The Badgers have added their first walk-on to the 2012 recruiting class. Alex Erickson, a quarterback who recently graduated from Darlington High School, will join the team following the fall semester and will be eligible to play in 2012, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Erickson, who is an exceptional athlete by all accounts and an all-state football and basketball player for the Redbirds, was previously denied enrollment to UW because of low ACT scores, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. He was planning to join the UW-Stevens Point basketball for a season before attempting to walk on to the Badgers football team next year. The ACT issue has apparently been resolved, but Erickson said it’s too late to join the team for this season.
The four-year starter at quarterback accounted for nearly 2,500 yards of offense when he ran for 1,239 yards and 22 touchdowns and threw for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns last season for Darlington. Erickson also played free safety for the defense and earned the Wisconsin State Journal 2010 All-Area Football Player of the Year honors for small schools after his spectacular season.
The Redbirds, who averaged 47.6 points a game in 2010, were undefeated until their 35-14 state semifinals loss to Brillion, the eventual state champs.
Erickson’s future position with the Badgers is unknown at this time, but he’s likely to be tried out at safety or wide receiver.
Badger Nation poster Bevellboy watched him play last season and relayed a scouting report in which he referred to Erickson as a “jack-of-all-trades kind of guy.”
“Erickson just seemed to be that kid where the speed of the game is slower for him than everyone else,” Bevellboy wrote. “His athleticism is good, but his poise and presence was really something to see. Would agree he is not a QB, but receiver/safety looks pretty good.”
Wisconsin has a history of developing walk-on talent into big-time contributors. The list includes former Badgers like Jim Leonhard, Chris Maragos and Luke Swan, all three of which came from small Wisconsin towns like Erickson. Last year, J.J. Watt, a former walk-on, was arguably the team’s most valuable player on the way to a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl bid. Each of those players had a chip on their shoulders when they came in and a burning desire to prove they belonged.
Early indications are Erickson might be cut from a similar cloth. For example, as his high school graduation neared, he left a message to future Darlington students about success.
“It’s not easy,” Erickson told WKOW. “It comes with hard work all the way through. So work hard, do the best you can do and don’t take anything for granted because it’s only four years of your life and you gotta make the most of it.”
That attitude was not lost on his teammates.
“He pushed us everyday,” Darlington senior center Bryan Reichling said of Erickson. “I thought of him as the vocal leader and the leader of the team. He showed it through his play, but he also got guys pumped up and got you ready to go. … He got his name in the paper, but he made all of us better by just pushing us to get there and to help him out.”
Erickson, who coached youth basketball and was a referee for youth football, was a role model to young athletes in the community, according to Darlington offensive coordinator Andy Palzkill.
“He’s obviously a great athlete, but when you talk to him, it never comes off that he’s portraying that about himself,” Palzkill told WKOW. “He’s a better person than he is an athlete.”
Erickson will not be a celebrated addition to a 2012 recruiting class that looks like it could be among the best in Wisconsin’s history, but could he be the next in a long line of Badger walk-on success stories? Only time will tell.