In Sports

Brookfield Academy alumnus Fred Willis is now catching passes for the Wisconsin Badgers. (PHOTO: Brookfield Academy)

In Sports

From left, Brookfield Academy Director of College Counseling Sharon Koenings, Fred Willis, his mother Alicia Harwell and Badgers coach Bret Bielema. (PHOTO: Brookfield Academy)

In Sports

Fred Willis also won state championships in track while in high school. (PHOTO: Brookfield Academy)

Milwaukee Talks: Wisconsin Badgers receiver Fred Willis, Jr.

In just over two weeks, the University of Wisconsin Badgers will host their spring game at Camp Randall in Madison, giving fans their first look at a team that will be expected to not only contend for a Big Ten Conference championship, but a BCS National Championship berth.

Milwaukee sophomore Fred Willis, Jr. is hoping to play a bigger role on offense this season. As a freshman, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 198-pound Brookfield Academy alumnus played in five games but missed the last half of the season with a concussion.

The engineering major took a few minutes after practice on Thursday to speak to in this installment of Milwaukee Talks. Where are you at this year with your development and your outlook going into this season?

Fred Willis, Jr.: Our new assistant (wide receivers) coach Zach Azzanni is very strategic on the fundamentals of being a wide receiver, so as far as fundamentally I'm improving much better than last year. As far as playing time, I don't really worry about that. I just try to work, play hard and impress the coaches. After that, everything will just fall into place if I work hard.

OMC: Last year, before your debut, head coach Bret Bielema called you very "detail oriented." What did he mean by that?

FW: As far as being detailed, it's about taking notes in the film room. If you write over, you write it over, it becomes habit and individually you'll pick up something new about a concept or a route that you didn't know before. You're constantly thinking, you constantly improve and constantly getting better as far as the film room.

As far as on the field, you want to do exactly what the position coaches – coach Azzanni in my case – what they tell us to do. Even though we might not know why, they know more than us as far as having experience and having been coaching, so you just try to do what they tell you. After that you want to know why, you want know the concepts. So you take it step by step, learn slowly, and eventually you become better.

OMC: Talk about running back Montee Ball's decision to come back and the effect it had on the team?

FW: With Wisconsin's traditional style of running the ball – not to say our other backs aren't capable – but having someone with game time experience, the clutch experience, will give him another chance to get a little bit of limelight and also give some of the other backup backs time and someone to look up to as far as experience so they can get the knowledge that Montee has to pass it on and keep the train moving.

OMC: Do you have conference title and national title expectations?

FW: As far as that, we just take it day by day. We work hard, we do what we have to do to improve daily. If you improve daily, special things happen as far as winning games. Even then we take it game by game, take it day by day, do what Wisconsin does: run the ball, be confident and line it up and do our job. We don't look forward to Big Ten championships or national championships – we just come to work every day ready to play hard.

OMC: Clear this up – how fast are you? We know you run multiple state titles in track, but your high school football coach said he hand-times your 40 at 4.4. Then a report when you signed with Wisconsin said you ran a 4.6. Then Bielema said you ran a 4.3. What is it?

FW: (laughs) Well, we haven't done a lot of 40s lately. I've lost 10 pounds so I may be a little bit faster, but I would say sub-4.4, high 4.3. I'm not really sure.

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TosaJim | April 13, 2012 at 1:26 p.m. (report)

I wish him all the best...but after suffering a concussion that keeps you out for half a season sounds very serious. I'm not sure the risk is worth the rewards.

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