Greg Russo plans to cherish this holiday season.
Spend Christmas Eve in Lake Mills with his parents. Drive to Green Bay on Christmas Day to watch the Packers host the Chicago Bears. Fly to Los Angeles on Monday with his University of Wisconsin teammates to continue preparations for the Jan. 2 Rose Bowl.
"What better way to end the year than to be in the Granddaddy of them all?" Russo, a senior reserve defensive end said after a recent practice. "Ringing in the New Year with these guys. . . . I couldn't think of anybody else better. All of my friends on the team now. . . . the coaches.
"That's OK with me."
You won't find a UW player who isn't excited about UW's second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.
Yet you might not find a player on the roster whose excitement level surpasses that of Russo, who does not expect to play in the game.
When you've twice spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's in a war zone as a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, your appreciation of freedom and football changes.
"I think it adds some perspective," said sophomore linebacker Chris Borland, who sat out the 2011 Rose Bowl after undergoing shoulder surgery. "Greg has been through more than anybody on the team, it is safe to say.
"I think guys understand where football comes in and really when you compare the struggles you have in the game of football compared to what Greg has gone through, you gain perspective."