Natrell Jamerson admits he received a bit of grief from teammates after intercepting a second-quarter pass in the University of Wisconsin’s 33-24 victory over Northwestern on Saturday.
The Wildcats faced fourth-and-9 at the UW 32-yard line when the safety saw a pass heading towards him nearly 20 yards downfield. He could bat the ball down and give his team an automatic 20 yards of field position, or intercept the pass and try for even more.
He caught the ball before stumbling into a tackle around the 15-yard line.
“I slipped a little bit,” Jamerson said. "We always joke with each other. Especially me coming from receiver, they expect me to do what I did the second time every time."
That “second time” Jamerson referred to came in the fourth quarter, when he jumped in front of a pass over the middle, made a man miss near the sideline and then outran everyone else to the end zone.
The 36-yard pick-six gave the Badgers a 31-10 lead that ultimately proved insurmountable.
"That’s Christmas,” UW safety D’Cota Dixon said. "It was Christmas for my brother. I’ve never gotten two interceptions in a game or a pick-six. It was just a surreal feeling to see him do that … and actually just see him develop over the years. He’s really taken advantage of the opportunity as a starter at safety, and I think he’s just making the best of it. We all got to see that today."
Jamerson began his UW career as a wide receiver but moved to cornerback following his freshman year. After serving as the Badgers’ No. 3 cornerback for much of last season, he made the move to safety to replace Team MVP Leo Musso.
Through it all, Jamerson’s maintained a key role on special teams, and he made what Dixon called the biggest play of Saturday’s game on UW’s punt team.
After Northwestern cut the Badgers’ lead to 31-24 and forced a punt with just more than a minute remaining, Jamerson sprinted down the field as a gunner and caught the punt on the 2-yard line.
Two plays later, Dixon tackled Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson in the end zone for a victory-sealing safety, ending Northwestern’s comeback attempt.
"Two years ago, he was our special teams player of the year,” UW coach Paul Chryst said of Jamerson. "What you appreciate from him is that, now that he’s in a starting role, what he thinks about and how he approaches special teams is every bit as important as it was when he was first breaking in. … We’re going to have a lot more close games. We’re going to need plays such as that. It doesn’t matter how it comes or what unit it comes on."
Jamerson, who also recorded six tackles, a pass breakup and half a sack against Northwestern, said he views special teams the same as offense or defense and that he’s happy to help in any way he can.
He did just that this offseason when switching positions for the second time in three years back in the winter, a transition that coaches said felt smooth from the very beginning. As Saturday showed, Jamerson’s confident in his newest role for UW, and the Badgers feel just as confident with him in it.
“Hey, man, he did his thing today,” UW cornerback Derrick Tindal said. "I expected that."