Wisconsin’s walk-on tradition has been lauded for years, acting as the “glue that holds the foundation” of the football program. From role players to starters, to All-Americans and NFL standouts, those that were once overlooked by many Division I programs have been given their chance — and thrived -- as Badgers.
The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) fell to the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (5-0, 2-0) 14-7 on Saturday in Ann Arbor, but quite a few walk-ons saw the field and contributed to what was a close, one-score game.
Inside linebacker Jack Cichy led the team in tackles with 12 on the afternoon, and might have made the defensive play of the game -- tipping a Wilton Speight pass that wound up in cornerback Derrick Tindal’s hands for what would be a 46-yard interception return.
Cichy, a Somerset, Wis., native, currently leads the team in tackles (35) and has 3.5 tackles for loss on the season.
That interception return by Tindal would set up Wisconsin’s only touchdown of the afternoon. Redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook found former walk-on Dare Ogunbowale for a 17-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven in the third quarter.
Ogunbowale, named team captain alongside outside linebacker Vince Biegel before the 2016 season, caught three passes for 23 yards on the afternoon. Though his role may have changed from last season with the return of senior Corey Clement and emergence of redshirt sophomore Taiwan Deal, the Milwaukee native has continued to contribute with injuries to both backs. On the season, he’s caught six passes for 36 yards and rushing for 189 yards on 44 carries (4.2 yards per carry) with one touchdown.
Other current or former walk-ons contributed on Sunday:
- Tight end Troy Fumagalli caught two passes for 12 yards. Along with his huge game against LSU in the season opener, he’s caught 16 passes for 181 yards despite suffering an injury that kept him out of most of the Georgia State game.
- The line had a rough go against Michigan’s impressive front seven (159 total yards), but two walk-ons started again on Saturday. Left tackle Ryan Ramczyk started his fifth collegiate game. The Stevens Point native has solidified the left side of the offensive line and was named a Pro Football Focus early-season All-American.
- Center Brett Connors has been listed virtually everywhere on the offensive line depth chart as a reserve. For the second consecutive game, he started at center with injuries plaguing the position group (though Micah Kapoi appeared to be back from injury).
- Punter P.J. Rosowski was used in place of true freshman Anthony Lotti at times, punting four times with a 36.8 yard average. He also kicked off twice — recording a touchback on one of them, while the coverage team swarmed noted specialist Jabrill Peppers for only a 14-yard gain on the other.
Make sure you check out Joel Nellis’ and Jake Kocorowski’s book, Walk-On This Way: The On-Going Legacy of the Wisconsin Football Walk-On Tradition, available for pre-order at KCISports.com or calling toll-free 1-800-697-3756 .