IRVING, Texas – An in-state rivalry game will have a very specific out-of-state vibe.
The school and state of Wisconsin will be heavily represented this weekend, with former Badgers Travis Frederick and Nick Hayden on the Cowboys and former Badgers J.J. Watt and Garrett Graham on the Texans.
With so many other aspects to worry about, Frederick's trying not to concern himself with that part of it, but he does recognize how well-represented his alma mater will be.
"What's great about Wisconsin and being a Wisconsin alum is almost every team in the NFL, there's somebody who played at Wisconsin or has some sort of Wisconsin connection," Frederick said. "It's always great when you get to play against a former teammate or an alum – a guy that you looked up to growing up. So that's a lot of fun, dealing with those guys and talking to them after the game."
The Wisconsin connections go even deeper. Quarterback Tony Romo and tackle Doug Free both grew up there. But the Wisconsin matchup most will have their eyes on is Watt and the defensive line versus Frederick and the offensive line.
With Watt at defensive end and Frederick at center, it's unlikely they'll see a lot of each other.
But Watt's got the ability to move across the line, so it's possible Frederick has to deal with the elite defender occasionally. Frederick, who played with Watt at Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010 during Watt's best college seasons, said that's something the defensive lineman's been able to do since their days together at Wisconsin.
Frederick said Watt's dedicated his life to football and is always building new things into his game. He said it's no surprise to him why Watt's performing the way he is given his motor, work ethic and focus on football, and the respect is mutual.
"I obviously played with him at Wisconsin a bit – extremely strong guy, very smart guy," Watt said. "He's always going to know what to do and he's going to have the ability to do it because of how strong he is. He's a very good football player."
But both players know the game's about more than just them.
"He's a tremendous player, like I said, but they also have a lot of good players in the linebacking corps," Frederick said. "Jared Crick on the other end is a good player, as well – another Big Ten guy. The guys in the middle are big run stoppers, so it's not just one guy. We're not playing the Houston J.J. Watts, we're playing the Houston Texans, and it's going to be a good challenge for us." [embedded_ad]
Even if it's not the case on Sunday, Frederick added that he wishes Watt the best in his career. Given their history together, it's no shock to Frederick what Watt, who already has two touchdowns this year, has accomplished as an NFL player.
"That isn't surprising to me, but it's great to see," Frederick said. "As a fellow Wisconsin player, you want all the success that you can for your fellow teammates and brothers."