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Maragos walks into ‘safe’ zone

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald file photoThe names Jim Leonhard and Luke Swan are held near to the hearts of Badger football fans, especially those who love a good underdog story.While it’s too early to tell yet, Racine native Chris Maragos could be the next name on the list of Wisconsin-born walk-on success stories.Maragos recorded six tackles in his first career start as a Wisconsin Badger last Saturday against then-No. 6 Penn State. UW coaches gave Maragos the nod over fellow junior and preseason All-Big Ten free safety Shane Carter.“Shane has been a great player for us in certain areas,” defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said. “In certain areas he’s got to improve, and in one of those areas he wasn’t improving. So as a coach, you need to add competition to the fire.”Maragos’s college football journey began at Western Michigan, where he played wide receiver. He was an all-state football player in high school, but the Broncos were the only team in the country to even offer him a Division I walk-on spot. Seeing this as an opportunity rather than a problem, Maragos jumped on the chance.“I was 14 out of 14 receivers [on the depth chart] when I came in there,” Maragos said. “I earned my way to the traveling squad as a freshman, ended up redshirting and worked my way to a starting role as a redshirt freshman.”Maragos then transferred from Western Michigan to Wisconsin, earning a walk-on spot for the Badgers. Due to NCAA mandated regulations, he was forced to sit out the 2007 season.Maragos then made the switch from wide receiver to free safety. Despite walking on at two different universities, being forced to sit out a year and changing positions, Maragos pressed on.“When you come here, your work ethic is something you really want coaches to see,” Maragos said. “I’m sticking to my persistence and really just trying to work hard every day.”Maragos’s persistence and effort has sparked competition in practice for the starting free safety spot. This competition could mean bad news for one player but an overall positive outcome for the team as they try to rebound from an 0-3 Big Ten start.“It’s brought readiness; I know they’re both ready,” starting strong safety Jay Valai said. “Chris is going to rotate with Shane, and Shane is going to rotate with Chris.”Despite the competition, Maragos and Carter use it as an opportunity for the team to get better.“Shane and I have a great relationship,” Maragos said. “Obviously we’re both competitors, and we want to go out there and we want to compete, and ultimately we want our team to win.”Maragos continues to show progress an impress coaches as the season carries on.“The thing that you like is his athleticism — he can run, he’s a smart player, he understands, he’s smooth, and he’s confident,” Cooks said. “Through summer, through spring through fall camp, he’s gotten better each week.”Complacency is far from an issue with Maragos, who recognizes his early success this season.“When you’re a competitor and an athlete, you always want to take a look at what you’re doing with a grain of salt,” Maragos said. “You really want to be your own worst critic.”While his future with the Badgers has yet to unfold, fans, coaches and teammates can rest assured that Maragos will continue to do his best to not only make himself better but also to make the team better.“The biggest thing for me, that I want to take into it is every day take an approach to get better, to compete, and to help this team out as best I can,” Maragos said. “I just want to be someone that they can rely on, that they can play, and that they can have confidence to put in there.”last_img read more

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