[Ed. note, April 29: Vince Biegel is staying in-state as the Green Bay Packers drafted him in the fourth round on Saturday.]
You can probably guess Vince Biegel has accrued a substantial amount of frequent-flyer miles through April 2017, all in pursuit of a lifelong dream.
After ending his collegiate career as part of the winningest senior class in Wisconsin Badgers history, the former outside linebacker began his NFL journey in San Diego at EXOS, a professional sports performance training center with several locations nationwide. From there, he traveled to Mobile, Ala., for a week’s worth of practices and other activities at the Senior Bowl.
Biegel flew back to the west coast to train for the NFL Scouting Combine in February, performing well in front of scouts and personnel in Indianapolis, then came to Wisconsin for the program’s pro day in mid-March. He has stayed in Madison since then to train for what will come shortly.
Now, just days away from fulfilling his goal of playing in the National Football League, Biegel’s voice exudes positivity and excitement for a journey he’s referred to as “great” and “wonderful.”
A new opportunity on some field, with some NFL organization, awaits him.
“It’s been a busy year,” Biegel said on Monday, “but this is a process that I’ve really been working towards my whole life, and to kind of finally be living that dream—it’s really, truly a dream come true.”
The Wisconsin Rapids native will, in all likelihood, hear his name called during the 2017 NFL Draft, which starts its first round Thursday evening and runs through Saturday in Philadelphia.
The son of a former BYU linebacker with pigskin running through his lineage, working on his family’s cranberry farm, Biegel grew up in central Wisconsin and became a standout player in high school. He overcame adversity and coaching changes in leading the Badgers to three consecutive bowl victories and the emergence of a stingy 3-4 defense. Now, his goal is at his doorstep, just a phone call away.
“This weekend really isn’t about this weekend,” Biegel said. “This is a lifetime of hard work. This is a lifetime of preparation, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears that really go into this.”
Biegel acknowledged that throughout the lengthy draft evaluation process he spoke with all 32 NFL teams. That speaks to the linebacker’s abilities and character, and some analysts are wondering if he could be the next Clay Matthews.
“I’ve probably talked to around 22 NFL teams who I’ve spoken with either a head coach, general manager, a position coach, a defensive coordinator of that team,” Biegel said. “I’ve had a lot of positive, positive things. It’s been a really great process for me.”
That process included working out for some former elite NFL linebackers during Wisconsin’s pro day on March 15. Joey Porter and Kevin Greene, now assistant coaches now for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets, led position drills performed by both Biegel and T.J. Watt.
“Both have a ton of great football experience and they’re very knowledgeable in the game,” Biegel said. “I was able to pick their brains and kind of talk with them, and I think one thing that resonates with both of those guys, Joey and Kevin, was that they love the game of football, and that’s the type of players that they like to have on their team—and I think that’s why it’s a big reason why they’re at Wisconsin’s pro day.
“Wisconsin guys love to play the game. We’re smart tough, dependable guys. We don’t have a lot of baggage off the field, we know what we’re doing, and we’ll be dependable, and those are the types of players you want on your team.”
In his time as a Badger, Biegel tied the school record in games played with 54 while playing alongside fellow standout outside linebackers Watt and Joe Schobert. Biegel also finished seventh in school history with 21.5 sacks and 10th with 39.5 tackles for loss, and was also a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Last season, despite missing two games due to a foot injury, Biegel led a Wisconsin defense that finished third in the nation in rushing defense (98.8 yards allowed per game), fourth in scoring defense (15.6 points allowed per game), seventh in total defense (301.4 yards allowed per game) and 10th in team passing efficiency defense (106.91).
Along with fellow 2017 NFL Draft prospect, running back Dare Ogunbowale, Biegel also earned the respect of his peers by being named a team captain.
“That was very important for me to be able to be a team captain for the football team, and I think that was also a big reason why I decided to come back for my senior year,” Biegel said. “Obviously, last year I had the opp to leave early for the NFL draft, but I felt in my heart that I wanted to come back. The big reason was to be a senior captain.
“I grew up kind of watching Chris Borland and Mike Taylor, guys who kind of coached me along the way, were both team captains. It was a goal of mine to be that, and I was very thankful to be named not just by the coaches but by the players and the staff and everybody in the organization to be named as the captain. It’s something that I definitely, still to this day, take with a great deal of pride.”
Biegel’s career at UW ended on a bright note with Wisconsin’s Cotton Bowl victory over Western Michigan, and now the next step will be that phone call from an NFL team in the upcoming draft. Biegel will be at home in Wisconsin Rapids with his close family and friends, those that guided him along in this path to play professional football.
“A lot of people wanted to bring cameras in, they wanted to bring photographers, they wanted to bring news people, and I kind of put a stop to it because at the end of the day, the people in the room that I’m having, are the people that helped me get to where I’m at,” Biegel said. “I wanted this between us.
“At Wisconsin, you’re in the spotlight for four or five years, so for me to do something in the privacy of my own home is something special to me. I’m having my close family and friends with me for draft day, and it’s going to be a great experience. It’s going to be celebration of a lifelong journey of hard work.”
Off the field, Biegel graduated from UW in December with a degree in Life Science Communications. He recently became engaged to his girlfriend, Sarah, in February with a July wedding set before training camp starts.
Tonight I asked my best friend to marry me. Through all the ups and downs she's been my rock! Excited for what the future holds. pic.twitter.com/4ZGDml4RLH— Vince Biegel (@VinceBiegel) February 6, 2017
On the field, he should be a contributing factor wherever he lands this weekend.
When asked what he’s most excited for in the journey ahead, it’s the “new beginning” ahead of him.
“What I mean by that, there’s something to be said about a new beginning,” Biegel said. “It’s something fresh—new faces, new coaches, kind of different techniques, kind of different practices. Obviously you’re living in a whole new environment, situation. I’m excited for that.
“I’ve grown a lot as a man and a person since I came to college here at Wisconsin. I met my fiancée here, but I’m also excited to continue growing and kind of spreading my wings wherever that may be. Whether it’s in Wisconsin, Green Bay, or the 31 other NFL teams out there across the country. So I’m excited about that journey. I have phenomenal support and it’s going to be a great experience. I’m extremely excited, I’m extremely blessed, and I can’t wait for that journey—not just to grow as a football player but also to grow as a person and as a man as well.”