INDIANAPOLIS — WR Nick Toon has never had a 1,000-yard season. No Wisconsin wideout has. Not in the past six seasons anyway. That's simply the way the Badgers play, and Toon said he is fine with that.
"I knew that going into it," Toon said. "One of the reasons that I went to Wisconsin is that they do a good job of developing complete players and that's one of the things that I think I do well, one of the things I pride myself on, as far as my game is concerned. I feel that I'm a complete receiver, a complete player. I can play and do well in all aspects of the game."
Madison, Wis., would hardly seem to be the ultimate destination for wideouts with lofty dreams. The Badgers haven't had a receiver eclipse the millennium mark since TE Travis Beckum pulled off the feat in 2005. That's the way it generally works at Wisconsin. Tight ends lead the way, and wide receivers fade into the background. That's the type of power football that has prevailed at the school for what seems like an eternity. And that's what makes Toon's numbers so impressive.
He totaled 805 receiving yards on 54 receptions in his sophomore year, before a right turf toe injury kept him out for a good portion of his junior season.
"I've struggled with injuries a little bit over my last two seasons but it's part of the game," Toon said. "You've got to take it for what it's worth. Learn from it, get healthy, move forward. It's just an obstacle. There will always be obstacles in this game."
Toon was able to move forward in a big way during the 2011 season, starting 13 games and grabbing a career-high 926 receiving yards with 10 touchdown receptions — he had a total of eight TD catches the previous three seasons.
After earning second-team All-Big Ten honors, Toon was fairly simplistic in his analysis of his final campaign for the Badgers.
"It was a better season than I had last year and that's all you can ask for," Toon said. "Either you're getting better or you're getting worse."
Toon came up clutch when his team needed him the most, notching a career-high nine receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. But Toon said that the sky is the limit, even after his best season.
"My potential is still definitely not reached," said Toon, who measures 6-1½, 213 pounds. "I still have a long way to go, and by no means have I reached my full potential."
He certainly has big footsteps to follow in. His father, Al Toon, was also a wideout at Wisconsin, and although Nick passed his father in collegiate receiving yards last season, he's got a much steeper climb awaiting him when it comes to passing his father as an NFL receiver.
Al Toon hit it big with the New York Jets in the late 1980s, earning three trips to the Pro Bowl. A couple inches taller than his son, Al had 900-plus receiving yards in four of his eight NFL seasons. But Nick would be hard-pressed to remember any of that. He was only 4 years old when his father decided to call it quits. Al's final game remains one of Nick's few lasting memories of his father's NFL days.
"I actually distinctly remember, and this is one of the only memories I have with him, after his last game, I went down on the field and kind of walked around with him and he carried me around the field," Toon said. "I remember hanging out at the facilities, playing around on the practice field and the locker room and stuff but that's about it."
With so few memories from his dad's career, Toon is looking forward to creating his own memories on the fields of the NFL, and while he would play just about anywhere, he hinted at an early preference for Lambeau Field.
"That'd be awesome," Toon said. "I obviously watch the Packers, was a fan of the Packers growing up and I think the Wisconsin fans would love it as well."