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Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen reflects on decision to leave Utah State, his new life in the Midwest

Published: Sunday, June 23 2013 9:58 a.m. MDT

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, left, talk with OU assistant coach Jerry Montgomery as players work out during All-Poly Camp in Layton Thursday, June 20, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Deseret News sports writer Dirk Facer caught up with Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen this past week while the former Utah State head coach and Utah defensive coordinator was in Layton for the annual All Poly Camp.

Q: How is Wisconsin and how has the transition been for you?

Andersen: Really good. Great people. Coach (Barry) Alvarez and his staff have made it really quite simple for the coaches to come in. You worry about building relationships with the kids and that takes time. Building trust just takes time, but overall the coaches are settled in. It's a tremendous place and there's good people there just like I'm used to in the state of Utah. So there's a lot of common factors, I guess I could say, in the quality of life and what drives people, which makes the transition even smoother and simpler. The kids in the program are much like the kids in Utah as far as tough, hard-working kids, blue-collar attitude and are driven in life as well as athletics.

Q: Was it tough to leave Utah State and the state of Utah?

Andersen: Absolutely. There's no question. It wasn't something I was looking to do. While everybody is pretty well-versed and everybody has their own opinions of exactly how it went down, but at the end of the day it was an unbelievable opportunity. It was an opportunity that I knew that I had to take. I think the kids on the football team at Utah State understand that. I'm very blessed and humbled to be the head football coach at Wisconsin. I've got a great staff with great kids, but it was a very, very difficult time. You make those decisions when you think the time is right and I believe I always get told where to go. When I woke up I believe that's where I was told to go and no question it's where I'm supposed to be.

Q: Are you happy with the staff you've been able to assemble at Wisconsin?

Andersen: It's a great mix. It's obviously a high level of football, but we were able to get a good group that was familiar with what we do at Utah State that had been with me for a number of years. To get Andy Ludwig back as the offensive coordinator, that was great. Evan (Simon) has done a great job in the strength room. Then we went out and got some guys that have been in the Midwest, which was important. The two guys that I retained — Ben Strickland and Thomas Hammock — have been outstanding as far as just giving us a grasp on the Midwest and then Henry Mason is also in the football office and he does an unbelievable job of kind of focusing in the Midwest and kind of where we're going in recruiting. So it's a very good staff. We had an opportunity to hire some very good football coaches. We have that opportunity because of the athletic department and coach Alvarez at Wisconsin.

Q: What are your expectations this season and long range at Wisconsin?

Andersen: My expectations are at the end of the day to send the seniors out so when they walk out that door for the last time they very proudly wear that Wisconsin hat and got their chest kind of puffed out and feel great about what Wisconsin football stands for on and off the field — get a group of men that succeed academically, socially and make football important and away we go. It's not ever measured by me with wins and losses. I know how important they are and they're a big part of this process, but it's about the kids first.

Q: Is this a much different animal than Utah State?

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