Path of roses takes him to bowl game

While the path that University of Wisconsin quarterback Darrell Bevell has followed isn't exactly the one he originally charted, it is, however, lined with roses - all the way to the Rose Bowl.

If the returned missionary from Scottsdale, Ariz., had gotten his way, he likely would be looking forward to playing football for BYU in the Holiday Bowl against Ohio State on Dec. 30. But a broken finger, along with other factors, led him on a round-about journey to Wisconsin, and now he will be playing for the Badgers in the Rose Bowl against UCLA on News Year's Day."I think it's starting to sink in," Bevell said in a telephone interview about being part of Wisconsin's first Rose Bowl team in 30 years.

He added that the Badgers paid a price for their success. "We have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff, and the players worked extra hard and were extra dedicated." He said more than 70 players on the team stayed in Madison over the past two summers so they could work together on conditioning and teamwork, and that sacrifice is paying off.

"There is great chemistry on this team," he pointed out. "There are no individuals, just a total team effort."

Bevell, a member of the Madison 1st Ward, Madison Wisconsin Stake, says he fits in just fine even though he is the only member of the Church on the team and took two years off from college football to serve in the Ohio Cleveland Mission.

"My teammates respect me for the things I believe," he said. "They ask me about my mission. But the greatest thing is that not an article is written that doesn't mention that I went on a mission and am a member of the Church. That gives the Church exposure."

He is also the only member of the team who is married. He and the former Tammy Barlow of Orem, Utah, were married last December in the Salt Lake Temple.

The record-breaking quarterback has been in the spotlight a lot during this year, his sophomore season. His 3,773 passing yards places him third on Wisconsin's all-time list and he is the first Badger quarterback to be named to the All-Big Ten first team since 1962. He led the Big Ten with a pass efficiency rating of 161.1, a mark that placed him third in the nation.

Guiding Wisconsin to a 9-1-1 record and a share of the Big Ten title, Bevell set a school record for pass completion percentage - 69.1 - and tied the mark for touchdown passes with 19. He could add two more records with six pass completions and 36 passing yards against UCLA. In fact, he could also move up to second on Wisconsin's all-time passing list with 233 yards in the Rose Bowl.

How close did Bevell come to playing in the Holiday Bowl instead of the Rose Bowl?

He dreamed of playing for BYU and caught the Cougar coaches' attention when he passed for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior at Chapparal High School in Scottsdale. He was also recruited by several other schools including most in the Pac-10.

But after throwing for 500 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games of his senior year, he broke a finger

on his throwing hand, ending his season.

That also dampened the interest of the schools that had been recruiting him. BYU turned its attention toward its new young quarterback from Texas named Ty Detmer.

Bevell ended up at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he redshirted as a freshman. It was after that season that he decided to go on a mission.

"He made up his mind to go on a mission even though he was going to be the starting quarterback the next season," said his current bishop, Read Gilgen. "He served well and faithfully.

"He did what he was supposed to do," Bishop Gilgen explained. "Not every time, for everyone, marvelous things like this happen, but if he hadn't gone on his mission, he likely would have ended his career in relative obscurity."

While serving his mission in Ohio, Bevell's football options expanded. His quarterback coach at NAU, Brad Childress, took a position on the football staff at the University of Utah. That turned Bevell's thoughts toward Utah. Then Childress moved again, landing as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin.

After narrowing his choices to NAU, Utah and Wisconsin, Bevell settled on Wisconsin because that's where Childress was and because he knew he could compete for a starting spot there.

"Quarterback was a spot that had to improve," he said. "I knew if I came here, I would have a legitimate shot to win the job. You're not going to go very many places and have a legitimate chance to step right in."

After sitting out in 1991, he went into the 1992 season as a freshman at Wisconsin, not having played in a game since 1987. But by the end of the Badgers' opening game last year, which resulted in a loss to Washington, he was on the field directing the offense. The following Monday he was handed the assignment of starting at quarterback and went 5-5 the rest of the way.

"I look back and think I can't believe where I came from," Bevell said. "I redshirted at a [NCAAT I-AA school and went on a mission, and now I'm starting for a Big Ten school and going to the Rose Bowl. I didn't even play [for four seasonsT and I moved up. I just feel greatly blessed."

During the current season he racked up a bunch of Wisconsin single-game records: 423 yards passing and 416 yards total offense against Minnesota; five touchdown passes against Nevada; a pass efficiency rating of 226.7 against Purdue; and a 94.4 percent completion rate (17 of 18) against Northwestern, which is also the Big Ten record. He is 13-6-1 and counting as a starter.

Acknowledging that his success comes through a team effort, Bevell noted: "I give credit to the offensive line. We have a great running game [2,929 yards for the seasonT; the line opens big holes for them [the running backsT and that takes the pressure off me when we do play-action passes."

There was one bump this season - a 28-21 loss at Minnesota - in an otherwise smooth ride for the Badgers. They pulled off a rare win over Michigan, 13-10, and managed to tie co-Big Ten champion Ohio State, 14-14, to put themselves in position to claim the Rose Bowl berth. They clinched the Rose Bowl trip with a 41-20 win over Michigan State in Tokyo in the last game of the regular season on Dec. 4.

"I'm just very excited about the experience and opportunity to play," Bevell said. "It's been a long road, and there was a lot of hard work.

"When we lost to Minnesota, a lot of people jumped off the band wagon. I think we have a lot of respect from people around here. But the way they talk at UCLA and other places, we still need to earn some respect around the country."

Bishop Gilgen admires the way Bevell has handled the demands of big-time college football.

"It's tough for a kid," the bishop pointed out, noting that football can threaten spirituality. "He's in a field that tears at you. But he seems to have made a good balance of remaining faithful and doing service where he can."

For example, Bishop Gilgen related how Bevell, although exhausted after the long trip home from Japan after the critical game against Michigan State, went out the next day with his home teaching companion to give a priesthood blessing to a sister in the ward.

Bevell was the teachers quorum adviser in his ward until the season started.

"He's given a number of talks," Bishop Gilgen said. "They had him do a missionary fireside and the chapel was packed. He's also been going with members of the high council on speaking assignments. That's one thing about Darrell, he's not afraid to talk about the Church."

Bevell's future in football is something to talk about, and although his dream to play for BYU didn't work out, he's happy with his rosy life in Wisconsin.

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