There is a long list of former Wisconsin Badgers walk-ons who have taken similar paths as undrafted free agents in the NFL. Safety Jim Leonhard played 10 years and made a name for himself with the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets. Chris Maragos is currently a special teams ace with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Add wide receiver Alex Erickson to the list.
Erickson, who lit up the NFL preseason with touchdown receptions and impressive punt returns, has made the Cincinnati Bengals’ 53-man roster. Wissports.net’s Travis Wilson first reported the news on Friday evening, and Erickson’s agent confirmed the news ot B5Q later that night.
Signing with the Bengals immediately after the NFL draft in late April, Erickson made the most of his opportunities during training camp despite being widely perceived as a long shot to make the active roster.
In his first preseason game, Erickson caught a three-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings, then proceeded to take a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
@BadgerFootball Here's alumni @ericksona86's first touchdown catch in the NFL for the Bengals! pic.twitter.com/G4G0zbFVch— Darby Fitzsimons (@DarbyFitzsimons) August 13, 2016
Alex Erickson. 80yd punt return...— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) August 13, 2016
Not a bad NFL debut, @ericksona86. #OnWisconsin pic.twitter.com/ficUR26zxh
It was a coming-out party for the Darlington, Wis., native, who showcased what he could do as a wide receiver (seven receptions, 77 yards and two touchdowns) and also on special teams, something every undrafted free agent has to do to make a roster.
Erickson averaged 30.8 yards on six returns in the four games, accumulating 57 yards on two returns in the Bengals’ third preseason game. Veteran wide receiver Brandon Tate, who returned 27 punts in 2015, was cut by Cincinnati earlier this week. Many took that as a sign that Erickson had secured his position on the team.
Last season, Erickson caught 77 passes for 978 yards and three touchdowns for Wisconsin, coming one catch shy of tying fellow former walk-on Jared Abbrederis’s single-season record for receptions. He ranks sixth all-time in receptions with 141.