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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, January 21, 2022
Matt Ferris

While watching the team from the sidelines, Matt Ferris has worked to find ways to contribute to the team off the court.

Ferris’ bright disposition helps Badgers stay focused

In the spring semester of his sophomore year, Matt Ferris found himself enrolled in Calculus 213 with his high-profile teammate, Nigel Hayes. Hayes was a serious contributor on a team that came within a few minutes of a national championship, while Ferris scored a total of two points in 17 minutes over the course of the season.

Despite the sharp differences in their performances on the court, the two formed an unlikely friendship off the court. The study partners found common ground in their goofy personalities and have since become like family.

But as Hayes has grown into the figurehead of the Wisconsin program and the team has stopped going to Final Fours, he’s refocused on basketball and let Nigel Burgundy fade into the background. Ferris, meanwhile, has blossomed into the comedic spirit at the heart of the Badgers.

“I think if you look at all the good teams, they've got someone that’s able to crack a joke or is able to focus on things outside of the court,” Ferris’ roommate and teammate Aaron Moesch said. “And he’s just a goofy guy.”

Ferris has become the go-to guy for a pick-me-up, and he says that that’s an especially important role to play when the team falls on hard times. During this season, when the Badgers dropped five games in a six-game stretch, Ferris was the one who kept them focused on the next game after tough losses.

And while, for many teams, it’s generally the senior captain inspiring the team during dark days, Ferris has found unique ways to keep the team motivated to bust out of its slump.

“I'm a redshirt sophomore on the team, it’s not like I can stand up in the locker room and give a rah-rah speech after we just blew a game,” he said. “But just anything to keep the guys light, anything to keep them positive, because you can’t play a basketball game with your head down.”

Despite his lack of on-court persona, Ferris has worked his way into the spotlight a handful of times over the years for his light-hearted social media presence. This past winter, Ferris and Hayes took to Twitter and went viral for their “13 Days of Nigel” and “13 Days of Ugly” threads as the two went back and forth posting embarrassing photos of the other each day during what’s commonly known as the 13 days of Christmas.

“He had the upper hand because he texted my mom … so she emailed him all the pictures,” Ferris said. “I texted Talaya, his mom, and I got some, but most of mine was more blue-collar, gritty, just tough.”

And it’s exactly that willingness to go the extra mile to get a laugh that makes Ferris such a critical piece of the Badgers’ team. He’ll go to great lengths to make sure the team isn’t taking itself too seriously when it’s winning or too down on itself when it’s losing.

It’s also the same mindset that has kept him at UW despite playing fewer than 30 minutes in three years with the team. After dominating high school sports, Ferris came to the Badgers ready to contribute however he could, whether or not he saw the court.

“At times, I think everyone wants to be the star. Everyone wants to be the guy in the spotlight. When I was in high school, I was in that position,” he said. “But I knew that I needed a role. Every team kind of needs those guys, because you can’t have a roster filled with 15 stars. It just doesn’t work like that.”

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Ultimately, though, it’s the bonds that he’s built with his teammates that have kept him here. The team has traveled as far west as Hawaii and as far east as New York for games during his career, and he says he wouldn’t trade that opportunity for anything.

“You got those days where you go into practice and you're like, 'There's so many other things I could be doing.' But at the end of the day, those numbers are so few compared to the ones that you're with your best friends doing cool things, traveling around the country, going to all sorts of different locations. All that together, bundled up, that's why I'm still here.”

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