Published November 20, 2014
Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien walked into his bedroom in the apartment he shares with offensive linemen John Moffitt and Bill Nagy and made a startling discovery.
His room was upside down.
The furniture. The posters on the wall. Everything.
"We had his bed turned upside down, his TV stand upside down," Moffitt said, laughing about his prank. "I'm naturally kind of a slob. I don't put things back and he likes things very in order. It's really kind of creepy."
It's a little mild to call Tolzien just a perfectionist. He's into the smallest of details — and that's a good thing.
Moffitt and receiver Nick Toon say Tolzien's relentless pursuit of perfection inspires confidence. The 12th-ranked Badgers know the fifth-year senior won't be unsure or unprepared in crunch time on Saturdays, when they take on the likes of Ohio State and Iowa.
"It's a really good thing to have as a quarterback," Toon said. "He's just organized in all aspects of his life, from his football to his playbook to his room to anything."
Most of the attention at Wisconsin goes to the line or to the running game, led this year by dynamic tailback John Clay. Last year, Tolzien wasn't the starter or even the backup heading into fall camp, but he climbed the depth chart in camp and landed the starter's role.
"This year, my outlook is just going to be one of a little bit more responsibility," said Tolzien, who was recruited by Mid-American Conference schools until Wisconsin came into the picture. "That's what you want as a quarterback, the responsibility to make changes if things aren't right and just lead."
Last year, he threw for 2,705 yards with 16 TDs and 11 interceptions, leading Wisconsin to a 10-3 record and a win in the Champs Sports Bowl over Miami after making just eight attempts previously in his college career.
Tolzien has traveled so far that one national publication called him the "perfect quarterback" for Wisconsin because of his demeanor. Tolzien chuckles at the compliment, describing what type of player that would be.
"First and foremost you've got to take care of the ball. We win games by winning the turnover battle," he said. "Secondly, playing within yourself. Don't play out of your abilities or try to do too much in this offense, which is great because you know that it all starts with the run game and just trying to chip away, just trying to move the chains rather than always having to make big plays and have the whole thing on your shoulders."
Tolzien tries to shrug off that he's obsessed, pointing at his father, Mike, as the real neat freak of his family with the perfectly manicured lawn outside their suburban Chicago home. He's not really that bad, he says as Toon shakes his head in disagreement nearby.
"I've been in his room, it's spotless," Toon said.
Does Tolzien get frantic if he can't find something?
"Yeah, yeah. That's why his roommates go in and move stuff around sometimes to mess with him," the receiver said.
Moffitt, the lineman roommate, stays up late, plays video games and lounges around. Tolzien is gone early each day, choosing a morning routine.
"He and I are polar opposites. He's very 'productive' — that's the word he uses," Moffitt said.
Tolzien doesn't see why he'd squander time being messy when he could use it toward building something special.
"I feel like you only get so many opportunities and when you miss details, I feel like you wasted an opportunity — on the field and in the classroom," he said. "I'm not perfect, but I get frustrated when I don't have the details down."
And just because teammates know how to needle Tolzien, it doesn't mean he's a pushover. Far from it, he uses all that work to his advantage against his opponents — and his teammates.
When backup quarterback Curt Phillips sat in the third row of a recent meeting and donned Tolzien's No. 16 jersey to get a rise out of the straight-laced leader, Tolzien didn't miss a beat.
"What are you doing with a Joe Montana jersey on?" he asked.