Watt Talks Wisconsin Commitment

Originally thinking Northwestern was the place for him, the more time Pewaukee (Wis) linebacker Derek Watt spent around the Wisconsin program, the campus and going to games to watch his brother, the more he realized that playing for the Badgers, no matter when he starts, was the right decision for him.

MADISON – When he sat down in his seat prior to kickoff, Derek Watt admitted it was a little ironic.

Watt, a three-star linebacker and ranked No.109 at his position by Scout.com, wanted to come to Wisconsin and be a part of the same program as his brother, but a shortage of scholarships meant the best the Badgers could do was offer a gray shirt, thus delaying Watt's enrollment until the following year.

After considering the options, Watt decided that Northwestern, a school that offered a full scholarship to Watt the same time the Badgers extended their offer, was the better option.

When he watched Wisconsin clinch a share of the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl, Watt recognized that he made the right switch. Not weird, just interesting.

"Yeah, I was committed to them and everything like that, but I am now a Badger," Watt told Badger Nation. "It wasn't anything Northwestern did at all. They did everything right throughout the entire process and they were absolutely great through everything. It was just something I felt I needed to do."

Watt committed to Northwestern on July 5, but slowly started to reconsider his choice the more time he spent around the Wisconsin program watching his brother, star junior defensive end J.J. Watt. Watt opened some eyes when he took an unofficial visit to the Ohio State game, but maintained he was a Wildcats commit.

But the more games home and away he visited and taking his official visit for the Indiana game, Watt decided to switch back.

"It was sort of the atmosphere, playing in my home state and all the good feelings about the Badgers started to come back again," Watt said. "The (OSU) game was a legendary game. It was a huge game for the program, one of the biggest games of the year in college football. That was a big part, but my decision was already coming out. That was just a step along the way. It was all starting to build up."

It was also a friendship feeling. Watt became good friends with Baldwin-Woodville linebacker Jake Keefer and Merrill tight end Sam Arneson during UW's camp and had sat together during Wisconsin football games. The duo was also one of the first people to post congratulations on Watt's Facebook wall.

Watt has also developed a good with Hartland Arrowhead linebacker Derek Landisch, who he works out with roughly four times a week at Next Level gym.

"We all have a good time, which is a key part of the decision," Watt said.

Watt – a 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker – impressed the UW coaching staff with his size, speed and agility after camping at Wisconsin in mid-June, but was just as excited to work with Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald and be the only linebacker the Wildcats were going to be taking in the class.

That's what made the process of telling the Northwestern coaches he was going to switch so challenging.

"Wisconsin was still talking to me a lot and every time I went up to a game, I got to talk to the coaches and build a good relationship," Watt said. "Coach Fitzgerald is one of the greatest guys I have ever met. Yes, he was disappointed, but he was very classy about. He wished me the best of luck, except when we play them, but was happy that I was upfront and honest with him the entire time.

"The Wisconsin coaches kind of new that I might be committing to them, but Coach Bielema was pretty excited when I called him and told him."

The offer is still a gray shirt by Wisconsin, dependent on what happens in the final eight weeks of the 2011 recruiting cycle. Playing both ways for Pewaukee High School, Watt rushed for over 1,500 yards as a senior and had 25 touchdowns, Watt admits it will be a challenge to sit out for a season before being able to enroll in January 2012, but it's not the end all.

"I don't view (the gray shirt) as a negative because it just gives me an extra six months to work out at Next Level, take credits as UW-Whitewater and get an extra six months to get bigger, stronger and faster," Watt said. "I've made good progress so far, so it might be a good thing. It's a win-win situation."

One thing is for certain, Watt didn't make the switch so he could have the opportunity to play with his brother, especially since if the offer stays a gray shirt, the Watt brothers would never play on the same team.

"It had no impact with J.J.," Watt said. "He was just sitting there, giving me the information I needed. I asked him a couple questions, he supplied that information for me, I got to stay with him and hang out with him a few times. It was simply something I felt I wanted to do and there wasn't anything he pushed me towards.

"I am completely 100 percent committed to Wisconsin. There is no other offer that could change my mind."

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