Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jack Cichy is yet another walk-on story of a player who came to play for the Wisconsin Badgers with no scholarship initially who's made an impact on the program.
Playing most of the year as an outside linebacker behind starters Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel, the Somerset, Wis., native slid inside when true freshman Chris Orr went down with a leg injury for the better part of November and contributed heavily to a Badgers defense ranked No. 1 in scoring defense heading into their 2015 National Funding Holiday Bowl match-up against the USC Trojans.
Problem was, Cichy would be unavailable for the first half of the bowl game due to a targeting penalty assessed in Wisconsin's win vs. Minnesota on Nov. 28. As the Wisconsin State Journal's Jason Galloway reported, the 6'2, 223-pound linebacker wasn't allowed on the field during the first two quarters and had to watch in the Wisconsin locker room.
"It was awful being in there," Cichy said. "I was talking to myself. I was yelling at the TV. I wanted to be out there with (my team). I kind of feel like I let them down."
After being held out the first 30 minutes of the game, Cichy simply exploded on the field. He led the team in tackles with nine, and in one drive, single-handedly drove the Trojans back from midfield to its own 29 with back-to-back-to-back sacks -- quite possibly one of the best individual defensive sequences seen in UW history -- on way to being named defensive MVP in Wisconsin's 23-21 win over USC on Wednesday night.
In an article from BadgerNation.com, Cichy attributed his progress to those who have played ahead of him and before him.
"I think being behind Vince (Biegel), Joe, and even my freshman year, (Ethan Armstrong) and Chris Borland, I think it's only helped me," said Cichy. "So you can look at like, I'm not playing (the first half), and this sucks, or you can kind of look at it as an opportunity to grow. I think I've taken the opportunity, I've grown a lot, and I've got a long way to go, but, yeah, I guess it feels real."
Cichy also made a huge play that resulted in the game's only turnover. With UW up by two late in the fourth quarter, USC was driving on its own 36 in a 1st-and-10 situation. Cichy pressured USC quarterback Cody Kessler, and altered an errant pass into the hands of junior cornerback Sojourn Shelton.
He finished the season fifth on the team in tackles with 60, with eight tackles for loss and five sacks. With Biegel now returning for the 2016 season, expect the two -- along with the up and coming T.J. Watt -- to continue causing havoc for opposing offenses.
More Holiday Bowl coverage
Badger247 -- Players Hope Aranda Returns in 2016
BadgerBlitz.com -- Biegel hopes Aranda will stay at Wisconsin
BadgerBlitz.com -- Notes: Badgers get signature win
BadgerNation.com -- Fight On, Wisconsin
ESPNWisconsin.com -- Stave goes out a winner
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- Badgers end season with Holiday to remember
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- Game Replay: Wisconsin vs. USC
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- Joel Stave takes the hits and keeps on winning
Wisconsin State Journal -- Badgers football: Corey Clement's ankle injury has been lingering issue since Northwestern game
Wisconsin State Journal -- Tom Oates: Holiday Bowl win reaffirms that Wisconsin is on right track under Paul Chryst