By now, Jared Abbrederis' story is fairly familiar to Wisconsin fans. Starring in multiple sports at Wautoma (Wis.) High School, Abbrederis walked on to UW's football program after first considering track and field. He also had designs on playing quarterback, leading the scout team offense as a freshman while only dabbling in wide receiver.
Five seasons later, Abbrederis has cemented himself as one of the finest receivers in program history. His latest accolade came Monday, when he was announced as the winner of the 2013 Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the top player who began his career as a walk-on. At the ceremony in Springdale, Ark., Abbrederis found himself with a rare opportunity to look back on his college career.
"You think about the hard work that you put in through the years that brought you to where you are today," Abbrederis said. "All those memories come back and you're honored, blessed."
The other two finalists were Missouri offensive guard Max Copeland and Tulsa running back Trey Watts.
Abbrederis was a semifinalist for the award in 2012, eventually losing out to Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. This season, Abbrederis blew his 2012 numbers out of the water despite spending most of the year as Wisconsin's only steady receiving option. In 12 games, he caught 73 passes for 1,051 yards (14.4 per catch) and seven touchdowns. The year prior, Abbrederis had 49 catches for 837 yards and five touchdowns.
A consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection once again, Abbrederis became the second player in school history to draw such honors in two consecutive seasons (Al Toon was the first in 1983-84). He's currently tied for second all-time at UW with 23 touchdown receptions and ranks second all-time in receiving yards (3,110) and receptions (197). With the Capital One Bowl still to be played, those 3,110 career receiving yards rank Abbrederis ninth in Big Ten history and eighth among active FBS players.
The Burlsword Award is presented by the Springdale Rotary Club and the Burlsworth Foundation, and is named for former Arkansas offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth. Burlsworth was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999, but was tragically killed 11 days later in an automobile accident.
"It's definitely something I'm proud to be a part of," Abbrederis said. "Brandon Burlsworth was a great guy and someone that kind of set the standard for us.
"It's really humbling to be recognized and win an award in his honor. There were two other guys here today that were great examples of what can happen when you work hard and have the great support we've had from our parents, coaches and teammates.
"I'm really proud to represent them and the other candidates that weren't finalists but deserve to be recognized, too."
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