In a 2018 study conducted by the NCAA to find the estimated probability of competing in professional athletics, it was found merely 1.6% of all Division I football players in the United States have the chance to make it to the NFL. Even for a football program as successful as Wisconsin’s, many Badgers will enter into post-college life as something other than a professional athlete.
Many media personalities, bloggers or reporters will use this statistic to boost their claim that student athletes should be compensated for their play. The harsh reality of this realization is the vast majority — approximately 99.4 percent — of Division I and II football players will not be able to pursue a career in the sport they love and have committed countless hours to.
The University of Wisconsin boasts one of the top football programs in the nation, yet this harrowing statistic is still true even in Madison. While players such as Jonathan Taylor, Zach Baun and Tyler Biadasz have begun to look to the National Football League for their career prospects, many other Badger seniors have begun to construct their future lives outside of the two white lines.
In a number of heartfelt tweets posted to Wisconsin football’s Twitter account Dec. 13, the program took time to recognize their many unsung heroes who have propelled Wisconsin to the forefront of the college football world within the past four years.
One of these players, offensive lineman David Moorman, earned Academic All Big-Ten Honors in both 2016 and 2018. The Northville, Michigan native is majoring in Communication Arts and is going to pursue a career in software sales. When asked him how being a Badger has shaped him, Moorman looked back very fondly on his experience as a Badger and praised both the professional and personal skills these past four years have given him.
“Being a Badger has not only made me a better person, but has also taught me skills like resiliency, toughness, and most importantly how to be a good teammate and friend,” Moorman declared.
What Moorman honed in on is an idea many casual fans of college athletics are completely unaware of. Specifically, the immense levels of discipline and organization required to excel in college athletics as well as furthering one’s education. Not only does a student athlete have to be in peak physical and mental shape to perform on game day, but they also must remain eligible by maintaining good grades within the classroom.
Another senior who relayed a very similar sentiment to Moorman’s is David Pfaff, a six-foot-two defensive end from Mequon, Wisconsin. After UW, Pfaff plans on working in the nonprofit sector for organizations such as Team Rubicon or American Family Insurance.
“Being a Badger has shown me how much I can endure and challenge myself,” the Homestead High School alumni said. “It has taught me how to be a better man, friend, brother, and teammate. Most importantly, it has shown me the same love that I have given it these past five years.”
Another member of the 2019 graduating class of Badgers is safety Eric Burrell, whose solid season filled the holes sophomore Scott Nelson left when he announced his season-ending leg injury earlier this year. Burrell was a crucial member of the Badger defense who ranked as one of the top in the nation.
The Severn, Maryland native recorded 34 solo tackles, two forced fumbles, three interceptions and nine pass breakups in his final season with the Badgers. Burrell, who is a personal finance major, plans on attending graduate school at UW in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Program.
“Being a Badger has shown me how to create lasting, meaningful relationships,” Burrell said. “The people I have met here will continue to be in my life long after I leave Madison. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be a Badger!”
There is little doubt each player mentioned is an incredibly talented football player. Simply making it on and contributing to the Badgers is an extremely impressive feat to have accomplished. Yet, not everyone will make it to the league. Instead, many will build upon their experience as a Badger both in the classroom and on the field to make a positive impact on their communities.
No matter what the graduating seniors plan on doing with their future careers, it is quite clear the time they spent in Madison shaped them into becoming the best person they could possibly be, both personally and professionally. The memories and lessons they learned here will last them a lifetime, and the state of Wisconsin and Badger fans worldwide thank them for the many exciting moments they have delivered to them over the past three years.