Seven inducted to Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame inducted its newest seven members on Sept. 11.Among the group were former high-profile athletes Devin Harris (men’s basketball) and Jim Leonhard (football), as well as Lizzy Fitzgerald (volleyball), Brian Rafalski (men’s hockey), Mike Gentile (men’s soccer), Kerry Weiland (women’s hockey) and Paula Bonner (administration).Jim LeonhardA perennial fan favorite, Leonhard is the perfect example of never letting size matter. The 5-foot-8 Leonhard didn’t draw much recruiting attention in Troy, Wisconsin, a town of 105.He still earned a walk-on spot on Barry Alvarez’s 2001 team, and by the time he was a senior, he was an All-American. From there, he enjoyed a 10-year NFL career with the Ravens, Saints Jets, Broncos and Browns.Leonhard and his family have since returned to Madison, where he remains involved with the football program.Devin HarrisWhen people talk about the rise of the Wisconsin men’s basketball program, the conversation begins with Devin Harris. The introduction video that preceded his formal induction went so far to call Harris “the architect of the Badgers’ 21st century consistency.”The praise is well deserved. In his three seasons at UW, the Wauwatosa, Wisconsin native helped the Badgers to three Big Ten Championships (regular season titles in 2002 and 2003, tournament title in 2004).Harris earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors after that 2004 season, and declared a year early for the NBA Draft. He was selected fifth overall by the Dallas Mavericks.Harris has enjoyed a solid NBA career, and is back playing with the Mavericks after brief stints with the Nets, Jazz and Hawks.Brian RafalskiRafalski was the lone member of the 2015 class that couldn’t attend the ceremony in Madison, but he still managed to make his presence felt.In between the third and fourth quarters of the Wisconsin football team’s 58-0 win over Miami (Ohio), Rafalski got all of Camp Randall hyped by introducing “Jump Around.”Despite being undersized, Rafalski was a standout defenseman for the men’s hockey team from 1991-95. He then played professionally from 1995-2009, winning three Stanley Cup titles and two silver medals on the United States’ Olympic team in 2002 and 2010.Paula BonnerBonner is a staple at UW pep rallys. One of her many duties as  president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association is to pump up the crowd before a big event, and she takes that job seriously.Before becoming president of the WAA in 2000, Bonner served as an associate athletic director and oversaw the 11 women’s athletic programs. She was instrumental in enforcing Title IX policies and helping women’s athletics reach level playing fields with the men’s teams.Lizzy FitzgeraldBetween all of the ceremonies and functions this weekend, Fitzgerald had the busiest. She also had to coach her Georgia volleyball team in two matches at the Badger Classic. The Bulldogs may have struggled, losing both of their matches, but it didn’t spoil the weekend for Fitzgerald.“It’s been overwhelming, humbling,” Fitzgerald said. “An emotionally draining weekend, that’s for sure.”Fitzgerald, one of UW’s most successful setters, was a pivotal player in the Badgers’ run to the NCAA Championship game in 2000. She’s also married to former Wisconsin football punter Kevin Stemke, who she met during her time in Madison.Mike GentileWhen the phone rang and Gentile found out he had been selected to Wisconsin’s Hall of Fame, he thought it was a prank call.It wasn’t, though, and the captain of the 1995 Wisconsin men’s soccer team that won the program’s only national championship earned his call to the hall.Gentile, now bald, joked that he missed his hair that had been on display during his highlight video. He also credited his teammates for that magical run in the fall of 1995.“If it wasn’t for them,” Gentile said, “I wouldn’t be here today.”Genitle was selected ninth overall in the 1996 MLS Draft and played professionally until 2002.Kerry Weiland Weiland was a trailblazer in every aspect of her life. She played on all-boys teams growing up in Alaska, and was a member of the Wisconsin women’s hockey programs first recruiting class.She was also the first All-American in program history.Weiland recanted the program’s evolution, and compared the current, state-of-the-art facilities to what her teams had to deal with.The team would have to start getting dressed in the visiting locker room at Camp Randall Stadium, but then would have to haul all of their equipment all the way to the Shell, where the team played before the construction of LaBahn Arena.“All of those memories of trekking, [these teams] will never have to do it,” Weiland said. “But they also won’t have the same bonding experience.”Weiland was a member of the 2010 Olympic squad that won a silver medal at Vancouver.last_img read more

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