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Saturday, May 18, 2024
Derrick Tindal (right) poses with John Franklin III (left) after Wisconsin's 31-14 win over Florida Atlantic in early September. Both players are from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

Derrick Tindal (right) poses with John Franklin III (left) after Wisconsin's 31-14 win over Florida Atlantic in early September. Both players are from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

Rays of sunshine: Badgers' secondary full of Florida recruits and Florida swag

Now in the fourth year of his Wisconsin career, senior safety Natrell Jamerson has acclimated to his Midwest surroundings after entering the program from the balmy climate of Florida.

The Ocala, Fla., native has elevated to a starting role this fall after dabbling as a wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner in his first three seasons.

But while Jamerson has settled into Wisconsin life and created a strong bond with his fellow Florida-bred defensive backs, Madison still lags behind the Sunshine State in one department.

“It’s got me a little sick,” Jamerson said of the cold weather starting to hit town. “Little stuffy nose and all that, but it’s alright.”

If Jamerson is struggling a bit with Wisconsin’s wind chill, though, senior cornerback Derrick Tindal and redshirt freshman Dontye Carriere-Williams are likely right there with him shivering.

Wisconsin’s group of defensive backs from Florida, which also includes junior safety D’Cota Dixon, does almost everything together, after all.

“You can never see one of us alone,” Carriere-Williams said. “We’re just always together. And you know, that’s when that bond comes in, that’s when that on the field chemistry comes in play, when you actually know a person.”

That chemistry has been apparent throughout the Badgers’ 10 games to date, as the team currently ranks as the seventh-best passing defense in the country.

That competitiveness, however, doesn’t wane when the defensive backs step off of the gridiron, as Call of Duty and NBA 2K duels provide the ballhawks a chance to compete at somewhat lowered stakes.

“Anything we all do, it’s always competitive,” said Jamerson, who doesn’t actually play video games himself. “Nobody wanna’ lose. It can be the simplest thing: Nobody wants to lose.”

And according to Carriere-Williams, that sentiment is obvious from Tindal’s reaction to defeat.

“Sore loser of the group — that has to be D.T.,” Carriere-Williams, the Miami native said. “If he loses he wants to play again, if he wins he’s done. He’s the cheater of the group when it comes to video games.”

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While the trio has gravitated toward each other because of their Florida roots — Jamerson spoke about the state’s uniform culture — their bond has done lots more for them than simply providing gaming partners.

“It was real big,” Carriere-Williams said of the presence of Florida guys on the roster during his redshirt season. “Coming in I didn’t play early on. I redshirted my freshman year obviously. And you know those guys — D.T, Sojourn Shelton, Natrell Jamerson — those guys really kept me intact. There were days I was real down, just thinking about it, not being able to go out there and help my team. But those guys kept me up, told me to just keep working [and] my time will come.”

It’s not just the Florida presence in Madison that has helped these players, though. The benefits of a Florida football education — the state features powerhouses like Carriere-Williams’ alma mater St. Thomas Aquinas — can be felt all the way in the Midwest.

“I feel like Florida football actually helped me a lot in college though,” Tindal said. “Playing against a lot of talented dudes, shit, I played against a lot of dudes right now who are in the NFL, and that really helped me out.”

Tindal and his fellow Florida Badgers have undoubtedly benefited from the state’s competitive football landscape. But the Sunshine State is markedly different from the Midwest, and ultimately, the defensive backs’ strength draws from their common ground and understanding.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Jamerson said of his home state’s culture. “I don’t know, we just have a different swag about us. We talk different.”

You may find Jamerson, Carriere-Williams and Tindal joking around among each other, as they often do.

You may hear a southern twang in their voices as they speak.

And you may recognize the group’s utter cohesion, a bond so strong that it very likely elevates its play on the field.

But for everything that growing up in Florida has brought these guys, perhaps nothing is more important than the subtle, yet burning intensity in all of them.

Especially during the hunt for a place in the College Football Playoff.

“Florida football, we take that very seriously,” Tindal said. “That’s life for us.”

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