It isn’t easy chasing after a dream, especially when that dream is to play in the National Football League. It’s even harder to give up that dream after putting so much hard work and commitment into one goal.
This offseason, Wisconsin redshirt senior quarterback Jon Budmayr had to come to terms with his body that has proved unable to keep up with the grind of Division I college football.
The Illinois native has dealt with nerve issues in his elbow almost his entire career at Wisconsin — an issue that sidelined him for both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Just as he persevered through injury in the past, Budmayr tried to give his goal of starting for the Badgers one more go.
“I decided to try it one more time and come back this spring and do winter workouts and see where that got me,” Budmayr said. “A few weeks in, my body just wasn’t responding. More issues were popping up neurologically. At that point, I decided my playing was over.”
It was not an easy decision for the four-year veteran to come to terms with—never getting a chance to start a game under center for the cardinal and white. But after praying about it and talking with his parents and people close to him, Budmayr was able to accept his decision to move on from playing football.
“It was one of the tougher decisions I’ve made in my life,” Budmayr said. “It was emotional just because you put so much into it, which I have my whole life. You work for so hard for — all of us have the common goal and that’s to be a professional football player someday, since we were little.”
During his career, Budmayr was able to play in only three games where he threw for 134 total yards and a touchdown.
After hanging up his pads, the ex-signal caller is now pursuing his next dream of becoming a football coach.
“I got with [head] coach [Gary] Andersen and talked to him about [a coaching] opportunity and he was unbelievably positive about it,” Budmayr said. “He granted me the opportunity to [be a player-coach]. Now it’s just moving forward with this and being a sponge and learning as much as I can.”
Budmayr will add a not-so-new face to a revamped coaching staff brought in by Andersen. The ex-quarterback has started his UW coaching career assisting the staff’s newest hire, Jeff Geynk, with the tight ends and special teams where there was a pressing need for coaching personnel.
New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig is excited to have Budmayr on his offensive coaching staff and has confidence in what the rookie coach can do.
“Bud’s awesome,” Ludwig said. “He hated to leave the quarterbacks, I hated to lose him, but there is a chance there to make a big impact on the program in a different role. He’s a football fanatic. He wants to be a coach. So, he’s got a chance to grow tremendously in terms of learning the game from that perspective.”
One player who has been through the thick and the thin with Budmayr and can relate to his history with injuries is sixth-year senior quarterback Curt Phillips. Phillips and Budmayr came up through the UW program together, and while Phillips was on the field starting for the Badgers last fall, Budmayr was on the sideline giving Phillips a small sample of his coaching.
“I trust what he sees,” Phillips said. “Sometimes you have people on the sidelines that you don’t necessarily take their advice, but he’s somebody that I definitely look up to and whatever he says I take to heart.”
Budmayr says he has kept busy so far during spring practice, preparing charts and PowerPoints for the players and coaches, along with coaching on the field. It’s been a fast transition, but Genyk has taken Budmayr under his wing, making for a much smoother transition.
Although Budmayr had to give up his dream of playing football as a career, he is now living a different dream.
“It was my dream as a kid, like every kid, to grow up and play professional football,” Budmayr said. “After I had to move on from that dream, the next step was coaching, and so now I’m getting my feet wet with that, and I can’t thank coach Andersen enough for that opportunity.”