MOBILE, Ala. -- When Chris Borland steps between the white lines on the football field to practice for the 2014 Senior Bowl, he carries something that was passed down from generation to generation: his family name.
Growing up in Kettering, Ohio, and watching his three older brothers go on to pursue athletic careers in college, the former University of Wisconsin inside linebacker learned very quickly the importance of doing one’s best and representing his family the right way.
“I think all of the guys feel the same way,” Borland said. “When you play this game, your family’s name is on the back of your jersey, so it’s a good chance to represent what you’re about, what your family’s about and doing things the right way on and off the field means a lot to me.”
Two of Borland’s brothers, Mark (basketball) and Matt (soccer) played for NCAA Division III Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and his other brother, John, played college soccer for the United States Military Academy at West Point.
By playing football at Wisconsin, Borland was able to carry on the family tradition of success in athletic competition.
“We’ve got a wide variety of different interests and talents in my family, and my dad actually played linebacker at Miami for a little while too,” Borland said. “We’ve always enjoyed sports. It’s something we kind of bond over and push one another in.
“Growing up, my house was like a locker room. My sister moved out when I was young and she was 18, and it was just me and the boys, wrestling matches, fights, competitions, whiffle ball, climbing trees. It was an awesome childhood. (I have) a lot of scars, good ones though. They tell stories. I’m very close with my brothers and my sister and wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything.”
Another thing Borland would not trade is the opportunity he has had this week at the Senior Bowl, which he said has “been a lot of fun” trying to prove he can play among the best of the best.
“You get a chance to meet with NFL personnel, and it seems like a dream come true, and you get to compete against the best players in the country, so I’ve really enjoyed it,” Borland said. “You’re busy. There’s a lot of obligations, but I’m kind of relishing the opportunity and am trying to make the most of it.
“Hopefully, (coaches and scouts) understand that I’m the real deal. I believe I’m worthy of a higher draft pick, can play with the best players in the country and outperformed a lot of guys who are highly touted. Hopefully, they see that I’m a very good athlete, a very good football player, and also, just get a feel for how much I love the game and how much I want to get better at football.”
In addition to pride in his athletic background, Borland believes the journey he has taken to the NFL made him hungry.
Per his father’s rule, Borland and his brothers could not play football until they reached the ninth grade. That made the youngest of the Borland brothers even more eager to make plays once he got on the field, and that paid dividends for him, as well as his high school, Archbishop Alter.
As a senior, Borland earned first-team All-Ohio and conference player of the year honors after rushing for 1,230 yards and 19 touchdowns, as well as registering 72 total tackles, one interception and one forced fumble. Despite the success in high school, Borland feels like he is not even close to being the same player he was when he signed with the Badgers prior to the 2009 season.
“I wasn’t even a football player when I got to Wisconsin,” Borland said. “I started as a freshman in high school and played running back for a few years, and then, I played a little bit of defense my senior year. I didn’t know a whole lot, through no fault of my coaches. I just played for fun really. I’ve learned so much. I’ve grown so much in the position of linebacker. I really feel like a completely different football player than when I came in.”
It was at Wisconsin that Borland grew into a tackling machine.
In 55 games, Borland registered 234 solo tackles and 420 total stops. In addition to 50 tackles for 172 lost yards. He collected 17 sacks for 103 lost yards, including 9.5 over his last two years with the Badgers.
As he continues with the pre-draft process, Borland wants NFL teams to recognize what he can do to help a team.
“I think it’s my intangibles,” Borland said. “I think guys around me play better because of some things that I’m able to do. If you’re able to make your team better, and the players around you elevate their levels of play based off of what you’re doing, what you’re saying, how you’re leading, that’s a valuable asset to a team, and I think I bring that.”
ClevelandBrowns.com's coverage of the 2014 Senior Bowl is Driven by Liberty Ford.