The trip to Madison, Wisconsin, wasn't an easy one for Barnegat, New Jersey, offensive lineman Sam Madden and his father the weekend of June 13. With their flight delayed more than six hours, the duo didn't arrive until 3 a.m.
However, the travel headaches didn't deter Madden from taking in the sights and sounds of UW. From his breakfast at Mickies Dairy Bar to meeting fellow Badgers commits at the Memorial Union Terrace and being on the field of Camp Randall Stadium, Madden was sold on Wisconsin and gave his commitment to head coach Gary Andersen.
For Madden, who's ranked a four-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals, and a three-star by Scout.com, the entire weekend was an "amazing" series of experiences that ultimately led him to his decision. Along with seeing the State Capitol building in the heart of downtown Madison, one of his first stops was at the fabled Mickies on Monroe Street, just a block from Camp Randall Stadium.
"Nicest breakfast you'll ever have," Madden said. "It's amazing."
Madden also had the opportunity to build relationships with current Wisconsin commits Kyle Penniston and Austin Kafentzis, among others. That Saturday evening, a group of them met up at the Union Terrace to hang out. The 6'7, 325-pound tackle saw an instant connection with his fellow high school recruits.
What a great day with these guys! pic.twitter.com/5BHwBNlR1V— David pfaff (@dpfaff21) June 15, 2014
"As soon as we hit it off, I was just saying, 'This is a good group of guys," Madden said. "I could definitely see them being my brothers for four or five years, so we instantly hit it off."
From the sights of Lake Mendota to his newfound camaraderie with Badgers commits and conversations with Andersen and offensive line coach T.J. Woods, there wasn't one exact moment he could pinpoint that made him realize he wanted to be a Badger.
Rather, it was the entire weekend that stood out to him that led him to give his verbal commitment on June 15.
"Every moment was one of those moments where like, 'This is the place.' Every single moment was like that," Madden said.
Throughout the recruiting process, Madden has kept a level head despite being offered by many powerhouse programs including South Carolina, Miami and Nebraska. He relied on his faith as a Christian, along with input from his parents, grandparents and coaches during the recruiting grind.
Madden also had a great resource to discuss college football with as his cousin, former NFL guard John Moffitt, spent his college football days as an All-American at Wisconsin. Though now both will be linked not just through blood but through their experiences in Madison, Madden talked with his older cousin more about life than football, and ultimately made the commitment to Wisconsin based on what was best for his collegiate career.
"It's just icing on the cake, just to say, 'Hey, my cousin played here, too,'" Madden said.
Madden believes he can excel in both the run and pass blocking game, as he's hoping to show off the latter as a senior. While he works to improve during every training session, Madden does admit he's currently a run-block first enthusiast.
"I'm definitely a run-first guy, because I just love pounding the hell out of people on the field," Madden said.
BadgerNation.com's Ben Worgull believes Madden is a "very determined, dedicated athlete," who has the opportunity to become even better once he gets to Wisconsin. After recovering from a fractured foot that he played on his entire sophomore season, Madden's foot speed might have been limited leading into his junior year.
The commitment of Madden also has solidified the rebuilding of Wisconsin's offensive line, as Andersen has mentioned previously he wants to have between 14-16 scholarship players in the trenches.
"With a lack of high-quality linemen in state this year outside of UW commit Jon Dietzen, the Badgers had to go outside their borders and have done so successfully with Northville (Mich.) four-star David Moorman and now Madden," Worgull said.
"Ideally, Wisconsin will add one, maybe two, more offensive linemen in this class, but these three add a good deal of talent, athleticism and bulk to the foundation."
Madden prefers playing tackle, as he's played on the right side of the line for most of his career. However, wherever Andersen, Woods and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig think he'll fit and prosper, Madden's willing to take on any assignments given to him.
"Left side, right side, center, guard, tackle, whatever they need -- I'm going to fulfill that need and dominate it."