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Badgering Scott Tolzien ’11

Catching up with Scott Tolzien, the quarterback who traded in his red and white for the green and gold.

11 Questions with an Alumnus on the Move

(expanded from the Fall 2014 edition of Badger Insider)

Growing up in Illinois, a young Scott Tolzien did the unthinkable: one Halloween he went trick-or-treating dressed as a Green Bay Packers player. Then he managed another almost unthinkable feat: during the 2013 NFL season Tolzien became the first former Badgers quarterback to start for the Green Bay Packers since Randy Wright in 1987. While his two starts didn’t result in wins, Tolzien’s poise and strong arm impressed his coaches, allowing him to continue living his NFL dream.

What’s your favorite memory from the UW?

I’d have to go back to 2010. We were playing a night game against Ohio State. They were the top-ranked team in the country. ESPN’s College Game Day was on campus. And, I think the highlight for everyone was when we scored a touchdown on the opening kickoff. I remember being on the sidelines and hearing the crowd get louder and louder and just taking a mental picture of that atmosphere. It was electric that night.

How did the UW prepare you for life after school?

First of all, it’s an awesome academic institution. So I think anyone who walks away with a degree from the University of Wisconsin has a nice feather in their cap. Also, socially it was a great experience. I made a bunch of friends that I hope I’ll be close with for the rest of my life.

Do you follow the Badgers during the season?

Yeah, I try to watch whenever I can. It’s easier now that I’m in Wisconsin again. But we have meetings on Saturday’s. So, whenever we’re not meeting, or I’m not working, I’m watching them.

How does the atmosphere at Lambeau Field compare to Camp Randall?

I’d say there are more similarities than differences. Really, I think the only difference is you don’t have a band and a student section at Lambeau. Other than that, I’ve been very lucky to play in front of two of the best fan bases in the country.

What’s the best piece of advice a coach ever gave you?

The best piece of advice as a quarterback is to have confidence in yourself. That’s where everything starts. It’s kind of the foundation. Then, along with confidence you have to prepare. You can’t expect to play good in games if you’re not paying attention in meetings and trying to maximize each day of practice.

What was the bigger rush: playing in the Rose Bowl or starting your first NFL game?

It’s hard to pick one. Growing up, I remember distinctly going over to my grandma’s house every New Year’s Day to watch the Rose Bowl and thinking it was the most beautiful atmosphere in sports … especially when the sun was setting over the mountains. But I also grew up rooting for the Packers and watching Brett Favre. So, to be on Lambeau Field and play in a game was pretty special, too.

Are you aware that you are the first UW quarterback to start for the Packers since Randy Wright in 1987? What does that mean to you?

I had no idea! I’m actually from Illinois, and grew up surrounded by (Chicago) Bears fans and I was a Packers fan. So I was kind of a lone soldier in that regard. My dream was to play for the Packers. So to be living that reality, that’s pretty cool. In the same regard, you have to prove yourself every day in this business. So I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given but I still have to prove myself every day.

What’s the biggest difference from college to the pro game?

A lot of people would say the speed of the game, but for me it’s the mental side of it. Maybe that’s just my quarterback perspective, but you really have to be prepared for the mental complexities of the game because of all the changes happening every week. We’re constantly tweaking things, switching game plans and installing new stuff.

The final scores may have been disappointing, but what positives did you take from your first opportunities to start in the NFL?

It was a pretty crazy experience last year: arriving in Green Bay at the beginning of the season, then being on the practice squad, and then actually playing over three quarters of a game the first week I was activated. So the bullets were flying. But like anything in life, that’s when you grow the most. It was a great learning experience. Obviously there are things I wish I would’ve done differently but that’s part of the experience. Now I’m just trying to learn from last year and get better every day.

You’ve already done a Lambeau Leap, but during your playing days at Wisconsin did you get to take part in any Badger football traditions such as the Fifth Quarter or Jump Around?

The big one was after we beat Minnesota my senior year. I got a hold of that axe and got to “chop down” the goal post as the players like to do when you win that game.

What would you be doing now if you weren’t playing football?

I’d probably be coaching — just not sure at what level. Because from youth football to high school to college and even at the pro level, my coaches were some of the best mentors I’ve had in my life. And I’d like to reciprocate that, and pass down some of that knowledge to younger players.

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