Following the Script

After Jared Abbrederis showed that a high school dual-threat quarterback could become one of the top receivers in the Big Ten, redshirt freshman Alex Erickson is already on his way to following the same path.

MADISON - In most cases, Alex Erickson would say he's ahead of the learning curve. A former high school dual-threat quarterback and defensive back, Erickson walked on to Wisconsin, converted to wide receiver and made enough strides to earn a spot in the rotation as a redshirt freshman.

Problem with Erickson's early-career story is that it's already been written once before by Jared Abbrederis, and Abbrederis' story has motivated other walk-ons to not be content with taking a slow route to the field.

"He comes out and competes, works his tail off," Erickson said of Abbrederis. "As a younger guy looking up to the older guys, that sticks out most to me. If you come out here and work hard, you'll get chances."

In the case of Wisconsin's wide receivers this season, flashed of success lead to more opportunities. With Wisconsin struggling to find a decent compliment to Abbrederis for the better part of two seasons, Erickson emerged on wide receiver coach Chris Beatty's radar during spring practices as someone who could make an impact. And after being one of the more reliable pass catching weapons throughout fall camp, Erickson was listed as Abbrederis' backup for the season opener, a spot he has retained for Saturday's matchup against Tennessee Tech at Camp Randall Stadium.

"He's the guy that really stands out to me," Abbrederis said of Erickson. "I knew the kind of talent that he had, but I wasn't sure if he would be able to pick up the offense. He was able to jump right in and make plays right away."

A two-time team captain and three-time team MVP, the 6-3, 198-pound Erickson rushed for 3,856 yards and 57 touchdowns, passed for 3,648 yards and 37 touchdowns and recorded 170 tackles and 14 interceptions in his career for Darlington High in southwestern Wisconsin.

He had offers from North Dakota State, Winona State and other Division 2 and Division 3 opportunities, but turned them down to be a part of Wisconsin's rich walk-on tradition and hoped to one day contributing on the field.

"I couldn't pass up the tradition here," he said.

With his high school background, Erickson had knowledge of the wide receiver position from a concept standpoint, but never played a snap at receiver and only knew the tip of the iceberg.

"Never playing the position, you have no clue with what all goes into it," said Erickson. "It's a lot more complex than you think, so I had a lot of learning to do. I just had to hang after it."

As receivers starting getting banged up with injuries in the spring, Erickson saw his reps increase. While he doesn't tower over defenders or zip by them with his speed, Erickson earned the opportunity because he's done what a majority of his fellow receivers haven't: consistently catch most of the balls thrown his way.

"I just try to come out every day and be the same guy," said Erickson. "Whether that's hustling on or off the field or just doing my job, just trying to be consistent so when my time comes I am consistent with the opportunities and make the most of it."

A former high school quarterback from Wautoma, who helped his team win the division 4 state championship as a senior, Abbrederis spent his entire redshirt season working with quarterback Jon Budmayr on his route running, pass catching and agility.

The results led Abbrederis to play in 10 games with two starts his redshirt freshman year, catching 20 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He now enters his senior season within reach of many Lee Evans' school records.

And when somebody asks him about the "mini-Abby" backing him, Abbrederis can't help but smile and say he wants another walk-on, like Erickson, to challenge his records down the road.

"I honestly didn't know what year he was because it seems like he's been here for awhile," said Abbrederis. "He's been doing a really good job. It's cool to see a walk-on come in and contribute. He just comes to work every day and makes as many plays as he can. It's fun to see."

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