Grafton Badger goes out with a win

All-American senior guard Beau Benzschawel ends his Wisconsin football career with a bittersweet bowl win, looks forward to NFL Combine, draft

THE BENZSCHAWEL FAMILY was able to get everyone together last week for the first time since July, due to the Wisconsin Badgers football schedule. They include (from left) Abbey (holding Phoebe the Yorkie), Luke, parents Scott and Barcie, Beau and J.P. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Beau Benzschawel ended this year’s football season with the Wisconsin Badgers just like he had every other – with a victory in a bowl game.

But this season was a little different. The fifth-year All-American senior right guard from the Town of Grafton played his final game as a Badger and may be playing in the NFL come fall.

“It was definitely bittersweet,” he said of taking off his Wisconsin jersey for the final time. “I guess I didn’t think about it in the moment. Now thinking back on it, it’s been a crazy ride.”

Initially headed to Syracuse after a decorated high school career at tight end, Benzschawel changed his mind when Wisconsin offered a scholarship. The Badgers moved him to guard – his specialized diet once reached 9,000 calories per day to bulk up – and he went on to become one of the best offensive linemen in the country, starting 49 straight games for the Badgers, among the most in school history.

“It has 100% shaped me into who I am today, just as far as maturity and mental toughness,” he said of Wisconsin football. “It definitely prepares you for the future.”

Benzschawel was a key piece to a Wisconsin team that won a school record 13 games last season and is undefeated in five bowl games. But the relationships he formed with his teammates, especially his fellow linemen, are among his biggest highlights.

“What I’m probably going to miss the most is the camaraderie with the guys,” he said.

Those friendships he made in the locker room and trenches and during brutal practices, he said, will last a lifetime.

Now, Benzschawel embarks on somewhat of an unknown. On Wednesday, he was scheduled to fly to Orange County, California, to sign with agent Joe Panos, a former Badgers’ star lineman who played seven years in the NFL, and train for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala. He was to be among at least a few friends. Fellow Badger guard Michael Deiter, tackle David Edwards and linebacker T.J. Edwards were to join Benzschawel.

The decision to choose an agent, Benzschawel said, was easy. Panos’ son George was a lineman at Wisconsin and one of Benzschawel’s roommates for four years.

After the Senior Bowl, it’s back to California to train for the NFL Combine Feb. 26 through March 4 in Indianapolis.

“It’s very exciting. There’s definitely some butterflies with it because you don’t know what to expect with the whole process,” Benzschawel said.

Benzschawel’s father Scott, who played nose guard for the Badgers in the 1980s, said some NFL teams have contacted Grafton High School for Beau’s transcripts. The NFL draft is April 25-27 in Nashville.

As far as Beau’s last game as a Badger, he went out on a high note, a 35-3 demolition of Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium in New York City. Benzschawel opened holes for the nation’s leading rusher Jonathan Taylor, who racked up 205 yards and a touchdown. The Badgers ran for more than 330 yards against one of the country’s highest-ranked defenses.

“Ultimately, we just wanted to be there more,” Benzschawel said. “We still had a bad taste in our mouth from the Minnesota game (37-15 loss). I’m glad on game day it showed.”

The Badgers’ offense, he said, knew the pressure that the Hurricanes’ defense was bringing. The Hurricanes knew the Badgers knew, and the Badgers knew the Hurricanes knew the Badgers knew, he said.

The highlight for Benzschawel was seeing his younger brother Luke, a junior tight end, catch a touchdown pass. Beau sprinted to the end zone to congratulate him.

“I can almost guarantee I was more excited (than Luke was),” he said, “until I saw the flag. I wasted all that energy running down there.”

The play was called back on a questionable chop block call in the Badgers’ only penalty of the game. Luke didn’t see the flag, what with the mass of humanity headed in his direction.

“He and Deiter were on me pretty quickly, even quicker than the wide receivers,” Luke said.

While Luke said he had a weird feeling that he may score in the bowl game, he didn’t figure it would be on that play.

“I did not think I would be that open. I was the fourth read,” he said.

Beau and Luke had been aware of several “lasts” that week: their last practice together, their last walkthrough. Luke said his older brother has served as a confidence booster for his play.

“If he can do it, I can,” he said.

Though teammates and brothers, the pair are not roommates. Beau lived with his fellow offensive linemen and Luke lived in a 25-room house of 17 football players all in the same grade. The house has six bathrooms.

“Girls couldn’t do it,” he said.

Their sister Abbey said it was sad that the bowl could be the last time Luke and Beau play together, but the experience was “amazing.”

Luke said quarterback Jack Coan, who’s from New York, and some of the other Badgers brought their baseball gloves and played catch in the bullpen. He remembers seeing the famous busts of New York Yankees in centerfield and that there were a lot more Miami fans in the stands.

“Not after halftime,” his father said.

Scott thanks the community of Grafton for the support and regular kind words he hears.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It takes a village to turn them into athletes.”

The big bowl victory aside, for Scott and his wife Barcie, it was just special to have the entire family together for a few days for the first time since football practices started in July. They haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving or Christmas on the holidays’ scheduled dates for five years.

“What’s exciting is they’re finally home,” Scott said.

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