Senior captains proud of achievement

Donovan Raiola (UW Athletics)

Donovan Raiola, Matt Bernstein and Brett Bell are strong leaders for the Wisconsin football team

Ever since he became a full-time starter in 2003, center Donovan Raiola has been a vocal leader on the University of Wisconsin football team. So it came as no surprise that he was selected as one of the Badgers' four captains when the team voted at the end of fall training camp.

Being a leader, Raiola said, is a standard feature of his position.

"As center you got to make a lot of the calls, and when things go wrong you are… just always trying to pick it up," he said. "Trying to help other people. When things go wrong for me I have someone right next to me that's picking me up. It's just kind of like it all works together with everyone."

Matt Bernstein, UW's other captain on offense, said that he voted for Raiola, calling him "the No. 1 guy on our offense."

"He talks everyone up. He comes ready to play every game and he's in every play," Bernstein said. "That's why I voted for him, he's in every play and he's the center. He has the leadership of all the linemen and you can't do anything without your line."

How does Raiola feel he shows leadership?

"Just lead by example and have fun," he said. "Just go out there and do what you're supposed to do and take coaching and do all the little things. And off the field, take care of everyone, make sure everyone's doing the right thing."

Coming into the season, Raiola said, one of his goals was to become a captain.

"The players voted for me so I know that they have a lot of respect for me and I have a lot of respect for all the players as well," he said. "So I'm going to go out there and just try to lead by example and try and do what I know what to do."

Bernstein felt he had a good chance to become a captain, but he was far from certain.

"I was kind of up-and-down," he said. "I don't know. It's tough, you know, because you have so many good leaders on this team and people who want to be captains. You're like, ‘Yeah, it's definitely me' but then you're like, ‘I don't know.'"

When it was announced that he was a captain, Bernstein was overjoyed.

"I was so happy. For the team to vote (for) you is a huge honor," he said. "It made my family happy. It made everyone I know happy. It's just real cool. It warms my heart."

How does Bernstein show leadership?

"Just by hard work," Bernstein said. "I play physical, do whatever my team needs me to do."

"Matt, he just does what he does," Raiola said. "He leads by example and he has a strong voice in the locker room."

Senior cornerback Brett Bell, one of two captains on defense, along with junior linebacker Mark Zalewski, earned the respect of his teammates through the perseverance he showed in the offseason, when he worked his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and was ready to practice in time for the start of preseason camp.

"I was happy…. What I came from, what I've been through and what I've gone through and getting where I am," Bell said. "But I knew that I could do it… I was relishing it and I was waiting my turn. My parents always told me just wait your turn, wait your turn. Good things will come to you."

Bell said he always wanted to be a captain.

"On my high school team I was a captain," he said. "Ever since I was young I was able to lead a team. And I wanted to do it again."

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