Thirteen seniors will be honored on the field inside Camp Randall Stadium before the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday afternoon.
Heading into UW’s regular-season finale, these seniors have recorded 39 wins and a .765 winning percentange (39-12) over the last four seasons. That includes a 9-1 record in rivalry trophy games, with Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) looking to retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe for a 13th straight season. They have now clinched at least a share of the Big Ten West division title and will play next Saturday for the conference championship — and Wisconsin’s still in conversations for the College Football Playoff.
Some have become significant contributors to the UW in their time in Madison, while others may not have seen the field as much. All have put in the long hours in the weight and film rooms, balanced the demands of a student athlete both on and off the field, and have gone through the highs and lows a team experiences each year.
Here are the seniors on defense and special teams:
Outside linebacker Vince Biegel
Career stats: 170 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks (51 game played, 37 starts)
2016 stats: 23 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks (nine games played, all starts)
2016 Preseason: Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Nagurski Trophy watch lists, AFCA Good Works Team nominee
2015: Third-team All-Big Ten (consensus), Academic All-Big Ten
2014: Second-team All-Big Ten (media), Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week (Nov. 10), Academic All-Big Ten
2013: Academic All-Big Ten
Biegel will go down as one of the most memorable Badgers in recent memory for his play and energy seen both on and off the field.
A former four-star recruit, Biegel chose to commit to Wisconsin over BYU — the latter a program his father and uncle both played for. When UW switched over to Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense for the 2013 season, the Wisconsin Rapids native found the spot he’d own for the next three-plus seasons, playing in all 13 games.
2014 would be the year of the “Chevy Bad Boyz,” the crew of linebackers that lit up opposing offenses and the stats sheet. The group included Biegel and fellow outside linebacker Joe Schobert, along with inside linebackers Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch as starters. All contributed heavily to Wisconsin’s success that season, and Biegel recorded 16.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.
After registering 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks his redshirt junior season in 2015, many wondered if Biegel would bolt to the NFL. He did not, emphatically noting after Wisconsin’s Holiday Bowl win over USC that he planned to return for his fifth year.
Before the 2016 season, teammates nominated him as one of the two team captains alongside running back Dare Ogunbowale, showing the respect he has earned in the Wisconsin locker room.
2016 hasn’t shown the statistics many thought Biegel would have, but he’s paired with redshirt junior T.J. Watt to form one of the nation’s top outside linebacker tandems. Unfortunately, surgery on his fractured foot forced him to miss the Michigan and Ohio State games, but he’s returned to the field since in leading a squad that’s among the best in the nation in scoring defense (fifth — 13.4 points per game), total defense (eighth —292.5 yards per game), rush defense (fifth — 98.3 yards per game) and third down conversions (27.1 percent allowed).
The production on the field is nearly matched by his leadership, his attitude and (now re-emerging) mullet. His football career should take him to the NFL to play on Sundays, but he’s left a mark on Wisconsin football — one that has them on the doorstep of a Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff berth.
Defensive back Keelon Brookins
Career stats: five career tackles, one tackle for loss (27 games played)
2016 stats: one tackle (nine games played)
A former four-star recruit by Rivals, Brookins came to Wisconsin but moved around in his time, not solidifying a home in the UW secondary until this past January.
As the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway reported back in April, Brookins switched multiple positions in his time at UW — going from the secondary to outside linebacker, then to inside linebacker, then back home as a safety for the 2016 season. In all likelihood, that hampered his ability to contribute more on the field, but has played in 27 career games heading into his last game against Minnesota.
On Saturday, he’ll be the only redshirt junior of the 13 players honored.
Safety Leo Musso
Career stats: 49 games played, 14 starts; 87 tackles, seven interceptions, nine passes defended, one fumble recovery for a touchdown
2016 stats: 11 starts, 53 tackles, four interceptions, five passes defended, one fumble recovery for a touchdown
2013-15: Academic All-Big Ten
Musso will play in his 50th career game against Minnesota on Saturday. The redshirt senior initially was a prep running back prodigy out of Waunakee, Wis., just a stone’s throw from Madison, but transitioned over to the defensive backfield.
Heading into this season, he played well in supporting roles, even making three starts from 2013-15. In 2016, Musso’s flourished as a starter alongside junior D’Cota Dixon — and along with fellow senior Sojourn Shelton, has solidified a secondary that was a question mark heading into the season.
The former running back’s found the ball in the Wisconsin secondary, tying for the team lead with four interceptions (with some acrobatics and creativity). He also made one huge, game-changing play in East Lansing with his 66-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in UW’s 30-6 win over the Spartans.
Musso’s efforts has helped Wisconsin be amongst the best in the nation in opposing offenses’ pass efficiency (99.9 percent, fourth-best in the FBS).
[Written by Jake Kocorowski]
Cornerback Sojourn Shelton
Career stats: 124 tackles, seven interceptions, 39 passes defended (sixth-most in school history), 32 pass break-ups (fourth-most in UW history); 51 career games — 48 starts
2016 stats: 11 games started; 21 tackles, two interceptions, 14 passes defended (12 pass break-ups, two interceptions)
2015: All-Big Ten honorable mention (media)
2013: All-Big Ten honorable mention (media), All-Freshman honorable mention (College Football News)
Shelton, a former Florida State commit, made an immediate impact upon his arrival in Madison. He played in 13 games as a true freshman, starting 12, and recorded four interceptions in 2013.
