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Friday, December 31, 2010
Bret Bielema in top form on eve of Rose

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- The news conferences the day before bowl games are typically boring. The coaches are all talked out, and most of the big questions already have been asked and answered.

But Bret Bielema and Gary Patterson brought their A-games Friday.

Bret Bielema
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema shared laughs with the media at a Rose Bowl news conference Friday.
Both coaches participating in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO had some interesting things to say. Bielema was especially entertaining, telling a bunch of stories and showing a lot of emotion -- especially when talking about star defensive end J.J. Watt -- as he gets ready to coach the biggest game of his life.

Here's the best of Bielema from Friday's news conference:

On giving his dad a new present: "I bought him a Rose Bowl watch; they came in on the 29th. I left a little note in his room for him, and I said some things to him. But on the p.s. I said, 'Sorry it took me 20 years to get you a new watch.' I gave him the 1991 Rose Bowl watch I got, and he's worn it every day since then. To give him one 20 years later was pretty special."

On Tommy Lasorda's speech to the team this week: "Coach Lasorda told a story about a sailor that was 1,000 yards out from shore and it was foggy out and his boat capsized and he knew the only thing he needed to do was start swimming. So he swam 997 yards. At that point it was still foggy and he couldn't see shore, he gave up and drowned. He was three yards from shore. Why did you swim the 997 yards? This is the cap to the season. It is an opportunity for us. We did what we needed to do to get here."

On broadcaster Keith Jackson and the Rose Bowl: "I flew out here last year and watched [Barry] Alvarez get inducted into the [Rose Bowl] Hall of Fame. I walked in and had no idea Keith Jackson was going to be the master of ceremonies. Keith Jackson is the first guy that ever said my name on national TV. And I remember my buddies saying, 'Keith Jackson said your name on TV.' I was a freshman. I missed a sack, but to hear him ..."

On whether Jackson pronounced his name correctly: "Absolutely. That's what I was impressed with. I've been bulimia, byelema, every eating disorder known to man, so he nailed it."

On what these players mean to him: "This is my first class of fifth-year seniors. To see guys like Culmer St. Jean, and from Culmer to Niles [Brinkley], to Gabe Carimi, Scott Tolzien, Lance Kendricks, and Jay Valai, and [Blake] Sorensen, and [David] Gilreath. I sat in every one of those homes. I remember the first time I met them when they were 17 and 16, in some cases, they have never shaved in their lives. Just nappy heads. I've been pissed at a lot of them, too. You get mad at them along the way. To see the smiles and rewards of giving them a Big Ten championship is pretty cool."

On getting Watt to return for another year: "[Thursday] all those people, 30, 40,000 people after he got introduced [at a pep rally], everybody started yelling, 'One more year.' I couldn't see where he was at. I walked down and saw his mom in the front row. I said to J.J., 'Did you see your mom?' He said, yeah. I said, 'Did you see her chanting one more year?'"

On embracing the moment and enjoying it: "One of the first things I say when I come into the locker room before the game a lot of times -- everybody will tell you -- 'Let's have some fun today.' First time they played the game ... it wasn't because there were 90,000 people or on national TV. It was because your dad, your uncle, your brother, your mother, your sister rolled the ball on the field and said, 'Hey, let's play.' I think we've kind of kept that going forward.

"Growing up as a kid, my brothers and I had these two neighbors down the road, and we had a big yard. When we got bigger, it wasn't big enough, so we started playing football on our knees in the grass. In the middle of our big lawn there was a 20-yard patch that was dirt. There wasn't any grass because we had worn it out on our knees playing football. I go back to those days quite a bit."

Great stuff from Bielema.
I gave him the '91 Rose Bowl watch I got and he's worn it every day since then. To give him one 20 years later was pretty special."