August 1, 2007

Casillas legacy specially rooted

CHICAGO-For the University of Wisconsin football community, the Oct. 15, 2005 contest for ownership of the Paul Bunyan Axe between UW and Minnesota will live on in Badger lore as the "Miracle in the Metrodome."

But for the Gopher faithful that packed the stands that afternoon, "Meltdown in Minneapolis" may be a more appropriate title, as a true freshman, reserve linebacker left those dawning maroon and gold in utter shock during the final seconds of the 115th meeting between the two universities.

Enter Jonathan Casillas, a shade over four months removed from his 18th birthday, making the biggest play of his young career in one of the most storied rivalries in college football. His blocked punt with 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter was recovered by Ben Strickland in the end zone to complete a stunning rally and lift Wisconsin to a 38-34 road victory over Minnesota.

"I just got in there and my eyes kind of lit up when I saw the ball up there and I made a play," said an ecstatic, wide-eyed Casillas shortly after the game.

Fast forward two years later. The teenager has physically matured into a young man, clean-cut and dawning a full suit while representing the entire Badger program Wednesday at the Big Ten media conference in Chicago. Yet, while talking to Casillas, the wide-eyed, energetic 18-year-old remains alive in his body.

"Man, I remember that play, I feel like it was yesterday," Casillas said Wednesday morning, one of three UW player representatives that made the trip for the two-day event. "I guess that was the one that kind of put me on the map and got my name out there. I was so young, just out of high school and then playing in front of 70,000 screaming people, it's a big change."

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