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October 12, 2010MADISON - When Bill Nagy was asked about the last time he wore an eligible number on the football field, he chuckled.
"I don't think ever," Nagy said. "You'd have to go back to my freshman year of high school when I was a running back. Other than that, I've been No. 76."
Well, up until the Big Ten opener at Michigan State that is.
Then the coaches decided the only way he was going to see the field was at tight end in a jumbo package meant to overpower opposing defenses in obvious running situations. See you around No. 76.
You've been traded for the greener pastures of No. 89.
"It means a lot to me," Nagy said in regards to playing tight end. "I just want to be out there and help the team anyway I can. Last year we had a lot of young guys that stepped up. They really developed Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Ricky Wagner.
"We've just got a lot of guys that are doing a real good job and coach Bob Bostad is just doing a real great job of developing everybody."
But when and more importantly, why, does one even think of putting a 320-pound offensive linemen in a position that's eligible to help move the ball, especially away from the goal line?
Bielema qualified it when he mentioned that some teams like to go five-wide in certain situations.
Wisconsin, with nine guys that could, and have started on the offensive line during their tenure at Wisconsin, might as well get that talent on the field.
So enter Bill Nagy, a former right guard that had to deal with a younger player rising to the occasion and passing him on the depth chart.
As a fifth-year senior, Nagy could have complained about the demotion after being a starter for each of the first four games of the season and off and on throughout his career. He could have looked back on how a moped injury, an accident that was beyond his control, affected the direction his career was headed.
He could have seen his attitude turn sour or selfish through all his trials and tribulations.
Instead, he decided it wasn't worth it to do that. Always a selfless player, Nagy just wants to be a part of a winning team. He wants to be on the field and help the offense pick up first downs and score touchdowns.
In short, he wants to play. Whether that be as a tight end, right guard or anywhere else, he just wants to contribute.
"If he had his druthers he would love to be the starting right guard," Bielema said. "I'm not oblivious to that. But I also felt because of what I've learned about Billy and what he's brought to the table, we gave him that role and that personnel grouping and he's just run with it.
"I think it's just another example of a selfless act on this football team by a senior that wants to do everything he can to help us win."
Originating from Ohio, Nagy is excited to be a part of one of the bigger games on the UW schedule and a part of something that has only happened eight previous times in school history.
When Ohio State comes to town, they will do so as the No. 1 team in the country. The No. 1 ranked team in the land has only come to Camp Randall Stadium eight previous times.
When it makes its ninth trip, Nagy will be on the field. And Ohio State surely wouldn't have seen anything like it will from that formation from any other team this season.
"There's nothing more I could ask for right now," Nagy said. "I've just got to prepare this week and do a good job."
In the two games since making his tight end debut, Nagy has been part of a personnel group that has performed at a high level. Against Michigan State, running backs John Clay and James White helped rack up 165 yards rushing against a Michigan State defense that just shut down Michigan's Denard Robinson this past weekend.
Then against Minnesota, Nagy was essential in helping White and Clay each topple the 100-yard mark.
"It's been very productive," Bielema said. "Even the Michigan State game that was probably our most productive personnel grouping."
Nagy, who shares living quarters with Scott Tolzien and John Moffitt, has really adhered to his new role.
Wearing the same number as current Houston Texans, and former Badger, tight end Garrett Graham, Nagy isn't shy about discussing his new role.
"I would love to put a wireless mic on him and hear him go home to Scotty," Bielema said following the win over the Gophers. "I know he's pleading for a toss in his direction. We've made jokes about No. 89 being a lot more productive in the air last year. I think he called Garrett and told him last week he'd be wearing No. 89 and Garrett didn't believe him.
"He verified it through three or four other people."
As impressive as he's been over the course of the early Big Ten season as the newly minted tight end, Nagy isn't above realizing things will get tougher against Ohio State. But in a sport where playing perfect is about as likely as having a 320-plus pound tight end, Nagy realizes he's in a special place and that the team just needs to play the way it's capable of doing.
Heck, if a former lineman is performing as well as he is at the tight end position, why couldn't the Badgers knock off the Buckeyes?
"Everybody just has to do their job," Nagy said. "Coach always preaches that you don't have to do anything out of the ordinary. You just have to do your job. It's just a matter of 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defense and special teams coming together and just doing their job and getting their assignment done.
"That will give us a chance."
And that's all Nagy wanted when he was passed on the depth chart. That being a chance to be a part of it all.