The Pittsburgh Steelers' veterans were the first in the NFL to report to 2015 training camps on Saturday, thus marking the official beginning of what many have been waiting for: football season.
Former Wisconsin Badgers defensive end Ethan Hemer is one of those players working to make the Steelers' roster this year. The former walk-on was cut by Pittsburgh before the start of the 2014 season but picked up on their practice squad in October, and then again in late November. In January, he signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Steelers, and the 6'6, 285-pound Hemer has another opportunity to make the team.
In all, 32 former Wisconsin Badgers are on NFL rosters heading into training camps this week.
Did you know Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas hasn't missed a snap in his NFL career? That's 7,917 snaps. Another fun fact: he's an eight-time Pro Bowl selection. How many seasons has he played so far? Eight.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has a streak of his own -- 64 consecutive games played -- and looks to continue his dominance this season. The former Wisconsin walk-on recorded 20.5 sacks and forced four fumbles in 2014 on the way to becoming the first-ever unanimous selection for the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks look to bounce back from the stinging last-second interception that cost them a Super Bowl XLIX victory. Will the former Badgers signal caller also receive that contract extension he's been asking for?
It's running back Melvin Gordon's and right tackle Rob Havenstein's rookie season, and the two decorated former Badgers are expected to bring some stability to their respective positions for the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams.
Montee Ball and Jared Abbrederis look to rebound from injury-plagued seasons. Ball faced an appendectomy and groin issues that landed him on injured reserve, while Abbrederis -- another former walk-on in the NFL -- had his rookie campaign derailed early on in training camp with a knee injury. Both look to climb their teams' depth charts to make the 53-man rosters.
Another comeback story involves the Philadelphia Eagles' John Moffitt. After retiring from football two years ago, Moffitt returned to the game, trained with Jay Glazer and was ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. There, he'll join safety Chris Maragos and nose guard Beau Allen as former Badgers in the City of Brotherly Love.
Here's the full set of Badgers looking to make their mark at the next level for 2015:
|Former Wisconsin Badgers||NFL Team|
|Matt Shaughnessy||Arizona Cardinals|
|Warren Herring||Atlanta Falcons|
|Peter Konz||Atlanta Falcons|
|O'Brien Schofield||Atlanta Falcons|
|Dezmen Southward||Atlanta Falcons|
|Rick Wagner||Baltimore Ravens|
|Kraig Urbik||Buffalo Bills|
|Brad Nortman||Carolina Panthers|
|Ryan Groy||Chicago Bears|
|Kevin Zeitler||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Joe Thomas||Cleveland Browns|
|Travis Frederick||Dallas Cowboys|
|Nick Hayden||Dallas Cowboys|
|Montee Ball||Denver Broncos|
|Owen Daniels||Denver Broncos|
|DeAndre Levy||Detroit Lions|
|Jared Abbrederis||Green Bay Packers|
|Scott Tolzien||Green Bay Packers|
|Garrett Graham||Houston Texans|
|J.J. Watt||Houston Texans|
|James White||New England Patriots|
|Nick Toon||New Orleans Saints|
|Jonathan Casillas||New York Giants|
|Beau Allen||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Chris Maragos||Philadelphia Eagles|
|John Moffitt||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Ethan Hemer||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Rob Havenstein||St. Louis Rams|
|Lance Kendricks||St. Louis Rams|
|Melvin Gordon||San Diego Chargers|
|Marcus Cromartie||San Francisco 49ers|
|Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks|
Additionally, some Wisconsin-based players are competing to make NFL rosters. Among them include two former Wisconsin-Whitewater standouts and a former Wisconsin-Milwaukee basketball player.
|Wisconsin-based Players||NFL Team||College|
|Jake Kumerow||Cincinnati Bengals||Wisconsin-Whitewater|
|Ben Gardner||Dallas Cowboys||Stanford|
|Matt Blanchard||Green Bay Packers||Wisconsin-Whitewater|
|Demetrius Harris||Kansas City Chiefs||Wisconsin-Milwaukee|
|Derek Carrier||San Francisco 49ers||Beloit|