Although Wisconsin suffered a heartbreaking 27-25 defeat at Michigan last Saturday, one bright spot for the team was the introduction of redshirt freshman wide receiver Nick Toon into the offense. While Toon played in the games against Akron and Marshall, he recorded his first reception as a Badger against the Wolverines in the Big House, a pitch and catch from quarterback Allan Evridge for 18 yards.
“It felt great,” Toon said about his first catch. “I’ve been here a couple years and put in a lot of time, so it felt good to finally get that first catch out of the way.”
Toon, as many fans know, is the son of former Wisconsin star wide receiver Al Toon. The elder Toon played for the Badgers from 1982 to 1984 and left as the school’s career receiving leader with 131 catches for 2,103 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was also drafted 10th overall by the New York Jets in the 1985 NFL Draft.
Nick came out of Middleton High School as one of the top-rated players not only in Wisconsin, but in the entire Midwest. He knows there is a great deal of pressure on him because of his father’s success, but he thinks it works to his advantage.
“The one thing I would say where it probably helped me is, because of all the hype surrounding my dad, it helps keep me motivated to keep being better and to hopefully try to fill his shoes,” Toon said. “I’ve always had that pressure on me and I don’t know any different, so it just feels normal to me.”
Another factor influencing Toon’s progression is the fact that he redshirted his freshman year. Toon, though slightly disappointed he wasn’t able to dress last season, thinks this will help him in the long run.
“I think redshirting did help me a lot,” he said. “I wished I’d been able to learn more of the offense last year, but it helped me get used to the college game and the speed of that game. It gave me a year to settle in and get ready to play.”
Toon, at 6-foot-3-inches and 214 pounds, brings size to a group of receivers lacking in that aspect. Starting sophomore receivers Kyle Jefferson and Maurice Moore weigh in at only 175 and 167 pounds, respectively.
“Nick has a good combination of strength and size. He has a nice physical presence about him that’s different from the other guys,” wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander said. “He has a role with this team, and we want to try and maximize that role so that it helps us win.”
His teammate agreed.
“Nick is big, probably the biggest receiver we have,” Jefferson said. “He’s a big target just like I am, but he’s got a little more weight than me.”
Despite the pressure and hype surrounding him, Toon knows he is in a good position and has a few expectations for himself in the upcoming years.
“I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in — it’s fun,” Toon said. “It’s kind of a dream of a lot of kids that grow up in Wisconsin and love the sport of football to play on the Badgers. It’s pretty cool.”
His coach shares similar aspirations.
“After being involved in the program for a year, he’s had a steady progression, and he’s put himself in a good position,” Alexander said.
And in Toon’s mind, the sky is the limit.
“I think that anybody that doesn’t expect to become a starter and be a star has the wrong mindset,” Toon said. “So my goal is to become a starter here and be a major contributor and be one of the better guys that have come through here.”
No argument from No. 7.
“Look for big things from him,” Jefferson said. “I hope he plays well, and I hope he keeps up the good work.”