LOS ANGELES Calls and text messages from old friends back home have been filling Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner's cell phone with increasing frequency this month. The sudden level of interest comes as no surprise to Gardner given his team's next opponent.
"I heard from a lot of people that I haven't heard from in a while," Gardner told reporters Thursday. "Everybody's fired up about the chance for me to play Wisconsin."
None more so than Gardner himself.
Gardner, you see, grew up in Mequon, Wis., just 90 miles east of Wisconsin's campus in Madison, and dreamed of someday wearing the Badgers' cardinal and white colors. He watched Wisconsin on television every Saturday during the fall and attended a few games each season. He became a first-team all-state defensive end at Homestead High School and figured the Badgers would make for a perfect match.
Instead, Wisconsin offered Gardner a preferred walk-on position with no scholarship, while one of Gardner's high school teammates ...