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Wisconsin football: transfers in since 2000 explored

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A look at how transfers into the program have fared since 2000.

Big 10 Championship Game - Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers have been very active in the transfer portal this off-season. Since the end of the season, Wisconsin has added five players, including three players the past week, and rumors of more potentially on the way.

Given all of the movement in the portal, I looked back at outgoing transfers from Wisconsin since 2000 over the weekend. While the Badgers have had 83 players leave the program via transfer over the past two decades, the vast majority did not go on to make massive waves at their next stop. Only Shelby Harris, who left due to legal trouble, was drafted after transferring out, though Jack Coan could possibly be a late-round pick this year. Additionally, the majority of the players dropped down a level to play for the Group of 5, FCS, or DII/DIII level.

Conversely, Wisconsin has done remarkably well with incoming transfers. The Badgers have had some of their top players come from transfers since 2000, including some of the most respected faces of the program. Given the impressive list of players below, I think it is safe to say that transfer movements have been wildly successful in favor of the Badgers, and the transfer portal should be viewed as a net positive moving forward as well if history is any indication.

There have been plenty of incoming transfers that did not work (Kellen Jones anyone), or that did not have historical careers like the players to come, but the Badgers have been very picky in the portal and have traditionally found success. Given the influx of transfers coming in this off-season, it will be interesting to see if any of them can have a similar impact to some of the notable transfers to date.

Top players

Northwestern v Wisconsin
Yeah, JJ Watt turned out to be pretty good.
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JJ Watt

JJ Watt took an interesting transfer path by leaving a full scholarship with Central Michigan to walk on with Wisconsin. Well, luckily for the Badgers he did. Not only did Watt go on to have a stellar two-year college career, but he has also been one of the best defensive players in the NFL for the past decade. I think at this point we all know the story.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon
The best quarterback to ever play for the Badgers came via the transfer portal.

Russell Wilson

The Russell Wilson experience only lasted one year, but he engineered one of the best offenses in program history. After a successful few seasons with NC State, Wilson transferred to UW and led the Badgers to a Big Ten Championship. Wilson has since gone on to be a Super Bowl Champion quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks.

Wisconsin v North Carolina
Brian Calhoun only played one season with the Badgers, but it was one of the best seasons from the RB in program history.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Brian Calhoun

After spending his first two seasons with Colorado, Brian Calhoun decided to transfer back closer to home for his junior season. After sitting out one year due to transfer rules, the Oak Creek product put up over 2200 total yards of total offense and 24 total touchdowns in his lone season with the Badgers. He went on to be a third-round pick in the NFL Draft but had a career-ending ACL injury that derailed his time with the Detroit Lions.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Minnesota at Wisconsin
Ryan Ramczyk was one of the best offensive linemen for the Badgers under Paul Chryst.
Photo by Patrick S. Blood/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Ramczyk

Like Brian Calhoun and Russell Wilson, Ryan Ramczyk only played one season with the Badgers, but his impact was felt right away. The former UW-Stevens Point lineman was recognized as a first-team All-Big Ten selection and went on to be a first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints.

Wisconsin Badgers v Michigan State Spartans
Chris Maragos is another former transfer that went on to become a starter and Super Bowl Champ.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Chris Maragos

Like Watt, Chris Maragos walked on with the Badgers after spending his first season in the MAC with Western Michigan. Maragos went on to become a two-year starter in the late 2000s and eventually had a successful NFL career as well.

Herron eludes Lewis
Alex Lewis was a dynamic linebacker for Wisconsin after starting his career in junior college.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/ Getty Images

Alex Lewis

Coming from the JUCO ranks, Alex Lewis was a multi-year starter for the Badgers that went on to be a fifth round pick by the Lions. He is best remembered for his 6.5 sack performance against Purdue.

Honorable mention:

  • Nick Nelson —> transferred in from Hawaii, Nelson was a lockdown corner for Wisconsin and also handled punt returns in 2017. He was a fourth-round pick by the Raiders.
Michigan v Wisconsin
Nick Nelson was another one-year wonder for the Badgers after transferring in.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
  • Andrew Van Ginkel —> from the junior college ranks, Van Ginkel was a key outside linebacker for the Badgers for two years. He went on to be selected by the Miami Dolphins in the 2019 NFL Draft.
  • Tanner McEvoy —> JUCO product, McEvoy began his career at South Carolina, and eventually saw playing time as a quarterback turned safety.
  • Andy Vujnovich —> coming from the University of Dubuque, Vujnovich has proven to be one of the best punters in program history through his first two seasons on campus. He will be punting for the Badgers once again in 2022.
  • Chez Mellusi —> transferring from Clemson, Mellusi put together a strong first season with the Badgers. His leg injury this past year could impact his impact overall, but he has been a great contributor so far.
  • Collin Wilder —> from Houston, Collin Wilder not only brought the “Grit Factory” to Wisconsin, but he was also a multi-year player for the Badgers.