It's not too often you see a former walk-on wide receiver become the teams leading receiver, let alone becoming one of the conference's top ranked wide receivers coming into a season. For Jared Abbrederis those are things he's readily embracing as the Badgers look to go to a third straight rose bowl or beyond in 2012.
"I definitely want to be the No. 1 wide receiver in the Big Ten," said Abbrederis during Media Day on Sunday. "I think with hard work that can be accomplished."
Clearly Abbrederis isn't afraid to set the bar high for himself. He also wasn't afraid to set it high for the team as well.
"One of our goals is to get back to the Big Ten Championship, get back to the Rose Bowl or wherever that takes us," he said. "It's one game at a time for us and you can't jump to the end of the season, but we're definitely excited about the opportunity in front of us."
He's already got the hard work part down as walking on isn't a guarantee of anything at Wisconsin or anywhere else in the world of college athletics.
Coming into to 2012 Abbrederis is the leading returning player in receptions (55), yards (933), and also touchdowns (8). He also was one of the nations most dynamic punt returners in the country, averaging 15.8 yards per return. He also had a punt return for a touchdown along with another that was called back due to a penalty.
So, what does a guy with those kind of numbers want to do this season?
Well, Abbrederis stated to us that he has personal goals of 1,000 yards receiving and at least 2 punt returns for touchdowns for this upcoming season.
Those numbers will be needed as Abbrederis must step into a leadership role with the graduation of Nick Toon to the NFL and the lack of any real depth behind him.
Luckily for the younger wide receivers and for Badger fans, leadership to Abbrederis is more than just talking about it in practice and meetings, it's showing it on an everyday basis as well.
"I think not only a vocal leader, but moreso just being the guy that does it every time on the field," said Abbrederis. "You've got to be able to walk the talk, you can't be the guy that says something and doesn't do it."
As for all the preseason hype? Well, the recognition may be nice, but you can't read too much into it according to Abbrederis.
"It's definitely kind of cool, but nothings every promised to you. You've got to go out and earn it, whether that is in practice, week one, or whatever," he said.
"It's nice to be on the watch lists and things like that, but I don't look at that and say 'I made it'."
Abbrederis finally earned his scholarship, one that he gave up to get Russell Wilson to Wisconsin last year. The question some may have is if that changes anything for him or makes him even more hungry to go out and prove he deserved it all along?
"I wouldn't necessarily say hungry to prove things, but coming in as a walk-on gives you that hard work mentality," he said. "Nothings given, everything is earned. Working hard every time and every chance you get."
What seems to get overshadowed the most by his play on the field are the things that he has accomplished already off of it, including back to back semesters above a 3.0 GPA while majoring in Human Development & Family Studies. Coming to Wisconsin he had a 4.18 GPA in high school as well, so it's not just about football for him.
He even has lofty goals off the field of play as well. "I'd like to be an academic all-Big Ten. I want to be able to for sure graduate with over a 3.0 (GPA)," said Abbrederis.
As a Badgers fan you have to love the fact that a former walk-on from in-state is embracing his success and isn't afraid to set the bar even higher for himself both on and off the field. If he achieves the goals he's set for himself both on and off the field Wisconsin could well be on it's way to another trip to Pasadena or beyond.
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