MADISON - When the 2010 season opened, the Wisconsin Badgers experimented with offensive lineman Ryan Groy at fullback. As a result, junior Bradie Ewing was forced into a role as more of a spectator as he saw his playing time limited.
Ewing didn't sit back and accept his role, however. Instead, his recent performance would suggest he used the coaching staff's decision to start Groy over him as motivation to improve.
"My guess is, if you asked him, he probably took it a little personal when No. 47 started lining up," said head coach Bret Bielema. "Bradie Ewing is an unbelievable kid. He is so strong mentally that I think when that situation came up, he knew what he needed to do to get on the field, and he's playing."
Ewing did not start a game this season until the Badgers' fifth of the season, at Michigan State. A week earlier against Austin Peay, the native of Richland Center, Wis., added his first two touchdowns of the season, one rushing and one receiving.
In four Big Ten games, Ewing has caught three passes - one each against Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa - for 18 yards. Against the Hawkeyes, he added his third touchdown of the season, which put Wisconsin up 10-6 at the time.
Even with Ewing's offensive production going up, Bielema remains, and understandably so, more impressed with his improvement in blocking.
"Two things that probably have cleaned it up for me, for him, that I've witnessed," Bielema said, "he's playing very mean, he's very aggressive in what he's doing, and he's probably learned to block on the move a lot better.
"When you're a running back or he's used to running the football, he hadn't really ever trained or been coached up on making blocks while you're moving, and that's a unique thing. It's a lot easier said than done, and he's gotten really good at that."
With his high school career featuring Ewing running the ball out of the backfield more than blocking for others, the move to fullback has been an adjustment. Looking at Ewing, you would never expect a mean streak out of the clean cut, 6-foot, 234-pound running back who looks more Boy Scout than football player.
As a result, developing that aggressiveness has taken some time as well for Ewing. Lately, especially with his performance against top defensive linemen from Ohio State and Iowa, a lack of aggressiveness is far from the case with Ewing.
"Bradie is, he's Mr. Wisconsin. I mean, he probably could be the Governor here at some point in his life," Bielema said. "He's smart, good looking, family is great people, but it took him awhile to learn how to become mean. I'm sure he wasn't - I know he has one sister, maybe two sisters - he probably wasn't wrestling with them in the backyard. I mean, he wasn't a guy that maybe grew up and had to be tough or aggressive.
"Since he's come here, it was last Thursday, I mean, a Thursday practice, and the defense had already gone in, and there's a fight, there's a scuffle. I'm like, 'What, who's doing that? Nobody fights on Thursdays.'
"Bradie was mixing it up, I think, with one of the linebackers. I don't know if it was [Michael] Trotter or [Josh] Harrison, but I was just chuckling to myself because it was a Thursday, we're in half-pack practice, and Bradie's getting in a fight."
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