Badgers' Melvin Gordon ready for Heisman-candidate season

Badgers' Melvin Gordon ready for Heisman-candidate season
July 29, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

This just in: Melvin Gordon is good.

Everyone knows how talented the Wisconsin running back is, from fans and observers to opposing coaches and players to his coaches and teammates to himself. The expectations are high with Gordon heading into his junior year, and he’s the main reason the Badgers are the favorites to win the Big Ten West Division.

The expectations of others include Gordon being the Big Ten’s top running back, and even the word “Heisman” is being thrown around. Gordon doesn’t really care what other people have to say — he learned that from former teammate and fellow Heisman-contending Wisconsin back Montee Ball — but rest assured that his expectations for himself are as high as anyone’s.

“I’m really hard on myself, I’m my toughest critic,” Gordon said Monday at Big Ten Media Day. “Expectations for other people, I don’t really care about too much because they’ll be there. The pressure and things, I don’t really worry about that too much. I remember talking to Montee about it when he was coming back off his Heisman-candidate season, and I asked him how he did with it. And he said he ignored all that, he didn’t check clippings, he didn’t read anything. So I just tried to take that advice from him and do the best I can in that area. It’s gotten me well. I don’t think about it too much, too often at all.

“But expectations for myself, personally, I hold them high.”

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That has included a little daydreaming at times. Has Gordon pictured himself winning that stiff-arming trophy of college football lore? Oh yeah.

“You think about that, too. When you’re watching the Heisman campaign and all that stuff is going on, the guys are about to get called for the award. You do think, ‘What would it be like if I was right there sitting with them?’” Gordon said. “And I’ve been watching it for a while now. You think about it then, but once it’s over with and once the season’s going, you’re not thinking about it at all.”

The upcoming season figures to be a huge one for Gordon. Splitting carries last season with James White, he still managed to rush for more than 1,600 yards, one of the top-10 rushing totals in the country. With White gone, it’s all about Gordon this season, and the Badgers know it.

With his big season last year, Gordon has already established himself as the next step in the long tradition of great backs at Wisconsin. Now it’s time to vault himself to the top of the list. He said he’s trying to add new elements to his game — “I want to run a few people over this year” — and he’s been hitting the weight room. And how's this for dedication?

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And what else goes along with a talented running back at Wisconsin? Typically, it’s a dominant offensive line. There’s plenty of work being done to make sure those two aspects are again working in perfect harmony for the Badgers.

“We can control our expectations and how we want our running game to be. And obviously when you have a back like Melvin behind us, that’s going to make us better,” offensive lineman Rob Havenstein said. “It makes our job easier. Instead of creating a two-foot hole, all you need to do is create a one-inch hole, and he’s going to break it for a touchdown. He’s just that good.

"Obviously we expect big things from Melvin, and Melvin expects big things from himself. It’s just the way he works and the way he is as a person. I think he knows that we’re working for him, and he knows he’s working for us. And it’s kind of that give and take that’s going to make us really good.”

Gordon knows the honors and trophies that could await him if he has another successful run this year. He thankfully has had someone in Ball who’s been through the preseason hype machine before. Now it’s all about getting it done on the field. It certainly appears he’ll be able to do it. Whether he keeps running all the way to the Heisman presentation remains to be seen.