Six of those seven, like so many walk-ons before them, hail from within state borders.
Now, they look to continue the tradition set forth by Barry Alvarez when he stepped foot in Madison in the early 1990s. Those players who have carried the torch and cemented the walk-ons’ impact throughout the years include the likes of Joe Panos, Donnel Thompson, Jim Leonhard, Ben Strickland, Chris Maragos, J.J. Watt, Jared Abbrederis, Joe Schobert, Alex Erickson, and Dare Ogunbowale.
This year alone, Troy Fumagalli (second-team All-America honors, Big Ten Tight End of the Year), Ryan Connelly (Wisconsin’s leading tackler, consensus all-conference honorable mention), Joe Ferguson (tied for team lead in interceptions, honorable mention all-Big Ten), Garrett Groshek and Tyler Johnson all made significant contributons to the team.
QB Nate Carter
6’5, 195 pounds from Waunakee, Wis. Verbally committed on Dec. 6
Carter earned the Badger Conference South Offensive Player of the Year as a senior after throwing for 2,240 yards and 25 touchdowns (63 percent career percentage) while earning all-region honors by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (also all-area). For his career, he threw 38 touchdowns and completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,823 yards.
ILB John Chenal
6’3, 235 pounds from Grantsburg, Wis. Verbally committed on Sept. 18.
It will be intriguing to see what Chenal can do in cardinal and white during his college career. He was a first-team all-state selection by both the WFCA and Associated Press as a senior. This past season, he tallied 117 tackles, six for loss, plus four interceptions and three forced fumbles on defense, yet also rushed for 2,287 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also registered 24 receptions for 278 yards and two touchdowns.
For his career, he finished with 4,578 rushing yards and 65 touchdowns on the ground, with another eight touchdowns receiving. Defensively, he recorded 494 tackles, 24 for loss, 17 interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns.
TE Jack Eschenbach
6’6, 210 pounds from Downers Grove, Ill. (Benet Academy). Verbally committed on Nov. 13.
Eschenbach follows in the footsteps of such Illinois-based walk-ons like Ethan Armstrong and Troy Fumagalli in making his way north to Wisconsin. He earned All-East Suburban Catholic Conference in his senior year after catching 44 passes for 711 yards and five touchdowns. During his prep career, he caught 76 balls for 1,197 yards and seven touchdowns.
ATH Mike Gregoire
5’11, 176 pounds from Green Bay, Wis. (Notre Dame Academy). Verbally committed on Dec. 15.
Gregoire is a Wisconsin legacy whose father played for the Badgers from 1984-87 and holds the school’s career records for field goals (65) and field goal attempts (85). Earning honorable mention all-conference as a senior, he rushed for 1,051 yards while gaining 528 receiving yards on the way to 22 overall touchdowns.
OT Andrew Lyons
6’5, 290 pounds from Kenosha Wis. (Bradford). Verbally committed on Oct. 26.
Like Chenal, Lyons claimed first-team all-state honors by the WFCA and AP as a senior while also earning first-team All-Southeast Conference in his final two years at Bradford.
While being named the SEC Lineman of the Year as a senior, he also was a finalist for the Joe Thomas Award, which is handed out each year “to the state’s top senior offensive lineman.”
RB Brady Schipper
6’0, 190 pounds from Stoughton, Wis. Verbally committed on Nov. 10.
Schipper earned honorable mention all-state honors by the WFCA and AP, along with being named a first-team all-conference selection, as a senior after running for 1,975 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior and adding three more touchdowns (two receiving, one kickoff return). That helped him become a finalist for the Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch Award, handed out “to the state’s top senior running back.”
A two-year team captain, he ended his prep career with 3,975 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground.
OLB Marty Strey
6’3, 205 pounds from Sun Prairie, Wis. Verbally committed on Sep. 2.
The first public verbal commit as a preferred walk-on for this class of 2018, Strey is a two-time WFCA first-team all-state selection (both as a junior and senior), and he also earned first-team all-state honors from the AP as a senior. This after a year where he notched 93 tackles, 20 for loss, and two defensive touchdowns.
His 2017 campaign, which included a WIAA Division 1 state finals appearance against Boyd Dietzen and the Kimberly Papermakers, helped him become a finalist for the John Anderson Award, handed out “annually to the to the state's top senior linebacker.”
For his career, he tallied 247 tackles, 48 for loss, 20.5 sacks, seven pass break-ups, five forced fumbles, four interceptions, and two defensive touchdowns. He also was named an AP honorable mention all-state as a junior and Big Eight Conference Linebacker of the Year the past two seasons.