Another Duck on the Pond

Although he was overshadowed on signing day by four-star receiver Kraig Appleton, Jeff Duckworth brings solid attributes and capabilities that is going to build the depth of the Wisconsin receivers.

MADISON - When the Class of 2009 was formally introduced, few people couldn't stop talking about East St. Louis wide receiver Kraig Appleton, who made his decision publicly known on signing day.

People lauded at his agility, his solid route running, his soft hands and how his ability to make plays was going to provide an immediate boost to Wisconsin's wide receivers.

Little did those fans know that they already had a receiver verbally committed to Wisconsin in Cincinnati wide receiver Jeff Duckworth.

"I think I am very consistent, I run very good routes, I am disciplined, a good leader and that I am learning the offense real well," Duckworth said.

The only different between Duckworth and Appleton now is color of their practice jersey. While Appleton is getting an offensive package designed for him by the Wisconsin coaching staff, Duckworth is stuck wearing a green no-contact jersey, as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery.

If the injury puts question into Duckworth's toughness, consider the fact that the injury was so minor that he didn't realize it occurred in the first place. With career totals of 152 catches, 2,365 yards and 17 TDs, Duckworth was voted a team captain for Princeton (OH) High and was named team MVP after having 51 receptions for 850 yards and eight touchdowns his senior year.

It didn't occur to Duckworth, who picked UW over Indiana, that something was wrong until he was lifting weights in the off season.

"I didn't realize it was hurt until the spring, which is why I had surgery so late," said Duckworth, who had the same injury (torn labrum) and surgery during his sophomore year. "It bothered me when I was weight lifting. I need to take things slower this time because I tried to come back too quick the first time."

So while his buddy Appleton will get his chance to shine this season for Wisconsin, Duckworth will take his redshirt, taking the time to improve his catching muscles, increase his speed and make sure his shoulder is back to full strength for good.

"We're both trying to get that playbook down and manage your time," Duckworth said. "There are a lot of things going on. The big thing is learning to be constant and always running when you are on the field. You've got to go fast every time. Redshirting is going to be a great opportunity for me to get in the weight room and get things going."

It will also give the excitement level to grow for Duckworth. Already experiencing the increased intensity from the sidelines of Wisconsin's first two non-conference games, Duckworth is anticipating the day when he will be out on the field catching touchdowns with two healthy shoulders.

Until that day, Badgers fans, just like Duckworth, are going to have to wait with anticipation.

"It will be a great feeling, just to see everything and be apart of it," Duckworth said. "I'll never forget that day."

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