By TOM LEA
MADISON – When Danny O’Brien officially declared his intentions of becoming the newest quarterback to grace the Wisconsin football program earlier this week he had yet to talk to former Badger quarterback Russell Wilson.
Because O’Brien will transfer from Maryland, an ACC school, and because he’s likely going to join the program and make an immediate impact at such an important position, he’s forever going to be linked with Wilson and the success he had during his lone season as the Badgers quarterback.
Anything and everything that O’Brien does or doesn’t do on the field of play during his two years of eligibility will be scrutinized or glorified that much more because he’s yet another transfer quarterback entering the program from the outside.
Wilson, knowing a bit about what it takes to transfer into a high-profile program while trying to manage expectations, recently shared some advice as O’Brien treks down a similar path.
“He can’t worry about what I did the year before or anything like that,” Wilson told Jim Rutledge and Gabe Neitzel on FM 100.5 ESPN’s Badger Hour program Thursday night. “He’s a real competitor. He’s got to be clutch on third down; he’s got to be clutch in the red zone and doing the drills. All that and just play with confidence.
“He’s got to be a great leader.”
Wilson led Wisconsin to an 11-2 regular season record, the inaugural Big Ten championship game and its second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. He threw for more than 3,100 yards in addition to his record-setting 33 touchdown passes.
He’s currently preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft.
O’Brien, meanwhile, continues taking classes at Maryland. He will finish his degree in May before heading to Madison in late May. He is aware that he has a similar story to Wilson and that the two will forever be linked.
“Obviously his success was something I followed a little bit being I played him when he was in the ACC,” O’Brien said. “I think the fact that he kind of showed that’s possible is big. At the same time I’m a different player and a little different situation.
“But that was obviously a positive factor.”
Wilson also shared some advice for UW’s young quarterbacks Joe Brennan and Joel Stave.
“I know Danny’s got a lot of skill and everything like that but the other quarterbacks can’t shy away,” Wilson said. “It’s about competing. No matter what level you’re at. You know, for me going into the NFL now, you know I know that somebody’s always going to try to take my job and I’m trying to take somebody else’s. That’s what it’s about, though.
“It’s also about winning and being a great teammate, being a great locker room guy and just doing the right things all the time.”
One of the numerous reasons former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson succeeded as much and as quickly as he did with the Badgers was because he never felt any pressure with anything related to football.
Though he was the spotlight transfer player of last offseason, a player both UW and Auburn desperately coveted with hopes of obtaining national glory, Wilson never fell victim to ridiculously high expectations or pressure.
O’Brien, now in a very similar situation to what Wilson went through a year ago, can learn from Wilson’s transition into the Badger program.
“I don’t think playing football is pressure,” Wilson said. “If you prepare the right
way you’re never nervous. That’s what I believe. You play with the confidence any quarterback on any team has got to play with. When you win a lot there’s people in the media that are there a lot more and they assume that there’s more pressure but that’s just the way of life.
“That’s the way of life at UW in terms of football. It’s all about winning and it’s all about excellence. That’s what you’ve got to strive for and coach Bret Bielema does a great job with that.”