter if it's in the office or on the playing field.

More than anything, Badger graduate Brad Nugent exemplifies this attribute. Ever since his junior year, the 18-year-old former center on Badger's football squad knew he wanted to play college football.

And he put in the extra hours. Brad worked himself to the bone, doing extra workouts with his dad, a former college football player. Brad even went as far as pushing his truck up the Lake Geneva Middle School parking lot to improve his strength and tossing around tractor tires like they were a sack of feathers.

Brad will now reap what he has sewn.

That's because the football standout, who started all 23 Badger football games at center in his junior and senior seasons, will take his talents to Division 1 Southern Mississippi University in the fall.

The alma mater of football legend Brett Favre, Southern Miss hooked Brad in during his April visit with good old-fashioned southern hospitality and tales of an electric atmosphere.

Badger football head coach Matt Hensler isn't surprised Brad is playing D1 college football.

"He has worked his tail off," Hensler said of Nugent. "He's wanted to play big time ball for a long time. He deserves all his success."

The road won't be easy at Southern Miss. Brad comes in as a preferred walk-on and must earn a scholarship. But with a solid head on his shoulders, an undeniable work ethic and a passion for football, Brad is well on his way.

The Regional News sat down with Brad Friday to discuss his future at Southern Miss along with his experience at Badger and his love of superhero movies.

RN: What is a preferred walk-on?

BN: They want me on the team, but they don't have a scholarship for me right now. When I applied, I did it on the last possible day. They called in February and said they saw film of me and told me they wanted me down there. We were talking back and forth, and I was still looking at other schools.

RN: What other schools did you consider?

BN: I was looking at Culver Stockton, Miss. (Division 2) and Ripon (D3). Culver Stockton is where my grandparents went. They wanted to give me a three-quarter ride. Also, Graceland, Iowa, offered me a scholarship. I was just waiting to see how much of a scholarship I could get. I was leaning on Ripon. But then Southern Miss called a second time. And he was like, "Why haven't you been keeping in touch? Here's the deal: We want you, and we want you to come down and visit."

RN: How did you feel when you got that second call saying they were interested?

BN: I was excited, but I wasn't sure what to do. I was thinking they're not giving me a scholarship right now, and Ripon is only two hours away. That night I was talking to my grandpa on Skype. He was like, "Brad, what's the worst thing that could happen if you take the visit. You'll be 15 hours away, but you'll have family that will be down there as fast as they can if something happens." He was right.

RN: So you visited in April. How did that go?

BN: They had their spring game. It was really cool. The facility was amazing. It's a school of about 16,000. Football is serious down there. There were other recruits there, too, and there were all these people welcoming us and helping us.

They told me a story of Aaron Rodgers (California) playing down there about five or six years ago. California won, but Rodgers said it was the loudest stadium he had ever been in. Rodgers lost his voice it was such a loud atmosphere.

RN: What position will you play?

BN: I will play center. I'm at 240 pounds right now. Freshman and sophomore year at Badger, I played guard. I moved over to center junior and senior years, where I started all 24 varsity games. My dad was a center. I hated center at first as a sophomore, but when varsity came around, I loved it. Centers are usually a bit smaller and shorter, so it worked out great for me.

RN: How big is this? What does it mean to you?

BN: It means a lot. I knew I wanted to play college football after my junior season. In my senior year, I was lifting weights and doing workouts with my dad. He played at Winona. He's been a huge inspiration. He and I would do extra agility drills where I was flipping tires, and I would actually push my truck up the hill in the Lake Geneva Middle School parking lot. It was really hard. My brother would sit in the driver's seat and turn the wheel. I would sprint down the hill, then push the truck back up the hill right after.

RN: Are you excited to play at the same college as Brett Favre?

BN: Favre comes down to practices sometimes during the season as well as the local high school. If I meet him, I don't even know what I would do.

He comes down two or three times, because it's in his hometown of Hattiesburg. We saw his house from a distance when we were down there and also his agent's office.

RN: How has your wrestling background helped you?

