In addition to J.J. Watt and Gabe Carimi being drafted in the first round, the Badgers heard the names of tight end Lance Kendricks and offensive lineman John Moffitt, both All-Americans, called in the second and third round, respectively.
And just like he was when he won the starting quarterback job in 2009, Scott Tolzien is flying under the radar.
In what might be the year of the quarterback, with four signal callers drafted in the first 12 picks Thursday and more expected to come off the board Friday, Tolzien's credentials certainly give him a better than average chance of making an NFL roster.
"Nothing comes easy, but if you put in the work, good things will come," Tolzien said. "More than anything, it's been an awesome learning experience."
Tolzien has been busy since the 2011 Rose Bowl, spending the weeks leading up to the NFL Combine training at Cutting Edge in Orange County, Calif. Doing a speed workout in the morning, Tolzien would throw for an hour, watch film for an hour and lift for three hours three to four days a week, getting the opportunity to throw and fine-tune his mechanics.
"It's amazing how much you can get done when you are zeroing in on the process," Tolzien said.
That work showed in Indianapolis during the Combine. Not only was Tolzien successful in throwing the football, he was spot on with his ability to show his intelligence and due diligence during the interview process, leading one personnel director to say he was the team's best interview.
"It went well for me," Tolzien said. "I am my own toughest critic, so there are some throws I would like to have back, but from a testing standpoint, I was real pleased with how it went. It was good because you work so hard and put in so much time, you feel like it was well-deserved."
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award winner last season, Tolzien holds Wisconsin school records for career completion rate at 68.1 percent and career QB efficiency rating of 153.2. He is fourth at UW with 5,271 career passing yards and 410 career completions and sixth at Wisconsin with 32 career passing touchdowns.
Last season, Tolzien threw for 2,459 yards, 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions, helping Wisconsin win its first conference championship in 11 years. His ability to take care of the football and the fact that his 21-5 career record shows he knows how to win are two of his best attributes.
"Ever since I was a kid watching the Badgers play, Wisconsin has been a ball-control, disciplined and physical team, and the best teams in the NFL are those three things," said Tolzien, who also participated in the East-West Shrine Game. "The system is like an NFL system, and if you can't take of the ball, you're going to have a short career."
Tolzien doesn't appear to be the next Tom Brady – a late-drafted Big Ten quarterback who leads his team to multiple Super Bowl titles – but he has the makings of a very serviceable backup, much like the Green Bay Packers' Matt Flynn or former Badgers quarterback Jim Sorgi.
Flynn was a winner, leading LSU to the 2008 national championship, when the Packers selected him in the seventh of the 2008 draft. Like Tolzien, Flynn was labeled as an intelligent quarterback who lacked sufficient velocity on his throws. Three years later, Flynn is a dependable backup who in his only career start threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns against Brady's Patriots in the Packers' 31-27 loss at New England last December.
Now, both Flynn and Sorgi, who backed up Indianapolis' Peyton Manning for six seasons, have Super Bowl rings.
"At the end of the day, I have to control what I can control, and the formula is still the same, just try to get better each and every day," Tolzien said. "If teams like you, they like you. If they don't, they don't. For me, the focus is on improvement and I feel like an opportunity will come. The rest is what I make of it."
That chance might not be too far away. After he competed at Wisconsin's pro day, Tolzien spent a long time speaking with Packers coach Mike McCarthy, giving the impression that one of the best quarterbacks in school history could possibly end up playing for the defending Super Bowl champions.
"That would be fantastic," Tolzien said.
And that's what makes the draft so much fun.
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