March 1, 2014, is a day that Wisconsin native Ben Bredeson will never forget. It was the day that the football team he rooted for as a child, the Badgers, gave him a scholarship to play football.
But a lot can change in two years. Instead of suiting up in Wisconsin red and white, he’s playing for the No. 4 Michigan football team as a left guard. There are many factors that went into his choice to play for the Wolverines, with their brand new coaching staff being the main determinant.
So far, the decision is paying off.
Most true freshmen offensive linemen don’t get the opportunity to play, but Bredeson has appeared in every game this season as relief for an experienced line. This week, he will prepare for the eighth-ranked Badgers in the first top-10 matchup of his career.
“I’ve been getting texts since the beginning of the year from people who are excited about the game,” Bredeson said. “Not anyone who’s on the team, but just friends from back home. The majority — I think like a third of my graduating class — all went to Madison, so I have a lot of friends from the school, and I’m pretty excited about it.”
Bredeson has a lot of friends and family coming out to Ann Arbor for the weekend, and though they may have always rooted for Wisconsin growing up in Hartland, he’s giving them a reason to question their fandom — if friends of the Bredeson family didn't already have enough.
Ben’s brother, Jack, is a sophomore right-handed pitcher for the Michigan baseball team.
“I was going to come here anyway,” Ben said. “But (having Jack on campus) has helped a lot. He’s given me the lay of the land and it’s nice to have a close family member here, so when you just need someone from home, you can call him.”
The brothers played hockey and football together often, but Ben never dabbled in baseball. He says he’s “very awful, terrible” at his brother’s game, and on top of that, he’s afraid of the ball. He grew up playing hockey instead, starting the game when he was three years old. He says it was his first love, and though he decided to shift his focus to football once high school started, the skating skills have transferred over to the gridiron.
“Hockey is all footwork there,” Bredeson said. “It’s not really the same style, but just being light on your feet and being able to change direction quick. Being able to read plays before it happens and read body language and then just reacting to it. It translates to the offensive line world pretty well — surprisingly well.”
Despite the move from high school to college, which included a move from left tackle to guard, Bredeson seems to have a handle on his role on the football team. Having his brother on campus definitely helps, but the support from his teammates has been incalculable.
Fifth-year senior Ben Braden has taken Bredeson under his wing. Though they’re battling for the same job, Bredeson is not surprised at all about Braden’s willingness to help.
“(Braden has helped) a lot more than you can imagine,” Bredeson said. “He and I roomed together all camp and we room together in the hotel for game nights. He’s helped me with plays, protections, pre-game tests, life — basically everything. He’s helped me a ton.
“He has gone far out of his way to help me, mentally and physically, with the game.”
But Bredeson isn’t just being helped out by the older players on the team.
He remembers jumping off the walls of his high school on National Signing Day when he found out that freshman defensive end Rashan Gary also committed to Michigan. That was before Bredeson even really knew Gary. Now, the two practice together all week.
“Rashan and I are great friends,” Bredeson said. “Just to watch him compete, it’s so much fun to watch. He has that intensity and that fire in him every single play, and you can see it. It’s real visible, and you can really appreciate it going against him.”
Though many Wolverines maintain that they’re preparing for Wisconsin the same way they prepared for earlier opponents this season, the game will be a little different for Bredeson.
“I’m from the state and I grew up watching them all the time, but it’s just going to be a huge game for us,” Bredeson said. “It’s a big top-10 matchup and they’ve been coming out strong at the beginning of the year, and so have we, so it’s gonna be a heck of a game on Saturday.”