For Gino Cruse, seeing was believing.
Cruse, a highly-rated defensive tackle from Desert Vista (Phoenix) High School, had heard stories from his parents, both Wisconsin alumni. Then he took an unofficial visit to Wisconsin for the team's contest with Ohio State Oct. 11.
"At first I was favoring the University of Washington but, you know, I don't know," Cruse said affably. "I shouldn't have went down to the Badger game.
"I fell in love with the stadium and not to mention is the fact that my parents are alumni. They are not trying to force my decision, but it kind of like gives me a base, like a foundation of somebody else's footsteps I can walk in a little bit. They always used to tell me about the University of Wisconsin and all this and I never believed it until I went down to go see it myself. I'm a believer."
Typically, it is Cruse who creates believers. Cruse, rated the No. 40 defensive tackle in the country by The Insiders, did not begin playing football until he reached high school.
"Whenever I looked at schools I always used to look at the bands and the colors," Cruse said. "I never really knew too much about sports.
"The first time I ever picked up a football is like freshman year. I didn't even like it to be honest with you. I didn't like it until the end of my sophomore year when I learned that I could start knocking people out. It is kind of like you kind of get addicted. Ever since then I just fell in love with it I guess."
Cruse has made a name for himself in a short period of time. He did not start at Desert Vista until this year, though he did receive playing time at both tackle and end as a sophomore and junior. Last summer, he attended a Nike Camp in Seattle and burst onto the scene, earning MVP honors.
"It is just something about being around people that are better than me that inspires me to work so much harder," Cruse said. "I think that is why I performed so well at the Nike Camp. I didn't do anything different it is just that I saw the competition level was higher and so I just naturally rose to the occasion."
Washington offered Cruse a scholarship after the camp, but additional attention came slowly at first.
Wisconsin obviously liked what it saw from Cruse up close and in person. Exactly one week after attending the Badgers' game against Ohio State, Cruse received a scholarship offer in the mail from Wisconsin. He also has offers from Oregon State and Arizona.
Wisconsin ranks very high on Cruse's list.
"(I'll) put it like this," Cruse said genially. "I'm glad I didn't have an offer then because I probably would have ended up committing.
"Mainly I was amazed with the overall program. It is a pretty classy program….they are pretty together out there, like all the fans and everybody—I saw old women dancing and all kinds of stuff."
Not even the persistent downpour at Camp Randall on game night could dampen Cruse's spirits.
"The rain? I'm from Arizona so anytime I see water that is a plus," Cruse said. "I mean it was cold, but I didn't really think about it being cold because I was so excited. I just, to be honest with you I was speechless. I really could say nothing. That is amazing for a person like me cause I talk a lot as you can tell."