Former Head Coach Bret Bielema in Madison for Wisconsin Pro Day
MADISON, Wis. -- When looking among the 44 NFL personnel in attendance at Wisconsin's Pro Day on Wednesday morning, an old face from the Badgers football program -- no long wearing cardinal and white but a gold sweatshirt with his team's logo in the center --stood out.
Welcome back to town, Bret Bielema.
The former Wisconsin head coach turned NFL assistant coach was in Madison for the annual event, this time as the outside linebackers coach/senior assistant for the New York Giants.
After the players participated in the drills -- the same ones seen at the NFL Scouting Combine -- Bielema worked out some of the Wisconsin defensive players, most notably linebackers Chris Orr and Zack Baun.
"Aww man, it was crazy because he's a legend here," Orr said of Bielema after Pro Day. "He's such a cool guy, such a genuine guy. You definitely feel that when you're working with him so it was fun for me."
Bielema guided Wisconsin to a 68-24 record in his seven seasons as its head coach. Claiming the Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year award in his first season leading the program in 2006, UW finished 12-1 and defeated Arkansas in the 2007 Capital One Bowl.
Four out of his seven years at the helm, the program recorded 10 or more victories. From 2010-12, he eventually led the Badgers to three consecutive Big Ten championships and Rose Bowl appearances before leaving to take the same position at Arkansas in December 2012.
After five seasons in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks fired Bielema after a 29-34 record. However, he found a home at the professional level with the New England Patriots and recently joined the historic NFC East organization as an assistant under new head coach Joe Judge.
Baun said after Pro Day that he had a meeting with Bielema on Tuesday night in the film room, something the NFL Draft prospect said went "really well." He noted that the coach liked his hand usage.
"I've said it time and time again, being an undersized edge (rusher), I need to have perfect technique because my arms definitely aren't as long as these big 6'7 tackles," Baun said. "But he really liked my technique, and there's definitely things to improve on, too."
Both Baun and Orr were asked about Bielema's humor as well.
"Yeah, there definitely was some humor, and last night he was cracking jokes while we were drawing up stuff on the board or doing that," Baun said. "But the guy's very professional. He definitely knows what he's talking about."
Did Bielema's humor surprise Orr?
"No, I knew he was funny," Orr said with a laugh. "I heard stories from Coach (Paul) Chryst and stuff, so I knew he was funny. He made it light out there, laughing and cracking a little jokes. That was fun."