Following his signing day press conference, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez was asked on a local radio broadcast which one of his recruits was the most overlooked by national recruiting gurus. Who, essentially, was going to surprise people?
Alvarez' answer: "Mike Newkirk."
Newkirk, the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association's Offensive Player of the Year at running back and a first-team all-state selection at defensive end, committed to Wisconsin more than 10 months ago and never received another scholarship offer. He was considered one of the top players, and recruits, in the state, but did not garner a lot of attention in recruiting partly due to his early commitment and sole scholarship offer.
Alvarez continued by reiterating comments he had made in Wednesday's press conference, lauding Newkirk's toughness and athletic ability. He also drew comparisons between Newkirk and former Wisconsin defensive end Tom Burke. Perhaps most surprisingly he very forthrightly told the radio audience and those of us in attendance (In the spirit of full disclosure: I took part in the show on 100.5 FM, which was hosted by Craig Karmazin and Eric Franke) that he expected Newkirk to play immediately.
"That is very flattering," Newkirk said when informed of Alvarez' comments. "Looks like I've got a lot of work to do because I've got some pretty big shoes to fill there. Hopefully I will be everything that he expected. I know I'm sure working towards it and I hope that I will be. I know they put a lot of faith in me just by giving me a scholarship and how big of a deal that is. Hopefully when I go down there I'm going to do my best not to let them down, to repay them, to give back everything that they have given me."
Newkirk is strong, quick and tough and has been extremely productive—a state champion wrestler, state qualifier in the shot put and discus in addition to his football exploits. But on a team loaded with returning defensive linemen, it was more than a little surprising to hear Alvarez state that Newkirk would play right away. Now, this could simply imply special teams and it could go by the wayside next fall, but it is still quite a compliment considering how few players avoid redshirts in an average year and how hesitant coaches typically are with statements of that nature.
Another reason Newkirk was low on the radar screen—he is not exactly a self promoter. He did not even have a signing ceremony at his high school, but rather filled out the paperwork from home with his family.
"I'm not a real big hype guy," he said. "I just decided to keep it within my family and keep it kind of low key and stuff. I'm just kind of humble I guess. I don't really look for everybody to know. They'll find out one way or another."