#2 Jonathan Casillas, New Brunswick, New Jersey
In 1997 Barry Alvarez took the Badgers down to Florida for a match-up with Georgia. The Bulldogs embarrassed Barry’s Badgers with their speed. That was a turning point for Wisconsin, and players like Jonathan Casillas were the result: a fast, athletic outside linebacker. Casillas made a splash in Barry last battle for the Axe when in 2005 he blocked the Minnesota punt (still wearing #46), leading to the improbable game-winning touchdown. It was the ESPN’s Pontiac Game-Changing Play of the Week; especially impressive because it was the same Saturday as the “Bush Push” and Michigan’s last-second win over eventual Big Ten and Orange Bowl champ, Penn State. As a true-Sophomore, Casillas started every game at outside linebacker and flashed his speed all over the field. He was a key part of containing Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the Capital One Bowl, and had a key pass break-up in the second half to help seal the win. Fast and athletic, he excelled again in 2007. In 2008 he fought through an injury early in the season in time to make what, in retrospect, was a game-saving tackle against Fresno State, preventing a long touchdown, which led to a field goal for the Bulldogs. A three-year starter, and a team captain in 2007, Casillas was an impact player for the Badger defense throughout his career in Mad-town.
#91 Jason Chapman, Bedford Heights, Ohio
A four-year starter, Chappy was the rock for the Badger front line. As a redshirt freshman he was a 3rd-team Freshman All-American and Academic All-Big Ten. His Sophomore season he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Defensive tackles don’t tend to get a lot of glory, or even statistics, but Chappy held things down for four years, and made play after play in the offensive backfield. We won’t be surprised to see him play on Sundays.
#17 Allen Langford, Detroit, Michigan
Often overlooked when Aaron Henry or Jack Ikegwuonu were strutting their stuff, Langford was essentially a 4-year starter at the corner spot. Coming off a torn ACL in last year’s Ohio State game, this year it seemed like you never heard from him. That was because he was shutting down his guys, earning 1st-team All-Big Ten honors. His best game may have been against Cal-Poly, nearly shutting down 6’6” Ramses Barden, a sure first-day draft pick, mostly in 1-on-1 coverage. This season, Langford led the Badgers with 12 passes broken up, he was second among the secondary, first among the corners, in tackles, with 43, and had two picks. In a shaky defensive backfield, Langford was the bright spot.
#11 DeAndre Levy, Milwuakee, Wisconsin
Another 3-year starter at linebacker (strongside), Dre was the emotional leader of the defense. Maybe not the loudest, he’s intense, and a wicked hitter. He’s several times been named the Big Ten defensive player of the week, and has earned academic all-Big Ten honors. It seems like Levy and Casillas have patrolled the outsides forever, and they will be missed. This season, Dre was second on the team with 65 tackes, including 7.5 for a loss. He also had a key pick in the Fresno State game and led the team with two fumble recoveries. The Champs Sports Bowl will be his final appearance as a UW team captain.
#54 Mike Newkirk, Ladysmith, Wisconsin
A 264-pound 5th year senior defensive tackle? How’s that happen at Wisconsin? A big motor, that’s how. A pre-season Athlon second-team All-Big Ten honoree, Newk just always seemed to be on the go. Going up against meaty centers and guards all season, Newk led the team in tackles for loss (8), and was second on the team in sacks (4) and fourth in tackles (56), behind only the starting linebackers. For his trouble, he was a second-team All-Big Ten pick at the end of 2008.
Beginning as a first-team Freshman All-American as a true-frosh, Shaughnessy has been a four-year force for the Badgers. A three-year starter at defensive end, he’s fast, strong, and finishes. He was the leading tackler among lineman in ’06, the defensive MVP in ’07, and he finished this season an honorable mention All-Big Ten honoree. Particularly in passing situations, Matt came through: in 2008 he was tied for second on the team with four sacks and he led the lineman with four pass-break-ups, including the one that Levy intercepted at Fresno State. He went out harassing Ponder in his last game as a Badger, with his head held high.
Good luck to them all in whatever life deals them next.
Thanks again to all the Seniors who represented Badger football so well.