MADISON - Offered a Wisconsin preferred walk-on offer during the summer, Delavan (WI) Darien linebacker Ethan Cesarz wanted to let things play out before making any decisions with his recruitment.
But the combination of seeing the Badgers surpass outside expectations in 2016, doing so with a handful of walk-ons playing key roles, Cesarz decided that staying in-state was the way to go.
“The tradition that they have with walk-ons,” Cesarz told BadgerNation when asked about the Badgers’ appeal, “And the opportunity that I have as a Badger student-athlete.”
The 6-1, 225-pound senior was named a first-team all-state selection by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association on defense and honorable mention all-state on offense at tight end. He finished with 132 tackles and nine tackles for loss for a program that went 6-5.
He called Wisconsin director of recruiting Andrew Marlatt on Thursday to deliver the news.
“I asked if a junior on the Badgers declared for the draft, if I'd then be able to get a scholarship,” Cesarz said. “He said no and the other scholarships will now go to current walk-ons. If there's no chance for a scholarship then and I know that's where I want to be I knew it was the right time.”
Iowa State was the only other power-five conference school showing him interest, but Cesarz was impressed with the work defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox had done with the inside linebackers. Cesarz was also recruited by special teams coach Chris Haering.
“I think that my best strengths are my ability to stop run and my defensive instincts,” Cesarz said. “I'm also a big leader but I'm sure there will be plenty of those up there.”
Cesarz is the eighth walk-on to commit to Wisconsin and the second in as many days. Kettle Moraine (WI) High wide receiver Sam DeLany committed to the program Thursday. An all-state honorable mention selection, DeLany had 937 yards and seven touchdowns this past season and was receiving interest from North Dakota and Western Michigan.
Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class sits at 15 scholarship players and eight preferred walk-ons. Cesarz and DeLany join quarterback Danny Vanden Boom, running back Hunter Johnson, defensive linemen Michael Balistreri and Matt Henningsen, linebacker Jake Collinsworth and kicker Collin Larsh.