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Dustin Sherer, UW football vs. Purdue
A year after quarterbacking the Badgers for the second half of the season, Dustin Sherer has demonstrated his commitment to the program by accepting his role as UW's third-string quarterback.

Life couldn't have been much better for Dustin Sherer at this time last year.

On Nov. 8, 2008, he felt great as he left Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., after the University of Wisconsin football team's 55-20 victory over Indiana. Sherer did a lot of handing off that day -- the Badgers rushed for a season-high 441 yards and seven touchdowns -- but that didn't diminish the satisfaction he got from winning a game as a starting quarterback in his home state.

Sherer will return to the same venue Saturday -- 364 days later -- as a third-string quarterback for the Badgers.

The strong desire to play hasn't left the fifth-year senior since he went from being the leading candidate as UW's starter this season to standing in line behind junior Scott Tolzien and redshirt freshman Curt Phillips during the course of a few weeks in training camp. But it's particularly difficult for Sherer to stand and watch during a stretch of games that includes Purdue and Indiana in consecutive weeks.

The number of Boilermakers Sherer played against as a high school star in central Indiana nearly reaches double figures. Meanwhile, his brother, Chad, is a redshirt freshman linebacker for the Hoosiers.

"That would be kind of cool to be able to play," Sherer said. "But you can't. So you sit there and do your part."

There are a couple of different routes Sherer, who started the final seven games last season after replacing Allan Evridge, could have taken after he found out in August that Tolzien had been named the starter.

Sherer could have pouted, gone through the motions and been a distraction during his final season at UW. Or he could have remained fully invested in the program and embraced his new role, even if it was less than ideal.

He chose the latter.

"I just think you've got to take stuff like that and learn from it," Sherer said. "There's not much else you can do. I've got a lot of respect for the guys on this team. Being a senior, I think you've got to be a leader. I think people still kind of look to me in that role - playing or not playing - so it's kind of cool.

"I'm just being myself. I try to find ways to come here and have fun."

Sherer's duties on game day range from signaling in plays to serving as a middle man for communication between his teammates and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to offering input when Chryst asks for it.

Chryst said he admires the way Sherer has handled the demotion.

"Very pleased," Chryst said. "And yet, not shocked by it. He's been great."

A testament to Sherer's commitment to putting the team first came earlier this season, when Chryst mentioned the possibility of getting him in a game.

"He said, 'You know what, coach? I'll do whatever you want, but these snaps could be invaluable for Curt,' " Chryst said of Sherer, who spent 3½ seasons waiting his turn before finally getting a chance to start in 2008. "That's a pretty good awareness level, I think, because he's been in those shoes. You appreciate that."

He's also been in Tolzien's shoes, which is why Sherer didn't hesitate to offer words of encouragement to Tolzien after the starter threw a combined five interceptions in back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Iowa last month.

"Obviously, everybody was against him," Sherer said. "I lived it. As soon as you don't play well, people always want to put the next guy in. I told Scott, 'Don't listen to that stuff.' Scott wouldn't be playing if he wasn't good enough to play. He's made plays. He's just got to go out there and trust himself."

When it was pointed out to Sherer he's starting to sound like a coach, he smiled. His father, Devon, has been telling him he should go into coaching when he finishes college, and in some ways Sherer has felt like one this season.

Sherer hasn't ruled out coaching, but right now he's leaning toward farming. His grandfather and uncle own 3,200 acres in Indiana that include fields of corn and soybeans.

Whatever Sherer decides to do, he knows the lessons in perseverance he learned this season will be of value.

"There are so many times you just want a fifth-year senior to go out and start every game and win 'em all," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "I told him earlier in the year, it's my own personal belief that at some point this year, we're probably going to need him to win a game, and I think that may still be the case.

"I can't give any award or any recognition in our program to anybody more deserving than him."

Tom Mulhern contributed to this story.