To be honest, I have been putting off writing this blog for a while now. Writing this blog means that my time at Wisconsin has come to an end, and I am now officially reflecting on the past. Thinking about what to write here is difficult because there is so much to say, but at the same time it makes me sad. First and foremost, I have never loved being a part of something as much as I loved being a student-athlete at the greatest university in the world. Thinking about the future is scary, but I know that I am now ready for it. However this is not a blog about my future. This is a blog to say thank you and goodbye to the best thing I have ever known.
Back when I was being recruited I remember being in my high school gym getting ready for a game of 5-on-5 when a tall man wearing a Wisconsin windbreaker walked in. I was very nervous...I'd never played in front of anyone from a school of Wisconsin's caliber. After the game the man briefly introduced himself and said he would be in contact. It was Howard Moore an Assistant Coach at the time and little did I know that meeting would be the beginning of something great. Coach Moore offered me and my family the opportunity to visit Wisconsin. I fell in love with the campus and the staff and nearly committed on the spot! A few short weeks later I made the decision to become a Badger and now I am proud to say I am a Badger for life.
When I got to Wisconsin I was a frail kid with lofty dreams who wanted to achieve something great. I realized at the time that it wasn't going to happen immediately for me. It would take time to get where I wanted to be, but I had no clue how hard the process would be. I struggled through my freshman year. I fell behind in school, and in basketball. I was constantly frustrated and didn't know what it took to succeed. I started thinking that Wisconsin was as good as it was gonna get for me. I started believing that I was not good enough, not smart enough, and didn't have what it took to be great. Honestly, I needed to do a lot maturing. I hit a point where I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. That's when I made a promise to myself that I would work as hard as I could and find out how much I could accomplish.
Sophomore year did not go as well as I had pictured it in my mind. I had made progress with my body and my game, but I still struggled with the mental aspect of the game. I got frustrated all the time and it clearly affected me. Some days it was so bad that I refused to talk to anyone. At the end of the season, I felt like I had not progressed as much as I would have liked. If there was one silver lining in my sophomore year, it was that when the season was over I didn't feel sorry for myself anymore. I stopped my complaining and went to work. I realized that I was in control of my ability to do something great and I was determined to make that thought a reality.
The next two years are history. Big Ten Champions, Back-to-Back Final Fours, Final Four Runner-Up, Big Ten POY, National Player of the Year, and College Graduate. Our story as a team has been so well documented that there really is no need to go into it here with any great detail. But I will say this, it was the best time of my entire life. Every single day was better than the previous one. I have no regrets at all about my basketball career at Wisconsin, especially because no one expected me to achieve what I achieved except me.
To my family and friends...thank you for making an effort to come up to games, having my back on numerous occasions, putting up with my goofiness and treating me like just another guy.
To my teammates...thank you so much for believing in me and being there for me through the highs and lows. You guys are my family now, and what we accomplished together can never be taken away from us.
To the coaches...thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow as a person and a player under your watch. Without you I don't know if I would be in this position today. Thank you for pushing me towards my dreams and helping me through the tough times.
To the fans...thank you for being the best fans in the country. I dont think any fan base compares to ours. Your loyalty and constant (sometimes overwhelming) support makes our teams feel like there is nothing they cant do.
And finally to the University of Wisconsin-Madison...thank you for having me. You have no idea how much you have changed my life. I could not think of a better place in the entire world. I was born and raised in Illinois, but I am proud to say that Wisconsin has turned me into the man I am today.
Leaving Wisconsin for the last time as a student and the first time as an alumni was very difficult, but I am very excited about my future and I know I will carry Wisconsin with me wherever I go.
As I sign off as a Wisconsin student for the final time, I would like to share a passage from my favorite book that has inspired me and explains me very well. I hope it resonates with you all, but if not at least always remember that the magic of life lives within us and amongst us and it is our job to never forget it.
“You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.
After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.
That’s what I believe.
The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way, for one reason or another. It’s not hard to do, in this world of crazy mazes. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you “sir.” It just happens.
These memories of who I was and where I lived are important to me. They make up a large part of who I’m going to be when my journey winds down."- Robert McCammon, Boys LifeThank you everyone. Best 4 years of my life.