Mike Newkirk has prepared for this his whole life.
He has been playing organized football since he was in seventh grade but practice began far earlier.
It began working out with his father, lifting weights as early as sixth grade and doing pass catching and other football drills always determined to get better, always striving to be the best.
"When I was a kid growing up—me and my dad—we'd always go out and play catch and things like that," Newkirk said. "He had me lifting weights since I was really young, since about sixth grade he got me started. We would go out and even playing catch, it wasn't normal, we would always be working on things because we wanted to be the best… He just pushed me and worked me real hard. You know, kind of broke me in when I was young so then in high school and later on that always would be one of my strengths that I would always be able to push myself."
The results are a thing to behold. Newkirk was named the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association's Offensive Player of the Year last fall after running for 2,409 yards and 40 touchdowns on 311 carries. He was a consensus first-team all-state selection on offense and the WFCA also named him first-team as a defensive end. Newkirk, who committed to Wisconsin last March to play defensive end, was a second-team selection on defense by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press.
This season, Newkirk and his teammates at Ladysmith High School reached the Division 5 state semifinals and finished 12-1.
Newkirk is also an accomplished wrestler, winning the Division 2 state championship in the heavyweight class last year with a perfect 41-0 record.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound athlete runs a 4.8 40-yard dash. Then, there is the strength that has been developed from training since sixth grade. Newkirk bench presses 275 pounds—three sets, for 10 repetitions a piece. He does a similar three-set, 10-rep-each workout for squat—at 375.
Newkirk refrains from maxing out, something that also comes from working with his father.
"He's seen too many guys try to put on too much weight and do it just once," Newkirk said. "You know, you can get hurt that way, so we did a little bit lower weights but more reps. We figured, with two sports, you don't want to do things just once, you have to keep going."
Keep going, keep succeeding—that is exactly what Newkirk expects from himself at Wisconsin.
"I expect myself to be one of the best," he said. "I don't expect it to be this fall necessarily but by the time I'm done, that's one of the things that I want to be one of the best defensive ends to play at Wisconsin."