2014 was a hint of a sophomore slump for Shelton, but rebounded nicely in his junior campaign for a defense ranked first in the nation in points allowed (13.7 per game).
This season, Shelton’s leadership and play has led to a fantastic senior year. His 14 passes defended this year rank fourth in the conference so far through 11 games. The Badgers have allowed only 13 total touchdowns (six rushing, seven receiving) in 2016, the fourth-fewest in the nation.
Four years goes quickly, but Shelton’s name will be ingrained in Wisconsin’s record books for years to come.
[Written by Jake Kocorowski]
Cornerback Serge Trezy
Career stats: 6 carries, 18 yards; 3 tackles (16 games played)
2016 stats: one tackle (10 games played)
Coming into college with a reported 4.29 40-yard dash time, while Serge Trezy wasn’t expected to play his original position at running back, there were expectations that at some point the Eastern Arizona Junior College product would see the field and that pure speed would be unleashed in some point and when that happens? Oh boy, wouldn’t that be something fun.
The upside and the opportunity never really had a chance to mesh when it came to Trezy, as he ended up with as many position switches as he did tackles going into senior day. This doesn’t mean that Trezy will leave Wisconsin as some kind of unaccomplished disappointment. Far from it.
One aspect that will be remembered in a less than fond fashion from the Gary Andersen era was his desire to go after junior college recruits for a quick and easy personnel fix. Sure, it landed the Badgers Tanner McEvoy, but more often than not they were forced to pull the commitment because the prospect did not have the transcripts to meet the standards of the admissions department. In fact, the only other prospect that was allowed to sign besides McEvoy was Trezy.
Yet Trezy was still not able to join the team in time for the class of 2014. He had to do the academic work to get enrolled at Wisconsin or find another place to be an athlete. Trezy chose to do the work, and he got into Wisconsin in time for the class of 2015. He also ran track in addition to playing football for Wisconsin.
It might not translate in the stat sheets or on the field, but the work Serge Trezy did should absolutely make Wisconsin fans proud.
[written by Andrew Rosin]
Placekicker/Kickoff specialist Andrew Endicott
Career stats: 10-of-15 field goals and 24-of-26 extra points; 46 touchbacks on 185 kick offs; 15 tackles in 41 games played
2016 stats: 10-of-15 field goals (long of 46 yards) and 24-of-26 extra points; nine games played
2014-15: Academic All-Big Ten
Endicott was called upon to fill in for junior placekicker Rafael Gaglianone, who was lost for the remainder of the 2016 season due to a back injury — and like most walk-ons, he’s filled in admirably when opportunities presented themselves. The former walk-on made his first collegiate field goal he attempted from 41-yards in Wisconsin’s 30-6 win over Michigan State on Sept. 24.
Prior to 2016, Endicott was Wisconsin's primary kickoff specialist. The Roseville, Calif., native assumed those duties as a true freshman in 2013. As a sophomore, he registered 28 touchbacks in 14 games (90 kickoffs). Last season, he was awarded a scholarship the Wednesday prior to the Alabama game but missed five games due to injury, only registering nine touchbacks (36 kickoffs).
Endicott and his 5’9, 173-pound frame also made himself known as an aggressive player on kickoffs, registering 15 tackles during his first three seasons.
2016 has been a bit of a roller coaster year for Endicott. Fellow walk-on P.J. Rosowski beat the senior for kickoff specialist duties, but Endicott stepped into duty with Gaglianone’s injury. He converted all three of his field goal attempts in the 30-23 overtime loss to Ohio State, but also faced adversity against Iowa (1-of-3 on field goals), Nebraska (missing what could have been a crucial extra-point in UW’s 23-17 overtime win) and Northwestern (2-of-4 on field goals).
Endicott’s rebounded nicely the past two weeks (converting all 13 extra point and two field goal attempts), however, and will be called upon in this critical stretch where Wisconsin looks to stay in contention for the College Football Playoff.
[Written by Ryan Mellenthin, with Jake Kocorowski contributing]
Longsnapper Connor Udelhoven
Career stats: 50 games played
2016 stats: 11 games played, one tackle
Another Wisconsin walk-on making the most of his opportunities, Udelhoven (pronounced YOU-del-ho-ven) was a late recruit but came in the same class as fellow walk-on Joe Schobert in 2012.
After redshirting his freshman year, Udelhoven took over the long snapping duties on field goal and extra point units in 2013 and 2014 — later taking over all units (field goal, extra point and punt units) last season.
He’s continued to lock down the significant but often over-looked position. You may not have heard Udelhoven’s name much in his five years in Madison, but in those duties, that’s a good thing.
[Written by Jake Kocorowski]
[Update Dec. 11 -- B5Q corrected Dixon’s eligibility. He is still listed as a junior still. Apologies for the omission]