BN: I was in the best shape of my life in wrestling. During football, we would do our tough workouts and people were dying, and I was fine. It helps with blocking, leverage and being smart. Wrestling also helped a lot with run blocking. The Southern Miss coaches liked that I was a wrestler.

RN: Do you come from an athletic family?

BN: There are five of us. I have an older brother and triplets (two boys, one girl) who will be sophomores. My older brother played football and wrestled at Badger. My dad played football, basketball and baseball, and my mom was really good at volleyball. My grandpa loves baseball, too, and he taught me to bat left-handed.

RN: How did you get your start in football?

BN: I was in the fourth grade, and dad wanted us to play football. We played in Racine youth sports. Freshman year, when I came to Badger, kids who didn't know me thought I wasn't going to start. And I was like, "We'll see about that." It gave me extra drive.

RN: Why did football stand out for you?

BN: I just love the game. After sophomore year, when I heard I was bumped up to varsity. I got to see the different level of competition, and I loved it. I didn't start watching NFL until sophomore year. Now I'm a huge Packer fan.

I love playing for the guy next to me. Everybody has each other's back. When you scored, the whole team got jacked. I love that part, and hitting people is always fun.

RN: How did playing at Badger help you?

BN: Badger is a great school athletically and academically. We're privileged. We had like 20 football coaches, and not many teams have that. The coaches worked with you and made sure you lifted. The wrestling coaches (Shane Koehl and Mike Reuss) pushed me and gave me a lot of discipline. They helped me become mentally strong.

Also, baseball helped me with hand-eye coordination, and I enjoyed bonding with the guys like Max Fanning and Mike McBride. In football, Coach Jeff Krause always pushed me and made me strive to be a leader. If I screwed up, the coaches would make an example of me.

They make you want to be the best player you can be.

RN: Do you know what you want to major in at Southern Miss?

BN: Right now, I put my major as secondary education with an emphasis on English. I may want to switch that to elementary education. For my senior project, I went to Star Center and did READS, where little kids read to me and I would take tests with me. I did that for two years, and I really loved it. I was thinking maybe that's right for me. I was really good with the kids, it was fun and guys can get jobs fast in elementary education.

RN: What will you miss most about Badger?

BN: My teammates like T.J. Bakken, Fanning, Phillip Morris, Dylan Peter, Mike Ezelle, John Leibforth, all those guys. Our senior class was really close. After wrestling tournaments, we would go to Buffalo Wild Wings in Kenosha. Then we would come back for a sleepover. For football, we would have pasta nights. We would talk and hang out then go to soccer games and support our friends.

RN: How were your grades at Badger, and how did you balance school and sports?

BN: I got a 3.6 grade-point average a couple years and around a 3.3 cumulative. School is always first. I knew if I wanted to play sports, I had to have grades. I did all my homework, but sometimes studying for tests was tough. After practices, I would eat dinner then go in my room and do my homework. I would make sure to get to bed by 10 p.m., and sometimes I would wake up early to finish my work if I needed to. Turning in your homework is the biggest thing. You should be getting a C in a class if you turn in all your work. I hung out a lot still, and I never went to drinking parties or anything. I set goals for myself, and I knew that was never going to help me. I surrounded myself with the right crowd, too.

RN: What are you up to this summer?

BN: I'm working out a lot and getting into good condition. I usually wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get to the 6 a.m. Badger lift. I'll wait until they get done and do mine. Southern Miss gave me a workout program which I do six days a week. On Wednesdays, I'll flip tires or work on agility. I've been trying to eat healthy food. I need to cut down on drinking pop. If we have soda, it will be gone because I like it so much. Other than that, I like going to the movies. I like the superhero stuff. I've seen Green Lantern, Transformers and Thor this summer.

RN: What are your goals for when you get to Southern Miss?

BN: My goal is to impress the coaches and get a scholarship in my first year. Hopefully, by my third year, I'll be starting. I definitely have a goal to get a degree. That's why you go to school. And there's always a chance to make the NFL. You never know.

RN: Where do you want to be in 10 years?

BN: I want to come back to Wisconsin, teach and have a family and all that good stuff. My dad told me I can't let any girls keep me down in Mississippi. I'd like to teach in Lake Geneva and maybe coach.

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