In the Badgers’ locker room, there are many names Derrick Tindal goes by. You can hear him being called No. 25, Derrick, DT, Lil Derrick, Boogie in the Hoodie, Tindal Island or just Tindal. Tindal has gained a lot of nicknames throughout the years, and rightfully so. The senior cornerback is suiting up for his last game in Camp Randall on Saturday against Michigan.
Tindal’s story starts in Fort Lauderdale. Even at a young age, Tindal was faced with adversity. His father and uncle were both arrested. His aunt died of cancer. One of his close cousins was killed in the streets after being run over by a car. But his greatest loss was his mother, who died in November of 2014, after an extremely long battle with cancer.
“It made me tougher. I grew up, not the best,” Tindal said. “I got into a lot of fights, a lot of trouble, when I was younger.”
He was aware of his rough surroundings and knew that he didn’t want that for himself.
“That just made me want to change that. I didn’t want to be the normal Tindal- that’s known for going to jail or doing something wrong. I wanted to do something else with myself and I feel like I found it through football.”
Tindal was able to continue playing football, thanks to his large support system. “I had a lot of people, teachers, who cared for me in high school. They really took my education seriously and really took me seriously as a person. They knew what I had been through and they knew all of the family members I lost and stuff. They were always there for me.”
Thanks to his support system and athletic ability, Tindal found himself playing football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I came up here, met the team, saw the family atmosphere, then I just fell in love with the place.”
Tindal bonded with his older teammates. He looked up to them. And now, as those members have graduated, Tindal has filled in that leadership role.
“He’s been a big brother to me since my first week here. He was one of the first guys I met and he lent a helping hand to me since day one,” said freshman cornerback Madison Cone.
Cone commends Tindal for being the energizer in the secondary. He’s also a hard worker.
“When DT comes, you just never know what you’re going to get. But he’s going to wake you up, he is going to get everybody going with his personality. He’s just a great guy. When it’s time to lock in, he’s a hard worker and a good mentor.” Cone also takes comfort in the fact that Tindal assures him that he is only a phone call or text away if he needs anything.
Dontye Carriere-Williams, redshirt freshman cornerback, couldn’t preach enough about Tindal’s selflessness.
“It’s not always about him. You can make a play and he’s rooting for you as if he made the play. I really like that about him. He’s not selfish at all. He’s a very selfless person. He cares about you more than he cares about himself sometimes. I mean, he’s a really good guy.”
Carriere-Williams and Tindal both came to Wisconsin from South Florida, and Williams said that Tindal really took him under his wing when he first got to Madison. Carriere-Williams said that Tindal had some valued advice for him.
“He just told me to make sure I’m on time to everything. First impression is the best impression. Just make sure I work hard. Always come in willing to learn. Those are just some of the things he made sure he told me when I first got on campus and it stuck with me.”
Tindal takes pride in being able to give this advice to younger players on the team, but he doesn’t take all the credit.
“I got the guys on my team, the younger cats, they always listen to me. They make my job easy,” Tindal said. “Easy. They know where I’m coming from, they know when I say something I mean it with love. No matter if I’m coming down on them hard or if I just sit back chilling. They make my job easy. Most of the time I don’t have to say nothing because they handle their job.”
Tindal offers his teammates more than just worldly advice. He has helped both Cone and Carriere-Williams with their technique. Carriere-Williams said, “On the football perspective, just certain techniques and stuff. By him being an older guy with experience, and me being a redshirt freshman with only so much experience leading up to this year, I make sure I pick his brain a lot.”
But off the field is where you can learn the most from him.
“Biggest thing you can learn from DT is to just have fun and enjoy life. I mean, it don’t matter where you see DT, he just going to be cracking jokes and laughing, and having fun. Even off the field, he brings that juice. He brings that fun mentality. I love being around him,” Cone said of his teammate.
Nick Nelson, junior cornerback, said that his leadership is what makes him such a good teammate. “He’s been around for so long and played against so many different people. I’d say he has leadership on and off the field.”
Tindal and Nelson both consider each other brothers and having that chemistry only helps the two cornerbacks on the field.
“[That chemistry] helps a lot you know ‘cause you know you can trust him,” Nelson said.
Their relationship was hard for Nick to explain, but one thing that wasn’t hard to explain was Tindal’s personality. He is funny, energetic, outgoing, positive and a jokester. He is always smiling, talking, and of course, dancing.Very different than what opponents see on the field, a tough, brutish cornerback.
Nelson accompanied the energetic Tindal to a haunted house earlier this fall, and while the two stayed close the whole time out of fear, Nelson said he wouldn’t have gone with anyone else.
But one thing Badger fans may not know about Tindal: he has a major sweet tooth. Carriere-Williams said, “DT can go all day with just eating candy and be fine. That’s all he needs. If this world was just full of candy, he could survive. I don’t think he even needs something to drink. He just needs candy, he can live off of candy.”
Derrick will play in his last game at Camp Randall on Saturday as the Badgers look to continue their undefeated record against the Michigan Wolverines. But it’s no surprise to Tindal that the Badgers are where they are right now.
“[We knew] we could do something special. We came together as seniors and talked about it. Everybody had the same motivation. When you have a team that is just fighting for the same cause.”
But being in the position the team is, Tindal says there is no added pressure.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s still football man. You gotta show up every Saturday. You gotta play every Saturday. After a loss, you still gonna have to show up and play the next game. That’s football. You gotta just stay prepared and keep working hard.”
With a lot of noise surrounding the Wisconsin Badgers and their playoff hopes, Derrick said none of that matters if they don’t win. “You know, like we say, we a humble team, take it one game at a time, just don’t worry about the championship right now, we just worried about our next game.”
Of course, Wisconsin’s next game is one of their biggest of the season. But if the team follows in Tindal’s mindset, they should be just fine.
“I’m going out there and doing my job for the whole game to put my team in the best position to win. When you got everybody thinking like that, that’s how you make a great team.”