Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hard work paves way to top spot for Erickson

Hard work paves way to top spot for Erickson
Hayley Cleghorn

Fair weather Wisconsin football fans might have felt lost at the beginning of the season when they glanced at the Badgers’ depth chart and saw a group of receivers they didn’t recognize.

Most fans had probably heard of Kenzel Doe because of his presence on kick returns and perhaps junior Jordan Fredrick, who had a contributing role to the offense his first two years. As for the other four receivers of the top six, probably not more than a confused look and a search of their career stats, or lack thereof. Those four receivers had a combined 10 catches in their careers, and two hadn’t even played in a game because they were incoming freshmen.

With the heart of Wisconsin receiving Jared Abbrederis having graduated and moved onto the NFL, the phrase, “He went to Jared,” had become irrelevant. Now the clichéd statement had morphed into a question, who exactly would the ball go to in this year’s passing game?


In stepped Alex Erickson, who could very well pass for Abbrederis were it not for the 86 on his uniform, and for more reasons than just his similar build.

“[Erickson is] a lot like [Abbrederis],” Fredrick said. “Pretty much the same story, walking on a wide receiver and finally earning a spot with his hard work. He’s just gotten so much better where now he’s just so reliable like Abby was and it’s great to see a guy take Abby’s spot. I think he’s going to be huge for us.”

As was the case with Abbrederis who walked on after high school, Erickson also made the choice to come play at Wisconsin despite not being recruited by the Badgers’ or really any other Division I program. Several Division II schools had expressed interest in Erickson, but the opportunity to play for the school more than an hour drive away from his hometown of Darlington, Wisconsin, was just too much to pass up.

Erickson hadn’t even played wide out in high school for the Darlington Redbirds. Instead, he was the focal point of the offense as the quarterback, throwing for a 3,648 yards in his career while racking up an impressive 3,856 rushing yards in his four years on varsity.

When he enrolled at UW, Erickson came to the football team as an athlete, unsure of where he would fit in, and even if he’d still be on offense.

But given the opportunity to play receiver, Erickson took the chance even though it involved a big learning curve.

“It was a hard transition. People don’t see how hard the wide receiver position is but there’s a lot of things that go into it. The footwork and technique took awhile to learn,” Erickson said. “I struggled at first and it was a long process.

“But it’s just like anything. Keep working at it, you can master it.”

Of course, it helped immensely that Erickson entered the wide receiving corps back in 2012 when Abbrederis was going into his junior year. Abbrederis had just finished the fifth best season for a sophomore receiver in 2011 with his 933 yards receiving, and gave Erickson one of the best receivers in UW history to try to figure out the new position from.

“I learned a lot from him,” Erickson said. “We all have in the wide receiver room — but just his work ethic and the way he came out here every day and just busted his tail on every route whether he was getting the ball or not, the way he blocked, the way he does everything.”

But transitioning to the new position wasn’t the least of Erickson’s worries. After his freshman season then head coach Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas, and with Erickson not under scholarship at that point, his status came into jeopardy.

Having to start from scratch to impress the new head coach Gary Andersen and the brand new coaching staff presented a big challenge, but Erickson ran with the new opportunity.

“I was grateful for the opportunity that I got when [Bielema] was here. And then coach Andersen came, a new staff, so I had a fresh start. I just came in with a new focus, clean slate, nobody knew who you were, so you can make your own impression on new coaches,” he said.

Erickson got a chance right away in the spring of his freshman year to make that impression on the new coaching staff. With multiple injuries to the core group of receivers, the reps increased and so too did the opportunity to leave a mark.

Following that spring, Erickson saw his first action on the field last season and began to play more and more as the season progressed. In the final game of the regular season against Penn State a season ago, Erickson completed a then-career day with highs in receptions and yards with four grabs for 49 yards.

But after this past Saturday’s win against Western Illinois in which he made 10 catches totaling 122 yards, Erickson showed that he’s capable of much more than a contributing role.

“He’s fearless. He’s a competitor. He’s fast. I think Tanner feels very comfortable, as all our quarterbacks do, throwing the ball to Alex. It was just great to see him because he’s worked so hard since the bowl game to get this moment,” Andersen said following the game Sept. 6.

What’s made Erickson so successful in the early going this season has a lot more to do with his consistency than anything else. In the early going against Western Illinois, UW struggled at times in the passing department with a drop from Reggie Love and a poorly run route by Rob Wheelwright that led to an interception.

But Erickson’s strong fundamentals led to him being consistently targeted by quarterback Tanner McEvoy.

“He’ll catch the ball if you throw it at him and that’s what we need,” McEvoy said.

Erickson made it clear that there is still a good portion of the season left, and one solid game doesn’t guarantee him the role of number one receiver for the games to come.

His work ethic on the practice field, again similar to Abbrederis, has backed up his word.

“He’s not just having a huge game and now he’s coming out and loafing,” Fredrick said of Erickson. “He’s definitely coming out and working hard every day, which is what Abby was like. He learned a lot from Abby and that’s where he’s been a role model.”

The future remains unknown for Erickson, but with the blue collar attitude, he’ll soon make those fair weather Wisconsin fans remember his name.

“I’ve been working hard ever since I came here and I just got to continue to do that and just keep making plays when the opportunity comes,” Erickson said.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *