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Badgers football: Dare Ogunbowale’s leadership again on display in Chicago

July 27, 2016 GMT

CHICAGO — During a summer of racial tension and unnecessary violence across the country, Dare Ogunbowale felt, even more than mad or upset, disappointed in society’s inability to see through the differences in each other.

The University of Wisconsin running back knows humans are better than that, and he sees that every day in the game of football.

Ogunbowale was selected to give the keynote address at the Big Ten Media Days Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel in Chicago, and his message was for his fellow athletes to set an example in life that they do every day on the field.

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The fifth-year senior and former walk-on explained that no one on his football team, or any sports team he’s been a part of, cares about the background, upbringing or color of the guys around him — just that they’re willing to work together towards a common goal.

Ogunbowale wants to see athletes extend that mindset beyond college football and into a world that often finds that more difficult.

“If we can use our qualities to take command in society just as we do on the field by standing up for what’s right, we can make a difference,” Ogunbowale said during his speech. “A huge difference.

“The next time you hear someone react to what’s going on in the world by saying, ‘Somebody should do something,’ know that you have everything that it takes to be that somebody.”

For Ogunbowale, it’s about capitalizing on the opportunities that present themselves — something the Milwaukee native had to do on the football field to even be in position to deliver that message Tuesday.

He didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school, and a walk-on offer from the in-state Badgers was one of the few chances he had to play at the college level.

UW started him off at cornerback before moving him to running back in the middle of the 2014 season. He entered his junior year in 2015 as a relative unknown that didn’t seem likely to receive consistent reps.

“We were thinking maybe he’d be a guy that impacts special teams and be one of those core special teamers,” UW coach Paul Chryst said.

That role quickly changed.

After starter Corey Clement missed most of the season due to injury, Ogunbowale showed massive improvement and led UW in carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He even caught more passes than anyone on the team outside of wide receiver Alex Erickson.

“I have to (improve faster than others),” Ogunbowale said. “I’m still learning the game.”

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Less than a year after his first meaningful playing time at running back, Ogunbowale is now be considered one of the strongest leaders on the team.

He was one of three players picked to represent the Badgers at Big Ten Media Days this week and was selected as the only player in the conference to speak in front of more than a thousand at the event’s luncheon.

“He’s very well-respected, and I think it’s as much how he’s gone about his whole journey, his process, how he’s dealt with change, how he’s dealt with the adversity of walking on, all that stuff,” Chryst said. “I think he’s just a guy that’s truly respected by our players. It’s been fun to see his evolution.”

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