MADISON, Wis. — Travis Frederick stood outside the locker room, patiently fielding question after question. This was early Saturday evening, after the Badgers had dropped a heartbreaking 16-13 overtime decision to Michigan State.
The loss snapped a 21-game home winning streak, and featured a lackluster offense that had many questioning the abilities of Wisconsin’s offensive line, of which the Big Foot graduate plays an integral role as the starting center.
Wisconsin’s running game was held to just 19 net yards on 37 carries, an unusual sight to say the least when it comes to the Badger ground game.
A real lowlight occurred when James White lined up in the wildcat formation, and Frederick snapped it over his head, resulting in a loss of 15 yards.
The 6-foot-4, 338-pound three-year starter refused to make excuses.
“I just have to make a better snap,” Frederick said. “It was a big play in the game, and I’m responsible for that.”
That type of character and maturity has marked Frederick from the beginning, according to his high school coach Rodney Wedig.
“He’s one of the most coachable kids I’ve had,” Wedig said. “But at the same time even as a sophomore, if he saw something, he’d say ‘Hey coach, do you think we could do it this way’? He’s always been one of those kids where if it’s in class, or on the football field he sees things. He’s bright and he’s a big guy, and that’s a great combination.”
When Frederick came to Wedig’s team as a freshman, the coach didn’t necessarily spot greatness immediately.
“With our youth league, he was too big to play for the most part,” Wedig said. “When he came in as a freshman, he was a big puppy. We kept him on the freshman team even though we thought he might be one of our best five. We wanted to keep him with that group of kids because they had a lot of talent and a great makeup.”
As most of Wedig’s choices have gone, this one ended well. Frederick’s three-year run as a two-way starter and lineman of the year included a run to the state title game in 2008.
“He’s really a self-made man,” Wedig said. “He went from his freshman year to his sophomore year and was one of the strongest kids on the team. He was in the weight room all the time and was just so driven.”
Along with his prowess on the field, he was just as impressive off it.
“Travis is one of those guys that every teacher knew and every teacher loved in the classroom,” Wedig said. “He just happened to be a big guy that could play football.”
He is currently carrying a double major of Computer engineering and computer science, and is set to graduate in May with one degree, while being just seven credits shy of the other.
Although Frederick’s time with the Badgers has been literally full of roses, there was a time when that seemed unlikely.
“There was a point where I didn’t think the Badgers were going to offer him because he was a little shorter at 6’3 or 6’4 than their typical lineman,” Wedig said. “But he went up to a camp there before his senior year and did so well that right after the camp, he was on the way to a camp at Iowa when they called me and said they needed to get him on the phone because they were going to offer him a scholarship.
“It was actually kind of a surprise because it’s not like they were hot on his trail the whole time. But at the last minute, they realized he was the guy they wanted.”
The surprises continued as Frederick not only played in his first season, but even became the first true freshman to ever start on the offensive line, providing a memorable moment for his old coach.
“I’ll never forget him starting his first game as a true freshman,” Wedig said. “I was at a niece’s wedding, and had to sprint between the reception hall and the Petosi Brewery that had the Big 10 Network so I could watch him. There I was in dress shoes sprinting back and forth just so I could see this incredible feat. It was an amazing turn of events. I didn’t think Wisconsin would even offer him. It was looking like Air Force or North Dakota State, and then to go from that to being a starter as a true freshman was remarkable.”
After his solid freshman campaign, Frederick was redshirted his sophomore season, as Wisconsin’s depth along the front line was such that if Frederick wasn’t going to start, he would be more useful down the line.
The last year and a half, Frederick’s career has taken off. He has started 20 of the last 21 games, earned second-team All Big Ten honors as a sophomore, and was on the preseason watch list for two coveted offensive lineman awards.
Frederick is definitely grateful things worked out the way they did.
“It’s certainly been a good experience for me,” Frederick said. “I love playing here at Wisconsin in front of a home crowd and close to my family. My family comes to every home game and a lot of road games as well. It’s great to have them around.”
Frederick is also pleased with the way his brother Collin and the rest of the Chiefs are playing this fall.
“I think Big Foot has done a tremendous job from what I’ve been able to see,” Frederick said.
He gives a lot of the credit to the success of the program to the man at the top.
“I think Rodney is a tremendous coach and a tremendous person,” Frederick said. “He came in and set some goals for the program and I remember having a sheet of it, and it had heading of within a year, within five years and within ten years. Looking back at that goal sheet, he’s met every single one of those goals. The things he’s done for the program are just amazing, and the kids really enjoy playing for him.”
Frederick’s future is looking just as bright as the present.
“I absolutely think he has an NFL future,” Wedig said. “Everybody I’ve talked to thinks that he’s got a great chance. In fact because he is a redshirt junior, there is a lot of talk that he could actually graduate early and declare for the draft after this season.”
Whether he does indeed seek fortune in the NFL following the season or instead returns for his senior year at Wisconsin, Frederick is sure to leave a positive and lasting example in Madison. Just as he did in Walworth.