September 3, 2010

Wide receiver bond dates back to peewee days

MADISON - David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson still take time out of their day to talk about what once was, even if it usually leads one or the other into talking a little noise.

They talk about being on top of the world of Minnesota peewee football because looking back, it's obvious not many fifth or sixth grade kids get the chance to play inside the Metrodome.

"We were real big rivals," Gilreath said earlier this week. "They beat us in the dome."

The final score?

"We got them by two, 8-6," Anderson said. "I think we did a two-point conversion, like a little tight end dump pass. That's how we got to eight."

As greater Minneapolis natives, Gilreath and Anderson go way back. Really, their relationship could be traced back way before they were a thought in anybody's minds, including their parents.

Because when their parents were at a similar age, maybe a bit younger, they were laying the foundation for a relationship of the future.

Both Gilreath and Anderson's parents attended the same high school and became friends at an early stage in their life. In addition to that, their grandparents had also been friends dating way back, too. So naturally, though they didn't attend the same high school, Gilreath and Anderson were poised to become friends.

They essentially didn't have a say in the matter.

"We're two Minneapolis guys that have similar personalities," Anderson said. "We're good guys to be around and have a good time with each other."

When Anderson committed to Wisconsin, it was natural to assume he would be hot on the trail of Gilreath the following year when he found out the Badgers were looking into his childhood rival turned friend.

"We had a game my freshman year," Anderson said. "I was warming up for the game and he was standing on the sidelines. We were going into the locker room before the kickoff and he was standing there with his girlfriend. She was like 6-foot-2. I was like, yeah, this is where you want to be.

"I kind of whispered in his ear and said this is where you want to be."

After originally committing to the hometown Gophers, Gilreath eventually had a change of heart and traded the Maroon and Gold for Cardinal and White. A move that furthered the relationship between two Minneapolis natives.

"He's my roommate," Gilreath said. "We pretty much think alike. He's probably my best friend on the team. We're pretty close and we just think alike. Everything is pretty much fun and games with us."

Always regarded serious on the football field, Gilreath and Anderson are about as far opposite as you can get off it.

Though they have an academic workload that becomes more rigorous when you throw in the fact that the team practices most every day and spends time traveling to game day locales throughout the season, Gilreath and Anderson try to keep things light.

Even if there's not much time to hang out and behave in a manner an average student would. But when they find the time to talk and have a good time they make sure to discuss what's important to them.

"Girls," Gilreath said. "That's the biggest thing. We're walking down the street and we're always asking, 'Would you date her? What about her? That's the big thing. The girls we date are best friends too so that's kind of funny."

Though they consider themselves rather light-hearted and down to earth, things haven't always been easy for the wide outs throughout their career.

Both have endured their fair share of injuries, both have endured mishaps (penalties, drops) on the field that have potentially cost their team and both have gone through growing pains en route to finding their niche on the UW campus.

"I've been up and down," Gilreath said. "I always think about Penn State my freshman year. I'm sure you haven't forgotten about it either. But that, during my freshman year, I think about that all the time and maybe how different my career might have been had I caught that ball.

"It's still motivation when I come out here and perform."

Anderson, who has seemingly been everywhere from Bret Bielema's doghouse to an explosive target for Scott Tolzien on a roller coaster ride of a career, maintains a light attitude.

Still, through all his hardships Anderson has made it a point to help Gilreath find his comfort zone because that's how friends are supposed to be.

"I know my freshman year I didn't really have too many older guys in front of me to show me through the ropes and things like that," Anderson said. "Personally, I'm trying to lead by example with our receivers. I just show them things before practice, how to warm up, how to warm up for games, how to prepare for practice off the field and things like that. I stress taking care of your body a lot.

"I'm definitely trying to lead by example for those guys."

As far as this fall camp goes, Anderson ran into yet another road block in his development. This time it came as the turf toe variety. But according to his positional cohort and roommate, the senior wide out has exuded nothing but desire to get right leading into the season opener at UNLV.

"It's tough for him," Gilreath said. "But it's a testament for how tough he is. I know how it is to go through injury and to do it in your last year you want to come out here and make a splash. It's our last go round and I know it's tough for him but he's staying mentally into it. He's not missing a beat.

"You don't see any complaining. When he goes, he goes."

When the Badgers take the field at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday night, it will mark the beginning of the end of a long career at UW for both senior wide receivers. While there is plenty of football to be played, both Gilreath and Anderson also realize all the hard work and all the long hours are giving them one last chance to do something special.

And they are going to relish the ride, because in the end not many have the opportunity to play football with their best friend at the Big Ten level.

"From my freshman year to now, just looking with all the seniors that came in my class with Scott and Moff (John Moffitt), Carimi (Gabe Carimi) you just look at those guys in the huddle and you realize that we've gone through a lot. We can all see that we've put in a lot of hard work.

"You can really feel that with our team chemistry and bonding."

With a No. 12 ranking entering the season, the opportunity presented this season has been building for four and five years for these UW seniors. At the wide receiver spot, Anderson and Gilreath feel a very solid fall camp has them on the verge of something big.

And maybe, just maybe, it will give them something else to talk about besides girls down the road.

"They have fun together," Tolzien said. "Ultimately, 10 years down the road you're going to remember all the times you had not only on the field but in the locker room and just hanging out.

"Those guys definitely have a real solid relationship."

And it's one that started many years ago, took a detour through the Metrodome and eventually down I-94 to Madison.

In the end, they're just two Minneapolis guys with the same thought process that became best friends.

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