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Walk-On Wisconsin

Our series of features delving into Wisconsin's history and pride in its walk-on program.


Walk-On Wisconsin

How a Big Ten power makes the most out of its least heralded prospects

Walk-ons at Wisconsin have written themselves into Badgers lore while helping the program build itself into a nationally-recognized athletic institution. A large wall near the home locker room in Camp Randall Stadium traces the evolution of the university's walk-on program since Barry Alvarez began his tenure as head coach in 1990. It tells the stories of 141 letterwinners and 11 captains who came to play at Wisconsin without a scholarship and played vital roles in leading the program to six Rose Bowl appearances and Big Ten titles in the last 24 seasons. Their influences on the school are undeniable, and their contributions are held in the utmost regard by a Big Ten power primed for unprecedented success in the upcoming College Football Playoff era.

Walk-On Wisconsin: Ethan, Ben Hemer continue family tradition in Madison

The story of the Hemers continues our look at Wisconsin's walk-on history

"My parents were extremely supportive of me during this time and just said, ‘Just go and do it, and we'll figure out the money later,'" Hemer said. "'This is a dream come true. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. You need to go live life right now.'"

Walk-On Wisconsin: Ethan, Thad carry Armstrong name to UW

Our look at Wisconsin's walk-on tradition continues with another set of brothers. Ethan and Thad Armstrong both bleed cardinal and white, though their family history shows they broke from a Hawkeye heritage.

With no scholarship to pay the tuition bills and no guarantee one would be granted during his playing days, Ethan and his family had to brace for the impact of paying for school in some fashion, something each college student not granted financial scholarships or grants has to account for. The Armstrongs' situation, though, included accounting for out-of-state tuition costs. Illinois does not have a reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin to allow tuition comparable to in-state costs, unlike Wisconsin's neighbor to the west in Minnesota.