IRVING, Texas – A year after one Wisconsin player traveled to North Texas looking to meet lofty expectations, a whole group of Badgers is following suit.
AT&T Stadium is home to Cowboys center and former Badger Travis Frederick, and this weekend it'll also be home to his alma mater's basketball team, which is competing in the Final Four in North Texas.
"Yeah, that's exciting," Frederick said. "It's been so long since they've been in the Final Four. I know I saw pictures of State Street, wish I would have been back there for that. It looked crazy, everybody celebrating. Wisconsin's one of those schools that has such pride, and I mean every school has that, but I feel like Wisconsin's one of those that's on top, being a big party school and all that stuff, most of the students are really cheering for them."
It could be difficult at times for Frederick, who graduated early from Wisconsin with a degree in engineering, to have the time to attend basketball games at Wisconsin. But he, along with many other Badgers football players, would go to support their basketball team whenever possible.
"Just because of the timing of things and with my schooling schedule, it made it tough," Frederick said. "There's a little intermixing and intermingling. Some of those guys are pretty good friends."
Having the Badgers in Dallas and in the Final Four makes this an exciting time for Frederick, but given what's happened to him in the last year, it may be one of the more trivial moments.
Frederick was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in April 2013, became the first rookie to start every game at center for the Cowboys in franchise history and then got married this offseason. He said the marriage has to rank at the top on the list of importance, but it's remarkable to think back to everything that's happened to him in the last year alone.
"It sure has, it's been crazy," Frederick said. "You come to know nothing is the same. The whole year was a whirlwind."
It was impossible for Frederick to avoid hearing the criticism when the Cowboys moved back in the first round to select the center many hadn't heard of from Wisconsin with the 31st overall pick. But it didn't seem to bother Frederick, who would go on to make the 2013 Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team and help turn the offensive line into a strength of the team.
"I hear it all the time about where I was drafted," Frederick said. "All I could focus on is playing my best and showing people who I am as a person, and I think I've done a decent job." [embedded_ad]
But it's just the beginning of the road for Frederick.
He's already back in the Dallas area and working out with a horde of other Cowboys offensive linemen completely voluntarily to get in shape before the actual voluntary team workouts begin in a couple weeks. Frederick said it helps with camaraderie considerably to get teammates together and workout as a group.
After a year of playing and starting, Frederick has a better idea on what he needs to touch up on before the season to prepare himself.
He's looking at tape to help guide that training, studying where he's efficient and the areas he needs to work on. The offseason's always about working on strength, conditioning and speed, but players have to tailor those workouts to what they need most. Wisconsin linemen are known for being maulers, and a lot of Frederick's focus will be on perfecting his speed and agility.
Frederick said he'll have a better idea of what's going on this year, and it helps that he won't need to worry about the craziness that ensues from the draft and being a first-round pick.
In the meantime, before the season begins, he'll continue to work out, prepare himself and enjoy the fact that his Badgers made it to North Texas for the Final Four. "There was a big thing when they came back from the Elite 8, there was a big reception for them there at the Kohl Center and everybody lining the streets when they were leaving to come down here," he said. "It's pretty cool. I'm a proud alumni."