MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin’s Rob Wheelwright and Jazz Peavy are close.
And not just the kind of close that warrants an extra embrace or pat on the back with a greeting.
We’re talking a multi-step-handshake type of close.
The Badgers’ top wide receivers might be attached at the hip if they weren’t too busy trying to outrun each other.
“Rob tries to compete in anything he can, honestly,” Peavy said. “Even if it’s just trying to shoot a water bottle in a garbage can. It’s always something like that, some little thing.”
Neither can help himself.
“(Peavy) works, he competes, and he hates losing,” Wheelwright said. “That’s one thing that I tend to find myself being friends with, people who hate losing. Doesn’t matter what it is, I hate losing sometimes more than I like winning.”
It’s all about bragging rights with these two, but hey, the Badgers aren’t complaining. Regardless of who loses their little battles, Wisconsin ultimately wins the war. Coaches and teammates agree the duo’s competitiveness raises everyone’s game to another level, theirs included.
Take last Saturday, for example. Wheelwright and Peavy took turns catching rocket balls from quarterback Bart Houston until Wisconsin topped Akron, 54-10.
Peavy had a career-high seven receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Add that to Wheelwright’s 99 yards, plus a few from the tight ends and running backs, and the Badgers had themselves a ballgame.
“I see Rob doing big things and it makes me want to do things, too,” Peavy said after the game.
It was the first time since 1996 the Badgers recorded more than 290 yards both on the ground and through the air, but that’s not what the postgame chatter was about.
“Today (Wheelwright) tells me I had 100 yards and he was only at 99,” Peavy said. “He was a little upset about that, but we always try to push each other, be better than the other.”
And push they do, to a point that would break most bonds. But not theirs. Wheelwright and Peavy find ways to win, even at something as scoreless as friendship.
“If one’s not doing something, the friendship has got to be such that you can tell him that, and (say), ‘Because we’re so close, I hope he can respond and not be offended when I tell him that,’ ” said Wisconsin wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore.
“A true friend will tell you what you need and not what you want to hear. They’ve been good for each other (in that way),” he added.
By Gilmore’s standards, Wheelwright and Peavy have been on the same team for three years, but teammates for just one.
Peavy came onto campus with a tight-knit group of friends from his hometown, Kenosha, Wis. Gilmore said Peavy was closer with them than the team, especially after spending his first season on the sideline as a redshirt.
Wheelwright was the first to reach out and pull him into a college football team’s most important traditions.
“You never used to see (Peavy) in a dance video,” Gilmore said, laughing. “And now he’s showing up in the videos and hanging out with his teammates.”
There is no stronger bond than one formed dancing in hula hoops.
Wheelwright and Peavy’s bond has withstood pickup basketball games, cone drill races, and all the highs and lows of being roommates on the road.
“He probably complains about me being on the phone,” Wheelwright said. “But then he wakes up early and then I complain about him waking up early and waking me up.”
Peavy is willing to let it slide.
“Rob’s one of those guys you love to be around,” he said. “He’s always creating energy and I feed off his energy and hope he feeds off mine.”
Their competitiveness is infectious. Defensive end Alec James said when Wheelwright makes a play in practice, he’s the first to let the defense know. Preventing future celebrations is motivation enough to work harder and get better.
Wheelwright and Peavy fuel the type of constant progress head coach Paul Chryst demands. The man could have the national championship trophy in his hands and would probably still talk about room for improvement.
That’s fine by Peavy and Wheelwright. The bar is high, but the two have probably already bet on who can get to it first.
“At the end of the day, I won’t go with anyone, I’ll just go with Jazz,” Wheelwright said. “I know he’s going to push me as hard as I’ll push him and it works out well.
“It’ll be the receivers versus everyone. That’s when we come together and beat everybody.”
LSU and Akron know what he’s talking about. You’re up, Georgia State.
Receivers at a glance
Jazz Peavy, 11
Class: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Kenosha, Wis.
High School: Tremper
Season stats: Nine catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns
Season highlight: First career touchdown
Fun fact Rob knows about Jazz:
- He likes to be in control of the TV remote.
Rob Wheelwright, 15
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
High School: Walnut Ridge
Season stats: Eight catches for 159 yards
Season highlight: On 3rd & 6 against LSU
Fun fact Jazz knows about Rob:
- He has more handshakes with guys on the team than anyone.