Badger of Honor continues to dive into the numerous Wisconsin Alumni currently living out their dreams as NFL players, and up next in the series is a Badger with a storied college career who is getting an opportunity at the next level.
Coming out of Ohio in high school, Chris Borland chose to play football at Wisconsin and immediately became an impact player.
As a freshman, Borland played in all 13 games, starting six, and racked up stats all across the board. He forced five fumbles and recovered three (both team-leading numbers) and had 10.5 tackles for loss (third on team), 5 sacks (third on team) and 54 tackles (fifth on team). Add in an interception, 3 passes defended, oh, and three made extra points (against Hawaii), and Borland was clearly involved even as a freshman. He even returned six kickoffs for 106 yards on the season.
Borland’s big season brought about numerous accolades, including the Big Ten Freshman of the Year Award (both coaches and media), placement on both Phil Steele and Sporting News’ first-team Freshman All-American team, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection (both coaches and media), as well as UW’s Rookie of the Year Award.
The post-season notoriety turned into pre-season expectations for Borland in 2010, but he unfortunately suffered a shoulder injury early in the season after playing in just two games. He spent the rest of the season on a medical redshirt.
Borland returned in 2011, picking up right where he left off on his way to another strong season. Just behind a 150-tackle effort by teammate Mike Taylor (which was the top mark in the Big Ten and third best in the country), Borland amassed 143 tackles (second in the Big Ten, seventh-best in the country).
Borland disrupted backfields on his way to 19 tackles for loss, which was the highest mark in the country for a middle linebacker, and a school record for a linebacker as well. He continued to be one of the best in the country at causing turnovers, as he forced five fumbles (seventh in the country, second in the Big Ten) and picked off two pass attempts.
The performance earned him a consensus pick on the first-team All Big Ten squad.
After his monster 2011 season, Borland’s numbers leveled in 2012, as over 12 starts Borland collected 104 total tackles (10 for loss). He continued to produce turnovers, forcing three fumbles and recovering three more.
He was again named a first-team All Big Ten player by the coaches, and was an Honorable Mention pick by the media.
Heading into his senior season, Borland was named to numerous pre-season watch lists, including the Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy.
Borland continued to produce on the field, totaling 112 tackles (8.5 for loss), and forcing 2 fumbles and recovering two. He finished his career setting a new Big Ten record with 15 career forced fumbles.
He was named a first-team All-American (FWAA), the Nagurski-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection (both coaches and media), won the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, and was a Lott IMPACT Trophy finalist.
Aug 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland (50) gives a fan the ball after scoring a touchdown during the game at NRG Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
As a Badger, Borland ranks sixth all-time with 420 tackles, fifth all-time with 234 solo tackles, fourth all-time with 50 tackles for loss, and eighth all-time with 17 sacks.
Following his senior campaign, Borland was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the 77th overall pick (third pick in third round).
Playing with the likes of Patrick Willis and (currently injured) NaVorro Bowman, Borland has a chance to learn from the best as he looks to turn a stellar college career into a long professional campaign.