CHICAGO - Transforming from an in-state walk-on to one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten, senior Jared Abbrederis is now the leading example of what head coach Gary Andersen would want to see from his players on and off the field.
“Jared is a great kid,” Andersen told Badger Nation during day two of Big Ten Media Days at the downtown Hilton Chicago. “His family’s important to him. He intermingles well with the team even though he is married. It’s a unique fit but he handles that unbelievably well.”
Just two years after meeting his future wife at a Bible study class in the fall of 2010. Abbrederis married the former Rachel Otto last year on May 26. Fresh off celebrating their one year anniversary, the number one wide receiver has a different outlook toward playing the game.
“The one thing that is different is it’s more than yourself now, and you think about providing for your family,” said Abbrederis. “I’m no longer out there playing just for me, but I have somebody back home to take care of.”
Abbrederis chose a unique route compared to his teammates and most college athletes, but heading into his first football season as a married man has not changed his mentality. Instead, it eliminates the distractions that other players are up against.
“The biggest thing with being married is there’s not a distraction,” said Abbrederis. “So when I go home to Rachel, she’s right there. I don’t have to go try and hang out after practice or have to ask her on dates. It’s kind of nice to go home, and not have to worry about finding time to see her.”
Abbrederis’ role on the football team changed when he came to Madison as a walk-on. He began his career as a quarterback at Wautoma High School and finished his career as a first-team all-state selection by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, throwing for 3,014 passing yards and 30 touchdowns in his career and leading his team to a state championship as a senior.
But while his play earned him an opportunity at Wisconsin, the coaching staff told him his best chance to find the field was at receiver.
“Once I got to college, my goal was just trying to play at this level,” said Abbrederis. “I knew I could play wide receiver here once I got to the practices, but coming in I had no idea how far it would take me.”
Abbrederis has made the most of those opportunities. He currently holds the school records for career kickoff return average (25.8) and ranks third in punt return average (11.2). Abbrederis’ 2,059 career receiving yards ranks eighth in school history.
“To be sitting here as fifth year senior, being the number one receiver on our team and to have that position is crazy to think about it,” Abbrederis said. “I always tried to work hard. God has blessed me with opportunities and the abilities. I just have to go out there and try to keep it going.”
Faith and football
Regardless of his success and his marriage, Abbrederis uses his faith as his main motivation. He gives all the credit for his abilities in football to God, especially since his faith found him his soul mate.
“For me it’s always been my faith,” said Abbrederis. “God has given me all the abilities that I have so I try to use them to glorify his name. That’s what it’s all about – me playing football and use the path that he had for me to bring grace to him. Without God, I would be nothing. It’s my faith and family that motivates me.”
Andersen looks to Abbrederis as a role model for the values he wants his players to uphold. After only six months, Andersen has built relationships with players, like Abbrederis, off the field, and hopes his players will come to him like his own children do.
“I see myself as a father figure,” said Andersen. “I have two 18-year-olds and a 22-year-old but if my kids needed guidance, I believe they would come to me to ask me those hard questions and we have fun together. I don’t think every night of the week they don’t want to hang out with dad, and I think players are the same way.
“To know that they are comfortable with coming to me is important. I can honestly tell them what I believe. My goal is to let the players know that we’re there for them. It’s a good compliment for them to come to me for guidance.
“(Jared is) the jokester, the competitor and the leader. He is kind of the poster child of what you want a college athlete to be that’s married. He’s handled it all very well.”