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September 9, 2010MADISON - Kyle Wojta has a bit of a prankster side to him.
If you don't believe that, just ask his parents what the junior long snapper did when head coach Bret Bielema awarded him a scholarship last week.
"I said I separated my shoulder and I wasn't going to Vegas," Wojta said when asked how his initial call to his parents went.
Wojta's parents, who had already planned their trip and booked their flights to the desert oasis, didn't know what to think.
"My dad was like, 'Are you serious," Wojta said. "I was like, 'yeah, I'm serious.' I could hear my mom in the background and she was like, 'Oh, he's serious. He's hurt.' She started to get upset.
"So I said, 'No, I'm just joking. That's a little specialist humor."
So when Wojta followed that ploy by saying he was awarded a scholarship, it's understandable why his parents would be a little tentative to believe him, especially after he pulled the old 'boy who cried wolf' routine immediately before it.
"My dad said, 'No, you aren't serious,' Wojta said. "But they were obviously thrilled. Financially, it's just a huge help and a great thing to have."
Wojta, a Madison native, almost left his hometown for the greener pastures of division two football before winding up at UW. Having minimal interest from division one schools out of high school, Wojta was receiving serious interest from schools such as Augustana (MN) and several of the smaller Wisconsin state schools.
With multi-position versatility, Wojta played everything from tight end to wide receiver and even played a little bit of quarterback here and there for his Madison La Follette high school squad.
It wasn't until a tape of Wojta snapping the ball on punts fell into the hands of offensive line coach Bob Bostad that he started receiving any interest from the hometown Badgers.
So for Wojta, a lifelong Badger fan, even being on the roster at UW when it looked as though that outlook was bleak, and even more so a scholarship player, is really a dream come true.
"Just being a Badger fan my entire life, I was just happy to be part of the team," Wojta said. "If I got an offer to play here no matter what position it was I was going to come here no matter what, even if it was a walk-on. I guess I never really thought about a scholarship. Obviously it's in the back of your mind. Eventually I'd like to play and get a scholarship.
"I was just happy getting on the team. It's just a dream of mine."
While Wojta's dream has come true, it's been a quiet one in the sense that come Saturday's not many people even notice his time on the field. And if they do, chances are it's usually for all the wrong reasons such as a high snap or miscue along those lines.
"I made a few tackles last year," Wojta said. "That's always a good way to get people to know your name. But for the most part, you don't want them to know your name."
Not many people understand what goes into the long snapper position. On the surface, it looks like it's the most serviceable position for the common fan. But spend five minutes with Wojta and it becomes clear that though they aren't practicing every rep like most of the position players they still get their work done in their individual ways.
"It's just another day at the office," Wojta said. "That's what I always say. You just come in and all the specialists go out 30 minutes before practice to start warming up. We have a specialist period before practice where we punt and the returners are out there.
"Say we have a 24-period practice we'll probably have one or two punt periods and a field goal period. The rest of the time it's a lot of coming into the McClain center and doing stuff in here and a lot of observing practice."
So when you only get a few snaps a game, particularly in the early going of the season when UW has games such as it did last week at UNLV, how do you stay fresh and focused at such an important position for the punt game if you're only called on two or three times a game.
"I think in the game is actually when I'm the most focused," Wojta said. "I'm the most confident when I'm in the game because at that point you're on the field and you're in the moment. You're thinking in your head that you've done this thousands and thousands, if not tens of thousands of times.
"At that point that's when you're most focused to get the job done."
Obviously that focus on the field and his preparation off it helped get him noticed by his head coach who eventually deemed him worthy of a scholarship. And for Wojta, the acknowledgement and scholarship is something he will relish for quite a long time.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to get one," Wojta said. "I knew if I kept doing my business that maybe I'd earn a scholarship eventually. They had one for me and it's just great to get one for financial reasons.
"But the main thing for me is just the fact that the hard work has paid off and that they have the faith in me that I can get the job done for the next couple years.