[Update: Aaron Wilson tweeted late Saturday night the Texans signed the Badgers captain to an “undrafted rookie deal”, and Wisconsin announced on Twitter Sunday afternoon that Ogunbowale signed with the Texans.]
Another walk-on will have an opportunity to make it in the NFL.
The Houston Texans will sign former Wisconsin Badgers running back Dare Ogunbowale, after the 2017 NFL Draft. Pro Football Spot’s Riley Aumen and Scout.com’s and SportsTalk790’s Patrick Starr reported the news first on Saturday evening, with the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson also confirming the undrafted free agent deal. B5Q also confirmed Ogunbowale will sign, per a source.
Later Saturday night, Wilson reported the team signed the Badgers captain to an “undrafted rookie deal.” Wisconsin football’s official Twitter account congratulated Ogunbowale on signing with the Texans on Sunday afternoon.
Ogunbowale’s story is a prime example of a walk-on making the most of his opportunity—ending his career with 49 games played, 1,518 yards and 13 rushing touchdown.
Originally called into 2012 summer camp in August, he worked his way up into a reserve defensive back role until he was approached early during the 2014 season by then-head coach Gary Andersen to play tailback behind Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement.
Under head coach Paul Chryst and his offensive system, Ogunbowale’s production jumped substantially in his final two years. In 2015, he started 10 of Wisconsin’s 13 games, leading the team in rushing with 819 yards and seven touchdowns with Clement injured for most of the year.
Though it was a rebuilding year with the offensive line young and using seven different combinations, the Milwaukee native recorded three 100-yard games, with a career-best 155 yards at Minnesota to end the regular season.
Last season with Clement returning and gaining the bulk of carries, he gained 506 yards on only 91 carries and five touchdowns. That included two 100-yard games in wins against Nebraska (120 on 11 carries) and Illinois (103 on seven).
Wisconsin Pro Day 2017: Dare Ogunbowale on the path to the NFL (B5Q/YouTube)
Ogunbowale demonstrated an agility and quickness that was lethal out in the open field, especially in the passing game. He caught 60 career passes for 507 yards with two touchdowns, while also being a reliable third-down back in blocking situations.
Off the field, Ogunbowale was honored as team captain prior to the 2016 season, and was selected to give the student-athlete speech during the Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago in July. He also plays a mean piano.
Ogunbowale, who earned a scholarship prior to the start of the 2015 season, accepted invites to the East-West Shrine Game in mid-January and the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. His 6.99 second three-cone drill earned him “Top Performer” status for his position group in Indianapolis.
At Wisconsin’s Pro Day on March 15, Ogunbowale also improved his 40-yard dash time to 4.58 second from 4.65, along with reducing his 20-yard shuttle to 4.22 seconds from 4.34.
In the long-storied pantheon known as Wisconsin’s walk-on tradition, the journey to the NFL sometimes takes this undrafted free agent route and follow in the footsteps of such notable walk-ons like safety (and current UW defensive coordinator) Jim Leonhard, safety Chris Maragos, and most recently wide receiver Alex Erickson.
Houston drafted Texas running back D’Onta Foreman in the third round of the draft on Friday, with Alfred Blue, Lamar Miller, Akeem Hunt, and Tyler Ervin currently on the Texans’ roster. Ogunbowale will join fellow Wisconsin standout and three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt in Texas.