Around Lawton, Okla., wrestling coaches still can't stop talking about Brian Madden.
"Everytime there's a new 189-pounder here, we say he can't be as tough as that Madden kid," said Ellis Holt, Madden's wrestling coach at Eisenhower High School. "Madden might be the toughest 189- or 215-pounder to ever come out of this state. There's big arguments about that a lot."
Saturday, the same guy who wrestled his way to a 32-0 record and the state 189-pound championship as a senior in 1997, will assume his new role as Navy's starting quarterback. And he'll be replacing injured Brian Broadwater (broken collarbone) on one of the Midshipmen's biggest stages--at Notre Dame, before a national television audience.
"It's a little tougher just to fall asleep now," said Madden, a sophomore who has played limited portions of four games this season. "I'm going to make my mistakes . . . but hopefully the good outweighs the bad and I can get a win for this football team."
Those who know him best say that wouldn't be a huge surprise, although those folks might not be aware of Navy's 35-game losing streak against the Fighting Irish, dating from 1963.
As a three-sport athlete in high school--in addition to starting at quarterback and defensive back on the football team, he was a three-handicap golfer as a senior--Madden gained renown for doing whatever it took to win. He was fond of the school's conditioning circuit in which wrestlers were required to complete, in rapid succession, 30 training stations involving everything from lifting weights to jumping rope.
"About the third round, everyone else would be dragging, but he'd still be yelling and screaming and wanting more," said Holt. "Nobody could keep up with him."
His undefeated record as a senior wrestler that year made him one of two wrestlers in school history to accomplish that feat. The other, Dwight Hinson, became a four-time all-American at Iowa State in the mid 1990s.
However, with a chance to earn a scholarship from a number of top college wresting programs, Madden chose football.
"I wanted to win states in high school, but after that I knew I wanted to hang it up" as a wrestler, said Madden, who hated the constant drudgery of trying to lose weight prior to a match. "It's been my dream ever since I was a little kid to have what I have in front of me right now."
Although he was a talented quarterback in high school, his real strength was as a defensive back. But his insistence on playing offense in college dimmed the ardor of many large programs, though schools such as Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Arkansas still showed interest. "I probably burned some bridges by saying I wanted to be a quarterback," Madden said.
He chose Navy for the education, and because it was one of the only Division I-A schools that would let him play quarterback. After coming to Annapolis last year, he led the junior varsity to a 7-1 mark, then competed with Broadwater for the starting position during spring practice before suffering an ankle injury.
In the process, he won a big fan in Coach Charlie Weatherbie.
"He's a little more physical-type player," Weatherbie said. "Definitely, the toughness that comes through a wrestling program would have something to do with his mental toughness now. He was also a golfer, so that could be why he throws the ball so well--he's got great touch."
Madden has become particularly adept at breaking tackles, something Holt credits to years of wrestling training that stressed skills such as hand control, body positioning and leverage. "It's balance and knowing how to control your body, and I think a lot of it is also mental," said Madden. "I'm not afraid to take on a blow."
With Broadwater likely out for the next three to four weeks, Madden will get the opportunity about which he has dreamed.
"Brian had an injury, which is unfortunate," said Madden, "but opportunities like this are what you live for."