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They are affectionately known as the "Big Uglies" by coach Bret Bielema, but the members of the Wisconsin offensive line are perhaps the most well known, respected and celebrated of any team throughout college football. Peter Konz, a 31-game starter at center for the Badgers, recently took time to talk about the linemen tradition at Wisconsin, proposing to his now-fiancÃ© in the kitchen and hailing from a town known for producing sewer caps.
Peter Konz on...
...his jovial reputation: I try to make everything lighter, because that's when I feel most comfortable. I have a whole Midwestern-hospitality thing going. I like to make everyone comfortable, which makes me relax and lets me connect with people. I'm just a natural entertainer. Offensive linemen are usually light-hearted, happy people. A lot of people say it goes back to childhood obesity (laughs). It makes you form this defensive mechanism using comedy and laughter. We're jolly.
Against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, I got this guy in my grip and I'm just driving him back. After the play ends, he gets up under my facemask and starts giving me stern eyes. I don't like to play those games and waste energy, so after a few seconds of me staring back, I just smile and go, âHi!â We both started busting out laughing. It was such a unique moment. All of the sudden the Rose Bowl went from this intense battle to just a game like I used to play in my back yard.
...his hometown of Neenah, Wisconsin: I think it means running water. There are just rivers and lakes all around. We're known for making paper products and sewer caps (laughs).This is so bad because it sounds like the worst place in the world. It's really nice, though. I just love driving by the water, then you can drive west and be in cornfields. It brings back a lot of memories from my childhood - just driving country roads and listening to music with nothing to do.
...using the band "Journey" to propose: We met right before my junior year while playing volleyball at a bar right across the street from the stadium. I've never been a big drinker, and I never wanted to meet a girl in a bar, but it still worked. I had a ring and I wanted to propose at her house where she grew up, but the ring didn't get back to me in time.
Right before I left for the Rose Bowl, I came home from practice and she was eating Chex Mix in the kitchen. I turned on the iPod because we'll dance in the kitchen just for fun and put Journey's âFaithfullyâ on, which is our song. I got down on one knee and she just started crying. I even had my Journey t-shirt on. We did it on our way, not a scavenger hunt or on the bottom of a brownie at a restaurant or something.
...converting from DL to OL as a freshman at Wisconsin: I had been playing defensive tackle for about a week and Coach Bielema called me into his office and asked if I wanted to play on the offensive line. I told him that I'll play wherever as long as I can get on the field. I was a Badgers fan more than a Packers fan growing up, so I'd play wherever. The transition was horrible, though. I was crying - I'll admit it - to my mom over the phone. I didn't know the playbook, I was competing for a spot and I'm getting yelled at. My whole freshman year was tough.
In Spring Ball, it clicked. I just had this great drive to be better because I didn't want to be the one who screwed up. That taught me a lesson. If you stick it out and keep working, things will go your way. It was part of my transition to become a man.
...the Wisconsin OL tradition: It's fun. You're motivated to live up to it. A lot of places don't put their linemen on a raised platform or however you want to call it, but Wisconsin has always been proud of their linemen. I've never heard other linemen say they were jealous of the media attention we got, but there's a respect for how we do things. You have to be an offensive lineman to understand. It might be boring to watch, but it's a very technical thing and can be respected if you know what you're looking at.
We just have big guys. Maybe it's the German blood and a healthy diet of cheese and brats? I don't know what it is. We're just a meat-and-potatoes kind of place. Our starting linemen for the Rose Bowl were all from Wisconsin and the first backup was from Wisconsin. It's a special thing, because it's our state's team.
...his letter to fans explaining his decision to leave school early: (See the letter here).A few people, who I didn't know, emailed me about not graduating and setting a bad example. I realize that I had a responsibility to the kids to tell them that I'm not dropping out and I'm getting my degree in the spring. My mom actually said I should write a letter to everyone. She was the first person to say anything. I felt like I was being attacked from people who didn't know me, so I wanted to explain my side and thank as many people as I could in my letter.
It takes a village to raise a kid. It takes at least five villages to raise a lineman (laughs). I couldn't just leave and not show some gratitude to everyone who have helped me. I don't know if anyone read it, but I hope they did because then they know I did it for all of the right reasons.