Braxton Amy will not be a part of the University of Wisconsin football program’s signing day recruiting class, which will be announced Wednesday.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback prospect from Foster High School in Richmond, Texas, was believed to have verbally committed to Wisconsin in early December, weeks after severely injuring his left knee. Now, it appears that commitment report was part of a larger misunderstanding, the details of which are not entirely clear.
What is clear is that Amy did not receive a letter of intent from Wisconsin for Wednesday’s signing day and that he will not be a part of the Badgers’ football program, Braxton Amy, his father Nelson Amy, and his high school coach, Mark Wiatrek, said in telephone interviews Tuesday.
NCAA rules forbid college coaches from commenting on high school prospects until they have signed a national letter of intent. Verbal commitments are non-binding agreements between potential student-athletes and the colleges that are recruiting them.
Though he played less than nine games this fall, Amy was named honorable mention all-state after recording 90 tackles and three interceptions defensively, while catching 20 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver.
While Amy reportedly committed to the Badgers Dec. 7, and believed he had committed in October, Wisconsin had asked Amy to verbally commit directly to UW head coach Barry Alvarez, but only Amy’s father voiced a commitment pledge prior to the knee injury.
In early December, Amy was told that the Badgers may consider a grayshirt option for him, whereby he would sign a letter of intent along with the rest of the 2005 class, but would not formally become a part of the UW football program until Jan. 2006. The grayshirt possibility was quashed Friday, when Wisconsin informed Wiatrek that it was no longer recruiting Amy.
Said Wiatrek: “Do I look at it as something bad that Wisconsin did? No, no, I don’t. Because I’ll go back to the original comment that I made. He never officially committed to Wisconsin. He never did. His dad did… But Braxton himself never did.”
“I believe in my heart that Wisconsin was doing the honorable thing,” Wiatrek said, “I really do, by honoring this, coming and visiting with him, after he had been injured, trying to get him to say, ‘Yes. I’m coming over there.’”
Braxton Amy and his father expressed frustration over how events unfolded and made it clear that they felt they had committed to UW in late October, days before the knee injury.
Wisconsin pressed hard for a commitment prior to Amy’s Oct. 29 knee injury. On Oct. 25 Nelson Amy called former Wisconsin tight ends coach Rob Ianello to tell him his son was committing to the Badgers.
“[Ianello] said, ‘Do me a favor and have Braxton call Coach Alvarez,’” Nelson Amy said.
Later that week Ianello visited Wiatrek in his office.
Said Wiatrek: “[Ianello] said, ‘You know, coach, Braxton has never really committed to us. Do you know what the hold up is?’ I said, ‘No, I really don’t other than that they are still trying to make a decision of where he wants to go.’”
According to Wiatrek, Ianello went on to explain that Amy’s father had called him and said that his son would like to attend Wisconsin. Ianello then again requested that Braxton Amy call Alvarez.
Wiatrek said he gave Braxton the phone number. Braxton, however, did not call Alvarez.
“Braxton wanted to have like a big game before he called him,” Nelson Amy said.
Nelson also said he did not understand why it was important that Braxton voice the commitment to Alvarez, feeling that since his son was legally a minor he could not make such a pledge.
“He can’t commit himself,” Nelson Amy recalled thinking. “He can’t even sign himself out of school.”
That Friday, Oct. 29, Amy caught a short pass, evaded a defender and dashed down field, only he slowed down at the 10-yard line, thinking that he was in the clear. He wasn’t.
“A kid caught him from behind, pulling him down,” Wiatrek said. Two months later, watching Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams pull Philadelphia Eagles receiver Terrell Owens down from behind Wiatrek thought he was watching a replay of Amy’s injury.
“That’s exactly what Braxton looked like,” said Wiatrek, referring to the image of Owens’ leg buckling underneath him. “The only difference is Braxton drug the guy two more yards into the end zone.”
The diagnosis was devastating: the anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, lateral collateral ligament, iliotibial band and hamstring muscle had torn clean from his fibula.
This was actually good news. The week after the injury, Dr. Walter Lowe, who has worked with the NBA’s Houston Rockets and the NFL’s Houston Texans, surgically re-attached Amy’s ligaments to the bone. Had the ligaments torn in the middle, the resulting build up of scar tissue may have permanently affected Amy’s range of motion. As it stands, Lowe has said that Amy’s surgically repaired knee is on target for a 100 percent recovery, possibly as early as August.
“Originally, he said that it wouldn’t be until August that he felt like Braxton could start full rehab,” Wiatrek said. “Well, [Dr. Lowe] changed his mind because of the speediness of his recovery he wants him to start full rehab this week.”
“I was shocked at how fast I got back into doing things,” Braxton said.
Prior to the injury, Amy had received significant national recruiting interest but afterwards, according to Nelson Amy, only Wisconsin, Rice, Baylor and Division I-AA Texas State contacted him.
In early December, Ianello met with Wiatrek, Braxton Amy and Nelson Amy and broached the grayshirt possibility, saying the Badgers would honor the initial scholarship offer if Braxton agreed to delay his enrollment at the university until Jan. 2006 and if UW could evaluate Braxton’s knee in October.
“I understood their position. They have to protect their investment,” Nelson Amy said. “I was satisfied with him rehabbing and coming up there in October to be evaluated by the doctor. I wouldn’t want to send Braxton to Wisconsin if he couldn’t play football… It is too far away to just be another student.”
Soon after this meeting, Braxton’s commitment was reported in a number of media outlets, though Braxton and his father felt that he had committed back in October and Wisconsin apparently did not feel a commitment had been made at all. Nor does Wiatrek.
Said Wiatrek: “When Rob was here in December, I remember when he visited with the parents, it was like Rob was waiting for him to say, ‘OK coach, I’m coming to Wisconsin.’ And he never said that. It was like ‘that was my option, let me think about it.’”
In early January, Ianello took a coaching position at Notre Dame and Wisconsin quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton began recruiting Amy.
“Jeff comes in here about three weeks ago and sits in my office and explains to me that it didn’t look good was kind of his words for Braxton to come to Wisconsin,” Wiatrek said.
Braxton said he took an official visit to Texas State Jan. 21. Last week Horton told Nelson Amy that Braxton should take the scholarship offer from Texas State.
“He says this is my personal opinion, I think he should take that offer because it is guaranteed and ours of course is not guaranteed,” Nelson said. According to Nelson, Horton also said that Wisconsin did not feel they had ever received a commitment from Braxton."
Last Friday Horton called Wiatrek. He left a message on Nelson Amy's voicemail Friday, which Nelson received Monday morning.
“He explains to me that there will be no signing of Braxton this Feb. 2,” Wiatrek said. “There will be no signing and [it] looks like there never will be.”
Wiatrek said he understood Wisconsin’s decision.
“It is a business,” he said. “You can’t afford to just be handing out scholarships to hand out scholarships. This is something you’ve got to be real careful with when you give people scholarships. I totally understand.”
Braxton said the scholarship offer from Texas State is no longer available. He plans to take college courses at a local community college, rehab his knee and work through the recruiting process again next year.
Said Nelson Amy: “It’s a disappointing situation but Braxton’s going to rehab, he’s going to continue to rebound and we’ll just get out there and beat the bushes next fall and get somebody to pay attention and I think other schools will. We’ll get somewhere.”
Wiatrek said he was positive Amy would play college football.
“He will, I just don’t know where," Wiatrek said. "He will play again. He will because I know the kid... I know his work ethic, I just know him. He’ll play for somebody and he’ll be good at it.”