So far, junior Luke Swan has fit that role nicely.
Catching his first collegiate pass against Bowling Green, Swan made two big first down catches on Wisconsin's two first half scoring drives and finished the day hauling in three passes for 49 yards. Although not glaring numbers, it was a significant achievement for Swan in his first career start after three years of waiting for his chance.
Walking on his freshman year from Fennimore High School in Fennimore, Wisconsin, Swan had no idea if and when he would be catching passes for Wisconsin. After all, he had Lee Evans, Jonathan Orr and Brandon Williams to contend with for playing time. After red-shirting his freshman year and appearing in a combined nine games the next two seasons, Swan has found himself as one of Wisconsin's top go-to-receivers, even though he isn't a household name yet.
"It has definitely been a process and a long road," Swan said. "But I am glad I came to this university. It had been a tremendous experience just to be in this program and now to progress and help the team in the positive matter, it's perfect."
After missing a majority of the spring camp with a leg injury, Swan has come out in training camp on a mission. Through the course of practices, Swan has shown excellent pass catching and the ability to run crisp, concise routes. Not only has Swan performed well catching passes, he also has developed a good relationship with his quarterback. With such a young receiving core, Swan and quarterback John Stocco have developed a certain level of trust that is unmatched with any of his other receivers.
"Swan is running good routes and I always know where he is going to be," Stocco said. "He's a great guy to have as a quarterback. He made all his catches today. He's a real excellent athlete and he's doing a great job. … With other guys improving week by week, it's good to have a steady guy in there."
"Luke is a steady performer," Bielema said. "He comes in everyday with a workman's mentality [and that's what] we want. He's very clean is his routes. He catches the ball fairly well and John feels that he can go to him [at any time]. If John's is in a possession to get [Swan] the ball, John will get it to him and that's a trust factor that they've developed."
Living just over an hour a way, Swan's dream growing up was to play for his home state football team. While most players would have butterflies and the gitters before their first career start for that team, Swan maintains that he was more excited than anything and was ready to play.
"I wasn't nervous at all," Swan said. "Coming out of the tunnel was amazing and making that first play was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the day and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."
In addition to making his first collegiate start, this week was also special for Swan and his family as he was rewarded with a football scholarship from the Wisconsin coaching staff in appreciation of his hard work and commitment.
"I was very surprised," Swan said. "I wasn't expecting it at all. My parents are loving it, too. It's hopefully the start of good things to come for me this year."