Nearly forced out of football twice, Tony Bilderback back as cap - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Nearly forced out of football twice, Tony Bilderback back as captain at UW-L

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) - What a turnaround for Tony Bilderback.

The UW-L senior wide receiver walked away from football last season after suffering a rare, but severe shoulder injury.

But he changed his mind, and is back for the 2014 season, ready as ever to contribute for a talented Eagles football team, as a captain.

"What made me want to come back was just being with the guys," he said. "At one point I actually did decide that I wasn't going to come back, and after sitting around and thinking about it and talking with people that mean the most to me, I realized that I really needed to be back with the team for this final year."

Bilderback, who wears No. 1, had a great season in 2011, with 35 catches for 510 yards and four touchdowns. In 2012, he had 18 catches for 215 yards and one score, a season also bothered by injury.

It's been a while since he's seen the field. His first chance will be on Saturday night against Dubuque.

"It's hard to explain. I'm so excited and anxious. I can't wait to get down to Dubuque and help this team get a W."

He was named one of five team captains this season, an honor Bilderback considers an extension of his leadership role.

"I hope what I do on the field and off the field reflect what it means to be an Eagle and it's an honor to be a captain of this football team," he said.

"His presence is a calming presence," Eagles head coach Joel Dettwiler said. "He's not a guy that's going to jump up and down and bring attention to himself. I think those are very admirable qualities, but he also has a fierce side to him where he's going to jump up and get after it and be the guy that wants to make the play. Every year you want guys like that."

Bilderback knows he could have easily walked away from the Division III program with little regrets, but his passion for the game was too strong.

"It's all about the love of the game, so if you don't love this game, you don't love being a college football player," he said. "I think a lot of guys wouldn't have come back after it."

"I love the atmosphere of the game, the crowd getting excited and your teammates cheering you on. Working so hard with your teammates towards a goal and kind of having to sit out and miss out on that a little bit, that was the hardest part for me."

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