In a senior class full of NFL-bound Wisconsin Badgers, stockpiled with prospects from one of the best defenses in the nation, an in-state product showed he could be the human equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife as a frequent contributor to the offense.
That would be fullback Austin Ramesh.
Yes, NFL teams don’t utilize the fullback as much as in years past, but Ramesh showed last season the versatility to make an impact in multiple facets as a blocker, runner, and receiver. Now, some professional organizations are taking notice.
“Last week, Monday, I worked out for Detroit right in Madison,” Ramesh told B5Q on April 11. “That was one of the only times that a coach has come to work me out, so that was a little bit different than the other ones. Then flying out to Oakland and getting in there and seeing the facilities and meeting with the coaches and going over a little bit of film. Meeting [Oakland head coach Jon] Gruden was pretty crazy to say the least. Then getting into my home state at Green Bay was pretty surreal as well.”
“It all gets a little overwhelming just being in the situation I’m in with possibly being on an NFL team in the next couple of weeks, but everything’s gone pretty smoothly,” Ramesh said. “I feel super fortunate just to be in this situation.
“Specifically, a lot of people know that Gruden is a big fullback guy and his plan is to bring another fullback back to Oakland and get him in the offense quite a bit. I think that’s a big reason that’s why they’re looking at me and that’s why they had me out there.”
Gruden last coached during the 2008 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has since been with ESPN, most notably as the color analyst on Monday Night Football.
“I think it seems like the same guy he is on TV. Super down-to-earth guy.” Ramesh said. “He kind of got my heart going a little bit talking to him, I didn’t want to say anything stupid. He seems like a really good guy, really down to earth, genuine guy, and it was cool to get a chance to talk to him for a little bit.”
Green Bay was a familiar sight, as Wisconsin practiced at Lambeau Field before the 2016 season before defeating LSU there to kick off that year with a signature win.
From Land O’ Lakes, Wis., a small town nestled nearly on the Wisconsin-Michigan border, Ramesh holds a longstanding, in-state allegiance to the Green and Gold.
“My dad’s side of the family is actually from Green Bay,” Ramesh said. “I’ve been a Packer fan for a long time.”
The NFL interest in Ramesh is a reflection of what he can bring to an organization: the ability to positively affect the offense in multiple ways. He became one of the lead blockers for Jonathan Taylor’s nearly 2,000-yard campaign and, in some cases, knocked Big Ten rivals off their feet. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 17 carries, never losing yardage, with two touchdowns on the ground as a short-yardage back.
Though he only caught six passes for 76 yards, Ramesh demonstrated his athleticism with a hurdle over a hapless defender in Wisconsin’s 34–24 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl.
According to Wisconsin tight ends coach Mickey Turner, who had Ramesh in his group last year, that versatility is what NFL teams are looking for.
“He’s got all the athletic ability, so he’s faster than they’re going to give him credit for,” Turner said on Tuesday. “You saw him hurdle a guy against Miami, so he’s got plenty of athleticism there, but he’s weighing 250 [pounds]. Not a lot of guys that can be that stocky and strong and move like that.
“Then, he’s got good hands, he understands things. You saw a couple screen passes he caught and turned it up pretty easily. A couple of handoffs out of the backfield and all of a sudden he’s screaming down the sideline.”
Turner, who himself played a bit of fullback in his time at Wisconsin while working as a tight end, mentioned someone previously telling him that for NFL teams, a player has to be “the very best at one particular thing, or you gotta be pretty darn good at a lot of things.”
“They’ve got a guy that’s a burner, he’s not going to be the fastest guy on the team, he’s not going to be the strongest guy on the team, but if he can be a good blend, now you’re in there for a lot of plays,” Turner said. “Then they’re going to love him for special teams, too, because he’s played a number of those, but it’ll be key for him.”
With his on-field résumé already solid, Ramesh participated in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January. Though he was snubbed by the NFL Combine, he trained at NX Level in Waukesha and performed well at Wisconsin’s Pro Day in March.
Ramesh ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times, along with registering a 4.06-second 20-yard shuttle and 6.75-second three-cone drill. Those latter two numbers would have placed him as the top running back—not just fullback—at the combine.
Nonetheless, he could be next in the line of standout Wisconsin fullbacks to play on Sundays. Chris Pressley, Bradie Ewing, and Ramesh’s former teammate, Derek Watt, all played in the NFL.
“I was pretty close to Derek Watt when he was at Madison,” Ramesh said. “He was kind of like my bigger brother, just being a fullback and stuff like that. I’ve asked him a handful of times just about what to expect with the process, talked to him about the NFLPA game and what that was going to be like. He told me about Brad [Arnett] initially at NX Level, so he told me a lot, and I’m sure I’ll reach out to him again probably before the draft.”
About a week-and-a-half from potentially realizing his NFL dream, Ramesh continues to work out back at home with a trainer from high school and college breaks while enjoying time with his family. There won’t be a huge gathering at his household on draft weekend, just some close family and friends, but he has his goals already aligned on what he hopes to accomplish at the next level.
“First off, wherever I end up going, getting in there and competing and making the roster, the active 53-man roster, that’s going to be a huge task right away,” Ramesh said. “Just being good with my body, staying healthy, and being a reliable player.
“I heard a couple of times now that sometimes the fullbacks, just as much as the quarterbacks do in the offense—my agent is currently John Kuhn’s agent as well—and he’s told me about a little bit about when Kuhn was with the Packers, how much he knew about the offense and just being a smart player is a huge part of the game.”