Motivated to Go

Caputo takes down Melvin Gordon (Fleming/12)

In just his second year in the program, redshirt freshman Michael Caputo has put himself in position to be a contributor to Wisconsin's 2012 success.

MADISON - When it comes to supplying motivation, redshirt freshman Michael Caputo has enough in reserved to supply Wisconsin's entire defense.

Caputo – the 6-1, 210-pound soft-spoken safety from Imperial, PA – draws motivation from the usual reserves (friends, family and teammates) as well as from disappointments and failures. But more than that, Caputo draws motivation from success stories, like the Badgers striving to be the first program in over 30 years to advance to three consecutive Rose Bowls.

"I want to help bring the team back to Pasadena," said Caputo. "That's the goal of the team to win all the games starting with the first one."

With the work he's put in over the past two seasons, Caputo likely will have an integral role in that journey.

After running for 2,629 yards and 38 touchdowns and 97 tackles as a junior, Caputo saw his senior year cut short when he fractured his left ankle during the season opener. The injury was so gruesome that Caputo was confined to a wheelchair for two weeks to keep any pressure off the ankle to avoid a more serious setback.

"It was a little weird to look over and see your ankle just hanging there," Caputo said.

Recovering without any complications before stepping foot on campus last summer, Caputo redshirted to build his body and was named defensive scout team player of the week in November, calling last year's experience of not playing ‘informational.'

"I was just adjusting and watching Aaron Henry, Dezmen (Southward) and Shelton (Johnson)," said Caputo. "I was using them as mentors, whether they knew it or not. I tried to do stuff like them. I tried to learn how they learn and do what they did on the field. That gave me a lot of confidence because I knew how to act and I learned how to play."

The work has showed, including a two-practice stretch where Caputo registered an interception and multiple tackles for losses in important situational drills. When Wisconsin released its initial depth chart for the season opener, Caputo was listed as a co-backup at strong safety with Michael Trotter behind Johnson.

"I like to say that I have a lot of confidence, but I try to stay humble a lot," said Caputo. "Even though I don't get in the game at all, I still go after it."

That go-get-it mentality has come from his upbringing and his boost at Wisconsin has come from strength coach Ben Herbert, who graduating from the same high school as Caputo (albeit a couple years apart).

When Caputo toured campuses, he was looking for a weight staff that could mold him into a better player. Even after stops at Ohio State and Penn State, Herbert and Wisconsin outshined them all.

"He knows exactly what he's doing," said Caputo, who toned his body to feel stronger and faster through fall camp. "I haven't been a lot of places, but I think he's one of the best in the country."

That comfort in his body has blended into his game. No longer being pushed around my blockers when he comes into the box, Caputo has used his offensive knowledge to progress at an accelerated rate.

"High school is definitely a lot different than college, especially the offense I was in, but it helps me get better angles on the ball when I am chasing the running back down," said Caputo. "I still think like a running back, so I have an idea of what they are going to do."

Having not played a full football game since fall 2009, Caputo is ready to jump in wherever he can.

"Whatever spot they put me at," said Caputo. "I just want to get on to the field."

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