Quick courtship

Ricky Garner did not think he would play Division I college football before a fortuitous series of events landed him a scholarship offer from Wisconsin.

Ricky Garner's defensive statistics from his senior year at Pasadena (Calif.) Muir High School leap off the page. A 6-foot-5, 225-pound defensive end, Garner says he had 113 tackles, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown for the 9-3 Mustangs.

How does a high school defensive end tally more than 100 tackles?

"We played teams that ran the ball a lot," Garner explained.

One might assume that teams would learn to run away from Garner's side.

"They did," he said. "I chase a lot. A lot of my tackles are from behind."

Garner, who said he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds, certainly has the speed to track down ball carriers. How, then, does such a productive athlete slip so far under the proverbial radar in recruiting? Garner burst into plain view Sunday, when it become public knowledge that he had verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin during an official visit.

Here is the story, in Garner's words:

"Well, the season ended. I didn't believe that I was good enough to make it to the next level in football. A coach from the University of Idaho came to the school looking for other players. And he seen me on tape and he liked what he seen. He came to me and said, ‘I think you have what it takes to play at the next level.'

"When he told me this I got enough confidence in myself that I said, ‘You know what? If Idaho wants me there has to be other schools that are going to want me.

"I sent my tapes out. I had got a brochure from Wisconsin in the mail… with the sports program. I took that brochure and I said, ‘This is a good school, let me take my chances here.' I sent them a tape of one of my games, or a DVD of one of my games and Coach Doeren (UW linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Dave Doeren), it was his first day on the job, and he looked the tape over, and he told the head coach, he told coaches there, that they need to look at me.

"They all took a look at it and they liked what they seen. And they sent Coach Doeren out like the next week to come get me… He made a little house visit. We talked it over and then they told me to come out there."

Simple enough. Idaho coach compliments him, Garner sends out highlights. Dave Doeren happens to take a look at the video on his first day on the job at Wisconsin. New head coach Bret Bielema gives it the OK and, suddenly, the Badgers have another exceptionally fast defensive end to add to a program that already boasts the likes of Jamal Cooper and Matt Shaughnessy.

Garner is also a standout jumper for the Muir track program, excelling at the triple jump, long jump and high jump. He said he probably will not compete in those events in college, though, because he plans to add weight to play defensive end. He wants to be 240-45 pounds when he arrives on campus for summer workouts.

Garner ended up with scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Idaho and UNLV. He was supposed to visit Idaho last weekend, but that trip was cancelled by the Vandals due to a scheduling conflict.

"I was supposed to take one to Idaho but it had gotten cancelled because of a banquet they were having," Garner said. "So they had to cancel it. They wanted to reschedule it the next week but Wisconsin called me and said they wanted to have one that week too.

"I just picked which school I thought was the better school of the both of them to go visit and I picked Wisconsin."

Garner enjoyed his trip to Madison.

"It was exciting," he said. "When I got out there I met all the coaches. We got to eat. They showed us the stadium. They showed us the weight room… We got to see the dorms. The football players on the team, they took us out and showed us what college life was like. We all had fun."

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