Grand Ledge HS sophomore quarterback Jalen Brady knows that route well (down I-69 to I-94, curl around Lake Michigan, sneak through Chicago, hop on I-90 to I-39 and keep going until you see the capitol), as he has made the same round trip journey three times to keep getting a closer look at a program he has such high affinity for.
"It is always a great experience to meet the players and see how great the university is," said Brady. "The coaches are very welcoming. They recruit players that fit in well with the rest of the team, and I like that about them."
The visit for the spring game had a different feel for Brady compared to being an unofficial visitor for the UW-Indiana game two years ago and the UW-Penn State game last year. The spring game this year was an opportunity for Brady (5-11, 215 pounds) to get a better conversation going with first year tight ends coach Eddie Faulkner, who is primarily responsible for recruiting the state of Michigan.
"He showed me a lot of respect," said Brady. "He's really cool and a down-to-earth guy. He really likes me a lot. I gave him my highlight video and he really liked it. He wants me to keep coming to our university and to keep building a relationship. He said he is going to come out and visit me sometime this month."
Brady has also begun developing some dialogue with UW coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Matt Canada and has heard the same thing – he reminds them of quarterback Russell Wilson. That's perfect for Brady, who views Wilson as his football hero.
"He's my role model," Brady said of Wilson. "Watching him this past year made me like Wisconsin even more."
Watching Brady work, you can certainly make comparisons to an unpolished Wilson, as the strength of Brady's game is his accuracy. Throwing with good velocity and with size comparable to Wilson, Brady can tuck the ball and run if the play breaks down, something he showcased at the Elite 11 camp in Columbus.
"It was a really great experience," said Brady of the Elite 11. "Being only a sophomore, it really is going to help me next year having competed against some of the area's top athletes. I have really been working on my strength to get faster and competing last weekend was another step in that direction."
It also validates that his offseason workouts are paying off. Rarely playing his freshman year because of an incumbent senior quarterback, Brady led his team to an 8-3 record as the team's starter. Since the season ended, Brady has been working on his decision making and reading defenses to prepare for the summer camp circuit. Of the camps he has scheduled, one will bring him to Madison for a fourth time, which he hopes will earn him a visit to Bielema's office.
"If I make a name for myself, I have a feeling coach Bielema will be contacting me," said Brady. "Wisconsin is a great opportunity. All my life I have seen these top college players go through the college experience and I wanted to be there right next to them. I hope I can be there one day and if I got that offer, it'd be the greatest thing in my life."
Brady is still an unknown commodity but he admits schools have started to send him plenty of mail to gauge his interest. Over the last few weeks, Brady has said he's received interest from Bowling Green, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
He attended a Michigan State spring practice, its game against Indiana last season and was invited to the Spartans' spring game, but couldn't attend because of the conflict with Wisconsin's game. He is planning on campus with the Spartans on June 16, one day before the UW camp.
"Wisconsin is really high on my list, but I want to keep my options open," said Brady. "If any college offers me, it would be great. I would like to make a decision before my senior season, but Wisconsin would definitely be one of my top choices if they offered."