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Jared Abbrederis' much publicized journey from walk-on quarterback to first-team all-conference wide receiver received more validating on Monday, as the senior was named the winner of the Burlsworth Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding player that began his career as a walk-on.
Abbrederis won the award over fellow finalists Max Copeland of Missouri and Trey Watts of Tulsa in a ceremony in Springdale, Ark.
“You think about the hard work that you put in through the years that brought you to where you are today,” Abbrederis said. “All those memories come back and you’re honored, blessed.”
A semifinalist in 2012, Abbrederis claimed the award following an outstanding regular season that saw him make 73 receptions for a career-high 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns. A consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection, he became the first Wisconsin wide receiver to earn first-team all-conference honors in consecutive seasons since Al Toon in 1983 and 1984.
Abbrederis ranks in a tie for second all-time at UW with 23 touchdown receptions. He also ranks second all-time in receiving yards (3,110) and receptions (197). With one game remaining in his career, Abbrederis’ 3,110 career receiving yards rank him ninth in Big Ten history and eighth among all active FBS players.
He became just the third player in school history to amass 1,000 receiving yards in a season and is the first at UW to record at least 800 yards in three different seasons.
The award, presented by the Springdale Rotary Club and the Burlsworth Foundation, is named for offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on to the team at Arkansas and eventually earned a scholarship on his way to All-SEC and All-America honors.
He was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft but was tragically killed just 11 days later in an automobile accident.
“It’s definitely something I’m proud to be a part of,” Abbrederis said. “Brandon Burlsworth was a great guy and someone that kind of set the standard for us.
“It’s really humbling to be recognized and win an award in his honor. There were two other guys here today that were great examples of what can happen when you work hard and have the great support we’ve had from our parents, coaches and teammates.
“I’m really proud to represent them and the other candidates that weren’t finalists but deserve to be recognized, too.”
A multi-sport star from Wautoma, Wis., who led his high school to its first state football championship, Abbrederis walked on to the Wisconsin football team after initially coming to UW to compete in track and field. He served as a scout team quarterback and wide receiver during fall camp as a freshman but quickly caught on and soon became an integral part of the Badgers’ offense and a weapon on kickoff and punt returns.
Abbrederis has shined as UW’s top receiver over the last two seasons and has already accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl after the Badgers conclude their season in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
“I really have to thank everyone that’s helped me throughout my career and allowed me to get to this point,” he said. “I’m going to keep working hard for them and to live up to what this award is all about.”