September 12, 2011

Emerging with confidence

MADISON - Nick Toon probably wouldn't say he needed a big game to boost his confidence simply because that personality trait has always found a home in his mind.

But his seven-catch game against Oregon State, one that tied his career best, surely won't hurt that confidence for the senior wide receiver.

"It reinforces it," Toon said following one of his better performances from a production standpoint. "I had a good day, but it could have been better. I'll look at the film and try to improve for next week."

Toon can say all the right things and he can position himself as a hard-working individual and modest player through the media, but unless he shows what he's capable of on the field, it probably won't help his cause.

He's never been deemed overconfident and he's never been talked about as an arrogant player so that confidence seems to be natural and genuine. More so, it seems to be enhanced because he's finally healthy and enjoying the early stages of his senior season.

He's making plays for his team on a regular basis and his connection with Russell Wilson, UW's red-hot quarterback, seems to indicate that even bigger things might be on the horizon.

"They've got a nice relationship," UW head coach Bret Bielema said.

A prime example of that relationship surfaced during the Badgers easy 35-0 win over the Beavers Saturday afternoon. It was third and five from the Oregon State 10 yard line midway through the second quarter. Wilson looked to his left before the snap and noticed Toon was alone in single coverage. When he received the ball, he simply lofted a fade route to Toon.

Touchdown.

"With the look they gave us that was where he was supposed to go," Bielema said. "They probably had that nod with each other before that play even happened."

Toon, when asked about the play, essentially confirmed that notion.

"Obviously we run the plays in practice," he said. "I had a feeling it was going to come over there. Russell just put the ball up and allowed me to go up and make a play on it."

Finally healthy, it seems as though Toon has entirely invested his senior season to becoming the best player he can be. Having had something taken away from him, or severely limited a season ago because of his nagging foot injury, it's apparent Toon would like for his final season in cardinal and white to be his best.

From blocking way down field when Wilson is trying to reach the end zone on a 46-yard run or catching seven passes, Toon is emerging as that playmaker that so many thought he could and probably would be.

It can all be traced back to that simple confidence. That, and the fact his coaching staff continually demands excellence out of him.

"I think when he goes we go," Bielema said. "He's 220 pounds when he's full strength. DelVaughn Alexander gets on him, but Paul Chryst gets after him pretty good and challenges him. That's what he wants. One day in practice I jumped his tail pretty good and he came up to me and said, 'Coach, keep pushing me. I need that.'

"I think he's hungry. So, feed the beast."



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