By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Leading Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl: mission impossible?
Not if you are Darrell Bevell.
Bevell, the Badgers' 24-year-old junior quarterback, spent two years training on the streets of Cleveland before leading Wisconsin to the promised land of Pasadena.
A Mormon, Bevell was assigned to the Ohio city for his two-year mission, which is required by the Mormon church.
Trading in his playbook for a prayer book, Bevell learned much that he now applies on the football field.
"I went door-to-door all day every day telling people what I believe," Bevell said. "It's very strict Ä you can't watch movies, TV, listen to the radio, don't date, make sure you don't turn it into a vacation.
"It definitely helped my game, having the two years away from it. While I was on my mission I was a leader, and had to set a good example. I came back more dedicated and committed because I missed the game. But I learned how to lead people and be a leader."
As a sophomore, Bevell took Wisconsin to its winningest season in school history, 10-1-1, capping it off with a 21-16 Rose Bowl win over UCLA. In the process, he ranked third nationally in pass efficiency (with a school-record rating of 155.2) and became the first Badger quarterback to earn first-team all-Big Ten honors since 1962, passing for 2,390 yards and 19 touchdowns.
"We didn't set a goal at the beginning of last year to win the Rose Bowl or even play in the Rose Bowl," Bevell said. "We set our goal to be a top four team in the Big Ten and just to be better every week. As the season started to unfold, it became more evident that we'd have a shot at the Rose Bowl, and we started playing harder and stuck with our goal of improving every week and that really helped."
But the Bevell story goes deeper than a Rose Bowl win and a sudden burst of recognition. (The Badgers are currently 10th in the AP Poll after a 56-0 thrashing of Eastern Michigan).
Besides being a top-ranked passer for a national power and a student at a large university, Bevell is married. Balancing the three of those occupations makes for a busy day.
"You're trying to juggle these three things all at the same time and you can't make them all happy," Bevell said. "If you're spending time over at the stadium watching film, your wife says you're never home. If your always at home, your coach says he never sees you."
Bevell gained the attention of scouts nationwide during his high school days at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale by passing for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He threw for 500 yards and five touchdowns in his first two games as a senior before breaking a finger, which ended his season.
That injury scared schools away, and Bevell could only get a partial scholarship to Northern Arizona University.
At NAU, Bevell learned under the tutelage of offensive coaches Brad Childress, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, and Bill Callahan, the offensive line coach. Ironically, these men later moved into the same positions at Wisconsin and eventually convinced Bevell to come to Madison.
"I went to Cleveland for two years, and that pretty much ended my career to take two years off to go work there," Bevell said. "I was pretty much out of shape and out of condition. Then I ended up being recruited here. I had played for them (Childress and Callahan), and I think the coaches are why I'm here, because I already knew them."
With Bevell at the helm, Wisconsin stormed through the Big Ten, including a national coming-out party with their victory over Michigan. Going into the final week of the season, all that stood between Wisconsin and Pasadena was Michigan State Ä in Toyko.
The Badgers turned Japan into the land of the Rosy Sun, downing the Spartans and claiming a spot in their first Rose Bowl since 1963.
"I think that trip kind of helped us by getting us away," Bevell said. "It was a young team that hadn't been in a pressure situation before, so we got away from all the hoopla Ä you can't read the papers in Japanese Ä so we didn't have any distractions or people always patting us on the backs while we were there."
But last year is last year. With Michigan and Penn State mounting a serious challenge to Wisconsin's conference supremacy this season, Bevell wants to maintain the same style that brought the Badgers a title last year.
"Basically we're taking the same approach Ä what worked last year is what we want to stick to this year," Bevell said. "I'm one of the leaders on this team. We have a great offense and my job is to orchestrate the whole thing. My job is to stay calm and confident and get the ball where it needs to go."
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