Being a Badger fan in this day in age is quite glamorous. Since the beginning of the Barry Alvarez era in 1990 not only has Bucky been a consistent winner, but they’ve been consistent title contenders, for the Big Ten and beyond. However, a lot of fans know it hasn’t always been like this. For nearly three decades spanning from the mid 60’s to the late 80’s, the Wisconsin football program was a shell of its current self. Losing was common, winning seasons were rare, star talent even scarcer. The last 27 years and counting have rebuked that trend, and added an element of prestige and tradition implemented by the likes of Alvarez, Bret Bielema, and Paul Chryst, and sustained by the countless amounts of players that have came through the program.
We are still in the dog days of the off-season, but that dark passage is soon ending. You can only talk so much about the upcoming season, so why not indulge in the glories of being a Wisconsin football fan the past decade.
This piece is a homage to Badger football standouts of the last decade. From offense to defense, to those on special teams, there has been some extremely talented football players who have come through Wisconsin. While it’s difficult to narrow down to 11 on each side of the ball (four on special teams), suggestions or complaints as to who should’ve/shouldn’t have been on the list are always welcome. For now, I hope you, the reader, will take it all in and remember all the great moments these players have provided us Badger fans. Without further ado, your Wisconsin Badgers, Best of the Decade; Offense.
*These decisions are not based off professional performance, only their time in Madison*
Quarterback: Russell Wilson (2011)
Career Stats: 3,175 Passing Yards, 33 TD’s; 338 Rushing Yards, 6 TD’s; 56 Receiving Yards, 1 TD.
Best Season: 3,175 Passing Yards, 33 TD’s; 338 Rushing Yards, 6 TD’s; 56 Receiving Yards, 1 TD.
Signature Play: 4th Down Conversion to Jeff Duckworth in BIG Championship Game leading to game winning touchdown.
Wilson may have only been in Wisconsin for one year, but boy was it memorable. That 37-yard heave to Duckworth on 4th down is one of the most epic plays, ever (Gus Johnson’s call helps too). Ultimately leading the Badgers to national prominence and a repeat trip to the Rose Bowl solidifies his spot here.
Running Back: Melvin Gordon (2011-2014)
Career Stats: 631 carries, 4,915 Rushing Yards, 45 TD’s; 228 Receiving Yards, 4 TD’s.
Best Season: 343 carries, 2,587 Rushing Yards, 29 TD’s; 153 Receiving Yards, 3 TD’s.
Signature Play: 26 yard touchdown run vs Nebraska breaking NCAA single game rushing yardage record.
This was the hardest decision, but ultimately Gordon prevailed as king of the hill. When Melvin Gordon was on the field, you watched. Badger fans knew they were watching something special during his time in Madison, and arguably should’ve been crowned the Heisman Trophy winner during his final campaign.
Wide Receiver: Jared Abbrederis (2010-2013)
Career Stats: 202 receptions, 3,140 Receiving Yards, 23 TD’s; 291 Rushing Yards, 2 TD’s.
Best Season: 78 receptions, 1,081 Receiving Yards, 7 TD’s; 119 Rushing Yards, 2 TD’s.
Signature Play: Scoring opening drive touchdown in the 2011 Rose Bowl vs Oregon.
Abbrederis was a fan favorite in his time here. The star receiver played a big part in the three consecutive Rose Bowl trips by the Badgers. Not only was he revered for his receiving, but his blocking capabilities as well. There is no doubt he is one of the best receivers of the decade, as well as all time.
Wide Receiver: Nick Toon (2008-2011)
Career Stats: 171 receptions, 2,447 Receiving Yards, 19 TD’s.
Best Season: 64 receptions, 926 Receiving Yards, 10 TD’s.
Signature Play: 46 Yard touchdown vs #8 Nebraska in 2011.
Toon, son of famous Badger Al Toon, wrote himself into Badger lore by being one of the best wideouts the program has ever seen. For example, his 10 touchdowns during his senior campaign exemplified his knack for making big plays for a loaded offense.
Honorable Mention: Alex Erickson
Tight End: Travis Beckum (2005-2008)
Career Stats: 159 receptions, 2,149 Receiving Yards, 11 TD’s.
Best Season: 75 receptions, 982 Receiving Yards, 6 TD’s.
Signature Play: 14 yard touchdown catch in 2007 Capital One Bowl vs #12 Arkansas.
Beckhum perhaps could’ve had even more stats had it not been for an injury-plagued senior season. On the other hand, these stats exemplify just how talented a player the Oak Creek, Wisconsin native was in his time in Madison. All things considered he should be considered the best tight end to come through the program in the last decade.
Offensive Linemen: Joe Thomas, Gabe Carimi, Kevin Zeitler, Peter Konz, Rob Havenstein
The big hogs up front don’t garner up stats, but at Wisconsin they sure get the attention they deserve. No offense would run without a good O-Line, and fortunately for Wisconsin, they’ve been good, if not great, and then some. For example, ask any one of those Badger running backs about their success, and they’ll point to the guys up front.
Honorable Mention: John Moffit, Ricky Wagner, Bill Nagy, Dan Voltz, Ryan Ramczyk
Look for part 2, Best of the Decade, on defense and special teams coming soon!