MADISON — The Badgers built a strong walk-on program under Barry Alvarez. Now more than 40 former players want to reward a deserving walk-on player, as Wisconsin will be the only NCAA football program in the country with a scholarship created by walk-ons, for walk-ons.
For walk-ons like Chris Maragos, they usually have a moment.
"I was playing wide receiver one day and a guy on the first-team defense intercepted a pass. I don't know why I did this, but I ran across the field and tackled the guy. Probably the worst thing to do as a scout-team player, to tackle the first-team defensive guy as they're getting ready for the game. And Coach Bielema called me into his office and said 'hey, we think we're going to move you to safety," says Maragos.
TMJ4's Lance Allan: "Clearly you're not supposed to tackle the first-team safety, but it got you noticed."
"That was right," Maragos says.
Now a number of the notable Wisconsin walk-ons want to pay it forward.
Lance Allan: "You were a walk-on, so many of you guys have benefited from that, and I think it's cool what a group of you have banded together to try to do."
"Anytime you get an opportunity and you take advantage, and great things come from it," said Mark Tauscher. "The Wisconsin walk-on program, there have been so many guys that got an opportunity that hadn't gotten one somewhere else. And Coach Alvarez, the way he gives you that chance and then lets you take advantage of the opportunities. So many of us have benefited."
"We all have this certain amount of humility. We know what it took. We started at the bottom," Scott Young. "We all migrated through the program and go to where we are today. That is a part of our fabric. That's the greatest thing about what we're trying to do here. We will perpetually endow this scholarship for guys who have just these same characteristics."
Every year, the players and the coaches will form a committee and reward a deserving walk-on.
"There's going to be moments where you think you're by yourself, you feel lonely and you feel you don't have the support around you because other kids were recruited or got scholarships. But you know what? There's value in you," Maragos says.
"The scholarship players are always going to be the mind, body and soul of our football program, there's no doubt about it. But the walk-ons are the heart and the heartbeat," Young says.
"Whether you're playing in the NFL or have a great job, the Wisconsin football program and what you learn, it's invaluable. And for us to be able to do anything, to give that opportunity and pay it forward for somebody else - that's what it's all about," Tauscher says.
The players plan to use this announcement over the weekend to honor the retirement festivities of Barry Alvarez.