‘Late bloomer' verbals to UW

Mequon Homestead offensive lineman Brad Thorson switches commitment from Gophers to Badgers

Two Saturdays ago—Jan. 21—Brad Thorson's parents received a surprise phone call from University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema, who wanted to know if he could stop by the Thorson's home in Mequon, Wis. the following night.

"(Bielema) showed up and offered me a scholarship," said Thorson, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman. "It was… just all of a sudden. I was pretty surprised but we got to know Coach Bielema pretty quickly over those couple of days."

Thorson, a three-year starter at Homestead High School, verbally committed to Minnesota Dec. 16, during an official visit. But after taking an official visit to Wisconsin this past weekend, Thorson switched his commitment to the Badgers.

"I went on a visit (to Minnesota) and I really liked it up there," Thorson said. "I love the place, but it's tough to turn down Wisconsin. I felt a little more at home (at UW). And really liked what they had to offer, strength and conditioning wise and just overall program wise. It was tough to turn down such a great school like Minnesota, but I'm really happy to be going to Wisconsin."

Thorson said it was especially difficult to tell Minnesota centers and guards coach Gordon Shaw of his decision.

"I had had a pretty good relationship with Coach Shaw, the offensive line coach there," Thorson said. "I think he's an excellent coach. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better offensive line coach in the Big Ten, I'd say. But I knew that he was going to take it tough and I guess he was pretty disappointed about the whole situation. It was pretty tough to tell him but I feel that I'm doing the right thing so I can sleep at night."

Thorson expects to play center at Wisconsin and envisions a scenario where he redshirts in 2006 and serves as an understudy to Marcus Coleman, eventually taking over the position as a third-year sophomore in 2008.

A year ago, Thorson registered a mere blip on the high school football radar in the state of Wisconsin. He was not listed among the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's annual ranking of the state's top juniors. And coming off his second season as a Homestead's starting left tackle, Thorson had only been named honorable mention all-conference.

The proceeding year, though, made a world of difference. Thorson put on 40-50 pounds and as a senior was named first-team all-state by the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, and second-team all-stated by the Associated Press. He helped lead Homestead to a 12-1 season and a trip to the Division 1 state semifinals, while playing all five positions on the line.

"From my junior season to my senior season I put on between 40 and 50 pounds," Thorson said. "I really grew into my body, probably grew an inch, inch and a half. I think I gained a lot of confidence from that, that made me a better player.

"I'm in the same boat now. I guess I'd be a late bloomer for Wisconsin but I'm always ready to step into the position and I like coming from behind. It adds that competitive feel that drives my work ethic.

"It was tough. I didn't have great junior film. So that really hurt my recruiting. But I feel my senior season was incredibly better. I was honorable mention all-conference as a junior and first-team all-state Journal Sentinel and coaches poll my senior year. I'd say I made a lot of improvement in that one-year span."

Thorson attended a one-day camp at Wisconsin last summer. He said the Badger coaches indicated to him that they liked what they saw, but they were not ready to offer him a scholarship based on a one-day camp. He sent them senior film, but he never received much interest in return—until last week.

"I was getting the regular form letters but that doesn't mean much," Thorson said.

Why does Thorson think the situation changed so abruptly?

"Well, one of the things, I figure that some other O linemen might have turned them down, but I know that Coach Bielema had not seen my tape until the week before he offered," Thorson said. "And I think they saw that I was committed to Minnesota, and he took a look at the tape personally and decided that it would be a loss to have me go out of state. They wanted to keep a good player in state."

Thorson said he typically runs the 40-yard dash in 5.1 seconds and he can bench press 265 pounds. He is an excellent student, having scored a 33 on his ACT.

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