His path to football did not start until halfway through his high school years, but Blake Wilcox took a chance and excelled on his way to earning a walk-on opportunity with the Wisconsin Badgers.
The in-state specialist from Pewaukee now is slated to play in the Under Armour All-America game in Orlando this week.
“Honestly, it’s incredible,” Wilcox told reporters, including SB Nation’s Bud Elliott, on Dec. 29. “You know, my story wasn’t like many other people’s in the sense that I started late. I was a soccer player up until my sophomore year, and I hadn’t actually played football until my junior year. Since then, stuff has just kind of taken off and never stopped since then.”
Wilcox signed with Wisconsin in December as part of the Badgers’ 2019 recruiting class. On Thursday, he will play with some of the nation’s best prep players in the All-America Game (5 p.m. CT, ESPN2) as a member of “Team Ballaholics.”
His journey to Wisconsin, and the game of football itself, started with some friends mentioning that Wilcox should play football. That talk developed into a conversation between the heads of the football and soccer teams at Kettle Moraine High School.
“So I kind of negotiated with the football coach and my soccer coach to maybe try both,” Wilcox said, “because historically at our school, it has worked out really well. Both coaches agreed on it, and so I did both in my first year, my junior year. It was just a great season.”
Highlighted by a successful 59-yard field goal, that junior campaign included second-team all-state honors by the Associated Press and honorable mention all-state accolades by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) as a kicker.
Wilcox followed up his introductory year as a specialist by adding more honors as a senior. After connecting on nine of 14 field goals and averaging 40.9 yards per punt, he became a first-team all-state kicker and punter by both the AP and WFCA. He was joined by prep teammate and 2020 Wisconsin commit Trey Wedig as all-state selections.
He also received the Kevin Stemke Award winner, given to the state’s top kicker by the Wisconsin Sports Network.
Wilcox played soccer at the same time, finishing his high-school days as a two-time all-state defender with all-state First 11 honors from the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association in 2018.
When speaking with B5Q in October, Wilcox mentioned that Wisconsin’s coaching staff was most likely looking at him to redshirt before competing at a variety of positions, either punting, placekicking, or kickoff duties. That could still be the case, although opportunities could become available early on, he mentioned last weekend.
“So the punt[er] spot is open next year,” Wilcox said. “It’s not completely open because they have a guy right now who’s really, really consistent, and that’s one thing I need to work on because I’m a big, strong, tall guy. I’m good at what I do, but sometimes it’s more hit-or-miss than anything, and I think consistency is what’s going to help me going forward.
“They think I might punt next year. I could do field goal next year, and I probably will do kickoff junior, senior year, so at one point I might do all three.”
Right now, Wilcox believes he is a better kicker but feels he has more potential as a punter. According to Kohl’s Kicking, he ranks as a five-star prospect, the No. 3 punter, and No. 5 kicker in the nation for this class.
“I have a kicking coach, coach [Luke] Radke, and he’s helped me. He’s put in countless hours to get me better and get me to where I am today and I can’t thank him enough,” Wilcox said. “Kohl’s Kicking as a whole has also given me a lot of exposure. They’ve helped me get recruited and just see where I stack up against kids around the country and offered a little bit of a competition aspect in that regard.”
Now a member of Wisconsin’s 2019 class, Wilcox is one of 25 players—19 scholarship and six walk-ons—who will head to UW. Knowing that he will join UW is a feeling he described as “relieving.”
“Just to have that stability and knowing where you’re going to go to college, especially at a good university at Wisconsin,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox took in UW’s win against Nebraska in early October with some of the 2019 signees like Graham Mertz, Logan Brown, Spencer Lytle, Hayden Rucci, and Leo Chenal. Though he was a later commit in this class, there are strong relationships with this group.
“I was a little bit late to the scene, but we have a big group chat and we talk in it every single day, all day,” Wilcox said, “and I think we’re a really tight knit group of guys and I think we have a lot of respect for each other. We all have a similar vision of going to Wisconsin and being really successful.”
Quotes from Wilcox courtesy of SB Nation’s Bud Elliott