Varsity is the free Official Online Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.
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W LUCAS AT LARGE BY MIKE LUCAS // UWBADGERS.COM Kelly proud to carry on memory, tradition hen Wisconsin linebacker Brendan Kelly saw nose guard Beau Allen carrying the American flag and leading the team on to the field before the opening kickoff against UMass, he knew what he had to do. "I said, 'I'm getting that flag,"' related Kelly, who wound up with the Stars and Stripes before the Tennessee Tech game at Camp Randall. "It means a lot to me, it's an honor and something I take a lot of pride in." It has become one of the new traditions of the Gary Andersen era. Not only does a flag-carrying player lead the Badgers out of the tunnel, but the first-year head coach follows the team on to the field. It's in keeping with Andersen's promise to "put the players first." On the chartered flight to Phoenix, the players filled the seats in first class, while the coaches flew coach, including Andersen. Kelly doesn't take such things lightly. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his brother's initials (VK) on his forearm. His patriotism is genuine. Vincent Kelly, 24, is training to become a Navy SEAL. "He got me into football and he has steered me in the right direction my whole life," Brendan Kelly said. "We've always kind of motivated each other ― trying to 'one-up' each other." The Brothers Kelly are from Eden Prairie, Minn. Both played football at Academy of Holy Angels. Vincent Kelly started out at Minnesota State before transferring to Arizona State, where he got his degree. 12 // VARSITY September 19, 2013 "He was able to watch the game Saturday and he was cheering for the Badgers," said Brendan Kelly. "Like everyone else, he would have loved for us to have a chance to kick that field goal." Along with Tyler Dippel, Brian Wozniak and James White, Brendan Kelly was one of four Wisconsin captains for the Arizona State game. During the coin toss, Kelly held a No. 19 jersey. Both schools had agreed to honor the memory of the 19 firefighters killed July 1 just northwest of Phoenix. All 19 were members of the Prescott Fire Department's Granite Mountain Hot Shots. "We thought it was a good representation, a way to show our respect," said Kelly, a rare sixth-year senior who made his UW debut in 2008. "It was definitely something I was proud of. "I aspire to be a future firefighter. I've just always wanted to be one since I was a little kid. I thought it would be a good way to give back to my community." After Tuesday's practice, Kelly was seen giving back to one of his freshman teammates, Leon Jacobs. Kelly spent 30 minutes going over footwork and basic fundamentals like how to step and strike. "There's a lot that I can help him with at the defensive end/outside linebacker position," Kelly said, "and I thought I'd get started teaching him the ways. He's got a lot of raw talent. "Leon is one of the most mature people in the freshman class. He's a guy who gets it, and he's willing to work. If the young guys want to learn, I'll take time with them." What message has Kelly been trying to send to Jacobs? "I want him to always be thinking about the game," he said. "I want him always trying to get better at his craft every single day." The irony for Kelly is that he's also in the learning mode ― he's learning how to play as a stand-up outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense after five years as a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment. "One of the things I always try to do is make my weaknesses my strengths," said the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Kelly. "Obviously, I have a natural weakness in being a big guy in (pass) coverage. "It's something that I work on with the coaches before and after practice. It's has come a long way and it's going to continue to develop over the season. I'm learning on the fly with a new position. "They're going to get me a couple of times, but I'm going to try and get them, too." Starting with Saturday's Big Ten opener against Purdue, Kelly and his UW teammates are looking to get back on track by showing their resiliency after the Debacle in the Desert. "When people go through adversity, there's only two ways to respond," Kelly said. "You either bow up, or you back down. "A lot of our guys have a chip on their shoulder and they'll be playing with it."