Rose Bowl Recall: Scott Nelson
The Wisconsin Badgers will play in their 10th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1 when they take on the No. 6 Oregon Ducks.
To commemorate the accomplishments of the program both past and present, AllBadgers.com presents its "Rose Bowl Recall" series. We've asked former players either about one moment or one experience that stands out from their time out west in Pasadena. It could be from the game itself, it could be from one of the various annual pregame festivities that take shape, or it could be from after the clock strikes zero on the scoreboard.
On Saturday, a familiar postgame tale is retold from a standout Wisconsin safety, whose son will now plays for the cardinal and white.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.
Safety Scott Nelson
The former Wisconsin defensive back lettered from 1990-93 and became a regular starter in the final three seasons at UW.
I will let Nelson describe what happened after Wisconsin's 21-16 win over UCLA in the 1994 Rose Bowl, a moment with a lot of planning and emotion.
"For me, it was, people I think remember this, but game was great. The whole week was great, but that is the place that I decided to ask my now-wife to marry me after the game. Hard to believe that's 26 years ago that we're going to talking about this, right? We'll be married 25 years coming this next July. With all the hoopla, the whole week is amazing. [An] opportunity to be out in California, and you get chartered around with a bus led by the California Highway Patrol, and it's just not normal life. But you get used to it, which is a little bit scary to say. But out in California was when you talk about a setting and back then in our day, relative to the Rose Bowl, we didn't have the Big Ten championship. We didn't have the Final Four or any of that stuff."
"The whole experience, the opportunity out there, and then a chance to go into the Rose Bowl, I think the day before to kind of get settled was pretty amazing and just kind of see the whole atmosphere. But I knew that had we won the game, what I was going to do, and it really didn't hit me until after the game when I saw my wife, Becky, on the field and then reality sinks in. [laughs] You just went through this unbelievable game, an unbelievable finish against a really good team, and we've done something that no other Wisconsin team had done. People have been there, right, but we were the first one to win it. All those emotions and yet then you see my my wife standing there was a whole different set of emotions for me to handle and regroup and kind of compose yourself to pop one of the biggest questions of your life."
AllBadgers.com: How did it all play out?
"[laughs] That's a good question. So I had given the engagement ring to a friend of ours that traveled with the team, and he hung on to it for me all week so I didn't have to worry about it. Just thinking about the task at hand, right? We had a job to do to go out there, and that was to win the football game so I had to get that off my plate early. But we never talked about how it was going to go down after the game. Had we lost, we were going to Las Vegas to stay with my older brother, who was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, and I would have done it there. Thankfully, we win the game and I never even occurred to me, how am I going to get this ring back to propose? Thankfully the guy I gave it to was standing very close to me. I got interviewed by a number of people, and all of a sudden they disappear, and there's Becky standing in front of me. I'm like, 'Oh yeah, this is going down.' [laughs]
"Very surreal moment, right? This beautiful setting in the Rose Bowl, we just won, which like oh boy, so your heart starts pounding probably even more nervous than I was before the football game. I gave her a hug and the guy walked behind me, just put the box into my hand and off we went.
"Thankfully, she said 'Yes,' so that's a good thing. Then it was pretty cool afterwards. We stood up and probably about within 10 seconds, Lynn Swann who was working with ABC as their sideline reporter, came over to us and talked to us. So you talk about opportunities and just to share things and share moments with people -- for me to meet Lynn Swann, who I had watch growing up, to have good friends around, the roommates that I was living with around, my family was out there, Becky's family was out there -- it was amazing. The game and the chance to clinch and go to the Rose Bowl over in Tokyo, an experience I'll never have again. All those things together is just a magical year, and we take a lot of pride in that. We meaning my teammates, my senior classmates, with what we're able to accomplish with some great guys, underclassmen with us. That certainly helped us propel Wisconsin football and even the athletic department into the next century."
AllBadgers.com: Your son Cooper is a walk-on true freshman wide receiver for Wisconsin. What have you shared with him about your experiences out there? Have you given him any advice about just taking in the experience of the Rose Bowl?
"Yeah, you know for him he's redshirted this year, so he hasn't played. Just a first-year freshman, and I said this is a great time for you, whether it's Michigan walking into Camp Randall earlier in the year or heading out to Pasadena. Take it all in, look around at the crowd. Appreciate the setting of the stadium and the locker room and the sights, the smells, the crowd, the band, everything, and appreciate that because when you start playing, which is strange to say, which put on blinders. You almost become oblivious to what's around you. You hear the noise, and you know the stadium's there in the Rose Bowl, the mountains in the backdrop are unbelievable. Just the setting itself, you're on hallowed ground. Appreciate that, respect it, but go in be excited about where you're at but take it all in. Take pictures, take video, you know, now they have that directly on their hand with the phone so take as much as you can to share those memories and keep that because that's a lifetime of memories right there in one week.
"You never know if you're going to get back there by the time you get done so appreciate what's in front of you and go out there with your teammates and just have a blast. Work because it's a job. You need you need to work while you're out there, but there's so many things out there that for players and fans that we get a chance to celebrate and enjoy with those guys, with us as parents. Now on the other side of things, but to really watch your own kid and his teammates and their parents celebrate and enjoy the hard work and effort that these guys have put in and reap the reward of playing in the Rose Bowl, I don't know that it can get any better."
Top photo credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports