MADISON – Wisconsin didn’t quite know where to turn next.
Shortly after long-time commit Antonio Williams flipped his decision to Ohio State, the Badgers had to jump back into the game late to find the best option for tailback in the 2016 class. Little did they know they already saw that player first hand, just at a different position.
Camping with Wisconsin at linebacker during the high school summer camp season, Sam Brodner wanted to be a Badger and probably would have had a good chance had UW been looking for a tailback or the program didn’t go on a run of linebackers shortly after he camped.
When Wisconsin gave him a second look, Brodner had proved his worth as a tailback. The player of the year in Illinois by the Chicago Tribune and Gatorade, Brodner finished his senior season with 1,917 rushing yards, 430 receiving yards and 47 total touchdowns. More importantly he led his team to a perfect season, rushing for 264 yards and four touchdowns in state championship game.
Once committed to Vanderbilt before reopening his recruitment in the winter, Brodner became a top option for Wisconsin late in the game, and he rewarded them with his commitment shortly before signing day.
Asking 15 questions, we call this segment the Freshman Fifteen.
What’s been the hardest part for you adjusting to college life?
Brodner: Definitely being on your own because you don’t have your mom telling you what to do. You are figuring out when you have to get to class, when you have to wake up, everything.
What’s been the hardest part adjusting to college football?
Brodner: The speed. The speed is a whole new level. It’s like that first jump when you are a freshman in high school and you’re on varsity. Everyone is faster. I’m 18 and playing against kids who are 23, some 24 year olds. It’s a whole different game.
How did you prepare your body before coming to college so you would be able to step right in and start competing?
Brodner: For camp, definitely throughout the summer we’re up early doing everything the coaches need you do and doing it the best of your ability. The week before camp is for recovery, the cold tub, the hot tub and all the things they have for us to get your body ready.
What do you think your strengths are right now where you can help this team and what your biggest areas of weaknesses?
Brodner: I think I have pretty good vision, and I can block pretty well for a young running back. I’m definitely trying to bring that to the table. It’s about learning the plays more. It’s a whole new offense for me. I’m going to redshirt this year, so going against probably the best defense in the nation, I’m going to try to give it the best of my ability to prepare me for the next few years to come.
How is Madison different than Glen Ellyn, Illinois?
Brodner: It’s a lot bigger. I don’t come from a town like this. I still don’t know everywhere. I still don’t know how to get around, but I’m working on it.
Do you have any idea what you want to study in college?
Brodner: I’m hoping to go into business. I don’t know what path yet, but once I get into the school I can figure that out.
What’s your favorite place on the Madison campus?
Brodner: Everywhere really. The people are nice. I haven’t found a mean person here. Everyone is helpful. If you don’t know where you are, you ask someone and do the most to help you figure out where you need to be.
What’s your least favorite place on campus?
Brodner: I got lost once and ended up down Regent in this weird neighborhood, so I would say the bad right turn on Regent Street. I haven’t gone there since.
What do you enjoy doing most in your free time when you get the chance to kick back and relax?
Brodner: We go to the lake sometimes, hang out, play video games, do all the normal things college students do.
Who are you living with this fall?
Brodner: Jake Hescock. The relationship is going good. He’s one of my good friends. He’s a goofball, so we’ll see how it is.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learn about Jake?
Brodner: He’s a goon. That’s probably the best way to put it. On the field he’s a serious guy. Off the field you can’t take him seriously.
Where does your biggest support come from?
Brodner: My family for sure. I talk to them all the time. I have a brother who plays at Duke, so he’s going through camp, too. We talk whenever we can, so definitely my brother and my family.
What’s your parents’ reaction to you playing college football here, being on your own for the first time and starting your journey at this school?
Brodner: They’re excited. They’re really excited. They like watching me play, and they definitely are pumped to be at my games. They love the school, too.
After de-committing from Vanderbilt, what made Wisconsin stand out from everyone else?
Brodner: I was kind of freaking out about the distance because I would have to take a plane ride home. I just didn’t think it was the right fit for me. Lucky for me I ended up here. When I was a younger, I came to a game, I think I was in fifth grade, and just fell in love with is. Coaches are a great, everyone is great, you’ve got great academic support, probably some of the best academic support you can have. There’s really not much you can’t like about this place.
What do you think it’s going to be like on September 10 when you get to run out of the tunnel in front of 80,000 fans for the first time?
Brodner: I’m going to be like a little kid at a candy store; I’m not going to lie. Even if I’m not playing, I’m still going to be the happiest kid ever, because I remember sitting (turning toward the west end of the stadium and point to the lower level) like three rows up from there on the 50-yard line. My friend’s family is a season ticket holder, so I can’t wait to run out of the tunnel. I’m excited for that.