Joining the Tradition

The tradition of walk-ons at Wisconsin is long and full of talented players that have turned out to be key contributors, team captains and NFL prospects. Over the weekend, Kettle Moraine senior linebacker Jake Rademacher decided that kind of opportunity was too much too pass up.

MADISON - Paying for college tuition is one thing and having a full ride offer is another, but Kettle Moraine senior linebacker Jake Rademacher knew that he would almost be selling himself short if he turned down an opportunity to play for the two time defending Big Ten champions.

Rademacher had been on linebackers coach Dave Huxtable's radar since the 6-2, 205-pound linebacker came up to another Wisconsin high school summer camp. Getting to work one-on-one with UW's first year linebacker coach, Rademacher certainly made the right kind of impression.

"That's when he (Huxtable) decided that he wanted me on the team," Rademacher said.

On Saturday, Rademacher finally accepted the opportunity, turning down scholarship offers to Butler, Drake, North Dakota and South Dakota State to walk on to the team starting this summer.

"I wanted to reach for the stars and follow my dream of playing at Wisconsin," Rademacher told Badger Nation Sunday. "I really feel like I am pursing that now. I am really glad that I got this opportunity.

Rademacher took in four football games on unofficial visits during the 2011 football season and every time he would see Huxtable, the topic of him playing under his watch came up. Rademacher knew about the tradition UW has set forth of turning walk-on recruits into scholarship athletes, but his official visit over the weekend hammered that point home.

"The coaches had a panel of walk-on players come up and talk to us and it was really good to hear," Rademacher said. "They all said how much they loved it, no matter what situation they were in. Bradie Ewing and Jared Abbrederis were both on the panel all the way down to freshman walk-on players who were just starting out and hadn't had many opportunities yet. All of them wanted to work their way up to what Bradie and Jared had achieved.

"Interacting with the coaches went very well. Coach Huxtable has become very close with me and my family through the whole process. It's going to be an honor playing for him with the way he coaches and the fantastic year the UW linebackers had. Talking with Coach Bret Bielema, the strength problem and the academics were all great and all were at the top of my list."

Rademacher, who was hosted on the visit by former walk-on turned scholarship player Marcus Trotter, finished last season with roughly 95 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries for the Lasers. Despite Kettle Moraine finishing the season 4-5, Rademacher became the first Classic 8 defensive player of the year to play on a sub.-500 team.

"It was a great honor for me," Rademacher said. "It was a huge compliment to me, and I guess Coach Hux saw some talent in me."

Rademacher won't be a preferred walk-on, meaning he's not guaranteed a spot on the fall camp's 105-man roster, but said he's optimistic he'll be able to compete if players switch positions or injured players, like fellow walk-on Ethan Armstrong, are unable to return in time.

Even so, Rademacher will move up in the summer, take a class and start going through workouts.

"They won't know for sure until after the Rose Bowl or until into spring ball (when I am going to start), but I am on the 120-man roster," Rademacher said. "Ever since I started playing football, it's been about working as hard as I can and putting in as much as I can. This isn't going to slow me down. I view this as a checkpoint in my timeline to reach my ultimate goal. It's a big deal to me and my family that I am going to be heading there, but it's not going to slow me down at all. What I want to do now is earn a scholarship and be a contributing player on the roster."

Rademacher joins Muskego's Jordan Gruettner as walk-ons in Wisconsin's 2012 recruiting class.

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