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June 13, 2011Chris Maragos, like most former collegiate athletes turned professionals, enjoys keeping tabs on the sport he devoted so much time to throughout his amateur years. When a team that he played against a number of times throughout his career winds up falling into severe trouble with the NCAA it's only natural that he would take notice and form an opinion regarding the matter.
"It's really unfortunate," Maragos told FM 100.5 ESPN (WTLX) during it's Badger Hour program late last week. "But as I've always heard it said you always reap what you sow. That's why I'm so proud and blessed to be a part of the UW tradition. They really do things the right way."
Including Nick Toon's public comments relating to the very interesting recruitment of former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson over the weekend, Wisconsin hasn't as much sniffed a serious off-field allegation since the 'Shoebox Scandal' of the early 2000's.
Toon's incident, much like an incident that arose when a few assistant coaches had contact with a recruit during a dead period after the 2009 season, is considered minor and shouldn't have an impact on Wilson's eligibility or opportunity to potentially commit to play for Bret Bielema and his Badgers.
Having self-reported that dead period contact with a recruit and knowing a similar self-report is upcoming for the Toon situation, UW will likely not have any problems that will linger into the upcoming season.
And they will certainly not have any sort of issues arise from it that would even land in the same ballpark as what's going on over in Columbus.
"I can stand before you guys and tell you that coach (Barry) Alvarez and his staff in the UW athletic department and just within the university do things the right way," Maragos said. "I've never seen anything shady go on. There is something to be said for that. That's why there is quality football and quality people within the program and that's why you see a lot of successes.
"It's really unfortunate (in regards to Ohio State) but that's just the way things are and those are the decisions people make."
When Bielema unveils his new recruiting class each and every February one of the more customary themes to stem from the presser is the fact that the coaching staff targets and recruits "quality people." They feel that if a player is dedicated to his teammates and dedicated to the program in and of itself it will lead to good things in the future.
That's a sentiment that hits home with former players as much as it does for a player getting ready to make a college decision.
"I think coach Bielema has done a great job with that," Maragos said. "I think he understands the type of athlete that he wants and I think that they really understand that, yeah, you need athleticism to win, but you need all 11 guys on the same page at any given time. You need accountability. You need guys with character and integrity to know that when it's in the fourth quarter and the final drive of the game that everybody is going to bear down.
"The biggest thing that I always say is if you're going to go down fighting you know you're going to at least go down fighting with guys that are going to do it to the end. They're going to scrape and claw with everything they've got and not give it up easily.
"That's what they've surrounded themselves with."
Maragos finished his Badger career as part of a 10-3 team that knocked off a top-15 ranked Miami squad in the Champs Sports Bowl. He, like many of his teammates, found his way into playing time simply through hard work. He actually began his career at UW as a walk-on, but by the end of it he played an instrumental role as a scholarship player and team captain.
Now he's in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
When the 2010 NFL Draft came to a conclusion, Maragos was one of several players that didn't get the luxury of hearing their name called. But, as so many players have proven capable of in the past, Maragos fought his way into a camp as an undrafted free agent.
After a couple of stints on the 49ers practice squad, Maragos eventually earned the call up to play in an actual NFL game and he ran with it. Now, having finished the 2010 season on the 49ers active roster, Maragos has to deal with an ongoing lockout that has kept everything from a business and playing standpoint on hold for longer than 90 days.
For Maragos, a guy who has handled each and every hurdle throughout his career without fail, it's a time for him to continue honing his skills.
"You can look at it a couple ways," Maragos said. "You can look at it and say that it kind of limits you and kind of look at it in a negative viewpoint. I look at it with the point that it gives me an opportunity to kind of perfect my craft. The best part about it is that I know I'm working hard. I'm banking on the fact that there are going to be other guys on other teams that aren't working hard. That's really what's going to give us the edge.
"I'm making sure I'm handling my business right now while other guys might be cutting corners or being lazy. This is kind of where I've made my money in my career where I continue to make my leaps and continue to move forward."
While the suits and big wigs of the NFL continue to try and hammer out a plan, Maragos has been focused on staying fit at NX Level fitness in Waukesha with former Badgers J.J. Watt, Brian Calhoun and others. He remains confident a deal will fall into place sometime sooner rather than later.
"I'm pretty optimistic that there is going to be football next year," Maragos said. "Just from some things I heard I think things are going pretty well. You just never know if talks with the new CBA are going to break down or how it looks. As of late it seems like things are really encouraging. I think we could have something within the next few weeks and maybe something to get things kicked off the beginning or middle of July hopefully."
With a bit of down time this summer - especially considering the lack of team organized activities - Maragos has decided to give back to the community close to where it all started for him. So, come early July, Maragos will be hosting the first ever Chris Maragos Skills Camp in Kenosha as a way to give kids an opportunity to take part in something that will be nothing but beneficial to them both in regards to football and life in general.
"Just me being a walk-on my whole career and having to take kind of a hard road, I just really want to give back to the kids around this area," Maragos said. "I really just want to give them some kind of blueprint for them to follow and maybe just take a different path that I had to go. Brian Calhoun is coming back. DeAndre Levy, J.J. Watt, myself, a couple guys who played at North Dakota, Taylor Mays, a three-time All-American that plays with me out at the 49ers, we're all coming back for it.
"We think it's going to be a great event for the kids and really just think it's going to be fun to teach these kids a little nugget of what we've got."
Former Badger turned Kansas Jayhawk Brad Thorson is also expected to take part in the camp, set for July 9th and 10th. There is a possibility that former Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien and former safety Jim Leonhard may take part in the camp as well.
"We kind of just figured this would be something we could do and just kind of give back," Maragos said. "The cool part is that Brian, myself, Dre and J.J. are all from the Southeastern part of the state. I really think that it's really going to be a great thing to give back to the kids from the area we're from."
More Chris Maragos Skills Camp 2011 information can be found on www.chrismaragos.com.
Maragos on UW's recruitment of Russell Wilson:
"You don't see coach Bielema recruiting junior college guys and bringing them in for two years or a situation like this where the guys is one or done (often). I think you've got to look at the type of person that this guy is. I think he fits the mold that everything Wisconsin is about. I think that's probably why they're after him. I'm sure that if he wasn't everything that fits their mold they wouldn't be after him. Everything I've heard about Wilson are all great things. He's a guy that has really great character. It will be really interesting to see how this thing kind of pans out."