"When I first got on the scout team I was bummed out," McFadden said. "You are more like a hitting dummy. Just go out there for the defense to get hit."
He has since warmed up to the idea.
"A couple weeks at it I just knew that this is how it's going to be and this was how I was going to go forward with this goal," McFadden said.
McFadden's goal is to be contributing to the Badgers on the field next season. It is a realistic notion, considering that UW's top three tight ends are all seniors. A cast of young players — Sean Lewis, McFadden, Garrett Graham and Dave Peck — will vie for playing time next year.
For the time being, however, McFadden is focused developing as a football player during his redshirt year, and performing on the scout team.
"Pretty much I just try to make the defense look stupid," McFadden said. "So the coaches see that because the coaches watch film of it…
"But that helps the defense out too for the Saturday games. I just take it and just run with it pretty much. I'm all right with it now."
Though his Badger future is at tight end, McFadden has played several positions on the scout team. He served as a wide receiver when the Badgers were prepping for Bowling Green's pass-happy offense and Michigan's multiple-receiver sets.
"Bowling Green and Michigan were probably my favorite because I was at receiver and that was a lot of throwing we did in practice," he said.
When UW's defense was preparing for North Carolina and Indiana, McFadden took reps at running back due to injuries to his fellow scout team performers. He actually played running back as a freshman at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. before switching to tight end.
"It was bringing back old times," McFadden said. "I had forgotten a lot of stuff."
Traditionally, the idea of a Wisconsin tight end moonlighting at wide receiver or running back, even on the scout team, was humorous. That has changed with the success of senior Owen Daniels, a tight end with wide receiver-like pass-catching skills and athleticism.
Last spring, Daniels set a school record for tight ends with a 4.68-second 40-yard dash. McFadden will likely shatter that mark this spring. As a senior in high school he was clocked at 4.56 seconds.
"I'm trying to be one of the fastest tight ends Wisconsin's ever had," McFadden said. "Cause O.D., he's up there, I think he's got the top spot right now probably for athleticism. I'm going to try to take his place when my time comes. Right now I'm just learning from him."
McFadden came into his first fall training camp weighing 202 pounds — more befitting a wide receiver than a tight end. But three weeks ago he checked in at 215 pounds and he hopes to weigh 240 by the beginning of next season.
"I'm trying to gain 10 more pounds by spring, and then after spring probably 10 more pounds at least," McFadden said.
So far he is carrying the weight well and he does not expect that to change. He said he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. "4.6 on a bad day," he said.
"I talked to (strength and conditioning coach John) Dettmann about that; about me gaining weight and still keeping my speed and (not) losing my [footwork] and all that," McFadden said. "I'm not worried about my [footwork]. As long as I keep working hard it's still going to be there. It will probably get better too."
"I look up to them," McFadden said. "… They help me out everyday. Tell me what to do here and there, let me learn from my mistakes."
Knowing that the depth chart will clear out next season softened the blow of watching from the sidelines this year.
"That opens up gates too," he said. "That made me think too, like, there is no need for me to waste a year this year to practice on special teams just on the sidelines looking. Why waste a year? I could just have another year to add ability. And to have four more years just going out there and play football."