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March 13, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
MADISON - Freshman safety Keelon Brookins is one of two early enrollees for the Badgers this season, but he hasn't gotten on the field yet. Brookins is still recovering from an ACL injury he sustained in high school, but he's working with the other rehabbing players and getting mental reps in from the sideline.
I spoke with Keelon for a little while after practice on Wednesday, and I've included a quick Q&A with the 5-foot-11 safety from St. Paul, Minn.
What has it been like to be with the team for spring ball so far?
Keelon Brookins: It's a great feeling to go out there with the team, to get to know everybody, and to show everybody what I can do. I'm with the rehab group right now because of my ACL injury. But just watching everything and getting mental reps is going to keep me pushing forward to get out here even faster.
Where is your knee at right now, in terms of health? Have they given you a timetable?
KB: It's doing good right now. I'm getting stronger. I started the cutting phase today, so I'm seeing a lot of progressing and it's very pleasing. My biggest date was the summer, but I'm physically just taking it month by month. I'm five months out [from the surgery] right now.
Have you benefitted from enrolling early so far?
KB: I would recommend it to anybody that's making their college dream [happen]. You get out here and you start early, and you're making mistakes early around teammates who are going to care for you. You talk to your coaches and they start pushing you, now when you're coming in with all the other freshmen you're not a knucklehead or anything. You move on from your mistakes and you move on and become a better man, and make sure I can tell the next group of guys what's right from wrong, instead of just throwing them in the fire.
What did it feel like to start the first day of spring practice for you?
KB: Knowing I could put on a uniform, knowing that I have the 'W' across my chest, knowing I've got my name on the back of the jersey representing something bigger than myself. It's like a dream come true. On the first day of practice I was like looking up into the stars and [thinking] 'I've made it.' Now I've got to keep pushing and keep working so I can make it on to the field.
What's it been like working with coach Gary Andersen and the other coaches so far?
KB: I love coach Andersen. They love me and they look out for me and they care for me, and that's the biggest thing when you're picking the school you want to come to. [Andersen] is a great people person, he keeps me motivated and he told me before I came in 'You're going to have trouble, because you're not playing and you're dealing with school work, but you've got to push through it and I'm going to be in your corner for you.' Just having that reassurance that I could go up and talk to any of my coaches is just an awesome feeling.
Did you have to talk with coach A much to figure out if it was going to be a good fit or do you think you were coming to Wisconsin no matter what?
KB: I was probably going to come here no matter who the coach was. I was planning to come here because of the school- football is just a bonus aspect of schoolwork. A full ride scholarship will get my academics taken care of, because that's a big thing my family pushes.
What will it feel like for you to get on the field again once your knee is ready?
KB: I think about that day every day. I think it's going to be a huge improvement from high school, and I think that everybody will see what I can actually do. I try not to say what I did in high school, besides a group of friends that's close to me. For now I'll just sit back and watch so I can take in everything and people will know 'Ok, he's actually been watching. He actually got his mental reps, so we can throw him into the fire and see what he can do.'
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