MADISON – The way Leon Jacobs looks at it – it’s just another opportunity to excel on the football field.
Having been moved around since arriving in the 2013 recruiting class, Jacobs has been one of the positive stories from spring camp with his ability to jump in and provide valuable reps at fullback
“I think that’s the Badger way,” Jacobs said. “We call it tough, smart and dependable. I think it’s really shaped me to who I am today.”
Jacobs entered the 2016 season with position uncertainty. He was projected to start next to freshman T.J. Edwards at inside linebacker a year ago, but a toe injury in fall camp proved cumbersome the whole season and eventually shut him down for the season after four games.
“I dealt with a lot of adversity last year,” Jacobs said “Getting hurt in practice, Alabama game didn’t go our way, got ejected for targeting (against Troy) and then the injury. It really didn’t work.”
Wisconsin didn’t miss a beat, as Chris Orr – who actually replaced a healthy Jacobs against Hawaii – and Jack Cichy emerged as standouts. With Cichy having two more years of eligibility and Edwards and Orr with three, Jacobs was the odd-man out and needed a new home.
Enter head coach Paul Chryst, who suggested in December a move to fullback. Wisconsin was losing four-year starter Derek Watt and were transitioning sophomore Alex Ingold to fullback to compete with junior Austin Ramesh.
Plus Jacobs has a level of comfort carrying the football, rushing for 847 yards and six touchdowns his senior season at Santa Clarita (CA) Golden Valley.
“My coaches have really supported me,” Jacobs said, who is on his third position after starting at outside linebacker. “Coach Chryst was really adamant about it. I thought it, and I said during bowl practices ‘Let’s do it.’”
Recruited in the weeks after Gary Andersen was hired as head coach in 2012, Jacobs was always talked about as a player who could have potential on offense. Jacobs has called the transition “easy,” especially since he could stay roughly the same body weight as an inside linebacker. His work on the field validates how smooth the move has been.
“He has some opportunities to do some great things,” running back coach John Settle said. “Just making the move and seeing the progress he’s made in such a short period of time, he could really be a good fullback. He’s a strong, physical player. We’ve got to work on getting his pads down, his first step into the ground and his aiming points, stuff that’s all new to him, but I believe he’ll have a big year this year.”
Although listed as a senior, Jacobs said the school will file paperwork on his behalf so he could receive a medical redshirt for last season. Hopefully with two years remaining with the program, Jacobs said his niche this fall will be determined by the work he puts in over the next five months.
“My goal is when I step in the huddle, 120 percent I know what I am doing,” Jacobs said. “I want to be going full speed and nothing else, just playing football.”