Carrying the Township

Doing a bit of everything for the football team at Menominee (Mich.) High School, tight end Jacob Pedersen felt he was good enough to play Division 1 football, despite his small-town surroundings. Opposing coaches agreed, which was a big key in Pedersen eventually making it to Madison.

MADISON - It's a smart bet that come Christmas time, the coaching staffs at Mequon Homestead and Marshfield High School will be getting a greeting card from Jacob Pedersen's immediate family.

After all, the two schools gave the University of Wisconsin an under-the-radar talent, gave the small city of Menominee, Michigan, a Division-1 football player and made up for a potentially disastrous move by the postal service.

A first-team all-state, all-conference and the Upper Peninsula defensive player of the year as a senior, Pedersen was a key ingredient for a Maroons football team that twice won two Division 5 State Championships with an unblemished record, catching 66 career passes for 1,443 yards and 19 receiving touchdowns, had eight career interceptions (including three he returned for touchdowns) and recorded 270 tackles and 120 solo tackles for his career.

But when he sent out highlight films, including film to Wisconsin, he got little interest, and no response from the Badgers, his favorite school growing up.

"I did send tapes to Wisconsin, but I don't know what happened down the line because they never reached the coaches," Pedersen said. "It was kind of a disappointment at the time because I thought they weren't interested."

Lucky for Pedersen, his opponents took noticed. With Menominee being a mere mile from the Wisconsin border, his high school played a lot of teams from the state. When the coaching staffs from Homestead and Marshfield told the Badger coaches about this multi-dimensional athlete, Pedersen got his foot in the door with a gray-shirt offer.

And when P.J. Hill decided to leave school early, Pedersen was offered his scholarship, something he jumped on immediately during his official visit last January.

"I sent thank you cards to those coaching staffs," Pedersen said of Homestead and Marshfield. "I was really grateful for them telling Wisconsin about me."

From the looks of it, the Badgers are grateful to have Pedersen, as well. Coming from a single-wing offense in high school, Pedersen projects as an H-back, as he has the ability to read a defense like senior Garrett Graham and possesses a little extra burst of speed like junior Lance Kendricks.

Pedersen would know that he compares slightly to those two, as he has spent the majority of his time on campus watching the dynamic duo, hoping to put both of their traits into one tight end package.

"I watch a guy like Garrett Graham and I get excited," Pedersen said. "He reads the defense, looks at the coverage and he'll run his routes according to that. Lance, for a tight end, brings a whole different level of speed. He's really quick and I try to catch up to him every day during workouts."

Thanks to tight end coach Joe Rudolph, who went up to Menomonee to evaluate him, Pedersen is on his way. One of the many things Rudolph has done to push Pedersen is making the freshman a comparison video of Pedersen's route-running and blocking from high school to that of Graham's. Upon seeing the similarities in the film, Pedersen has worked only that much harder on his technique, the main element Rudolph preaches.

"He's focused on the technique, but still wants you to be aggressive coming off the line, to the ball and everywhere on the field," Pedersen said of Rudolph. "He wants you to know what you are doing on every single play from footwork to striking with your hands. It's using the technique to the best of your ability that's key to make a good tight end."

Although spending his redshirt season getting stronger, faster and learning the offense, Pedersen hasn't shied away from being a contributor. Simulating Minnesota's senior wide receiver Eric Decker during scout team work last week, Pedersen's route running and agility was so important to UW's preparation that he was awarded UW Offensive Scout Team Player of the Week honors by the coaching staff.

"I want to be able to hear a play and have it click to what I am supposed to do, so I can go out there full speed 100 percent," Pedersen said. "Wisconsin is a big-time school and there's a lot of hype for me, a small-town guy coming to a big city and a tight end group that's known nationally."

Coming from a quiet area where there hasn't been a player play for Wisconsin since Jeff Messenger in 1994, Pedersen is the talk of the town, especially at his parents' restaurant where he used to help out in high school. Already getting requests so people can come down and watch him play, Pedersen hasn't played a snap yet, but already has a whole town cheering him on.

"I am not really a celebrity, but I've got a lot of fans up there," Pedersen said. "Everyone is a Wisconsin Badger fan. I am going to work my best just to see what I can bring to the table."


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