But with every tackle, every time he created havoc in the backfield and the energy he was bringing to his defense, senior defensive lineman and Illinois State commit Cameron Botticelli was carrying the Hilltoppers to a state championship.
Now instead of anchoring the Redbirds defense, Botticelli is bringing his playmaking skills to Madison, as the talented defensive tackle switched his college destination at the end of November.
Against Menomonee Falls in the championship game, Botticelli tied Marcus Trotter for a team-high with seven tackles (six solo, three for loss), one sack and one pass breakup.
Botticelli originally committed to Illinois State over offers from Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and North Dakota and interest from Michigan State, but started rethinking his commitment as his team prepared for state.
"The decision (to change) was actually pretty easy," Botticelli told Badger Nation. "I had committed to Illinois State in October, but I feel that I made the decision in a rush. I took a step back and looked at what college I wanted to get a degree from and what school can prepare me for when I graduate. Wisconsin had the things I wanted and the opportunity."
When Botticelli decided that he wanted to play closer to home, Botticelli re-contacted the coaching staff that he got to know during summer camp and made inquiries. Botticelli found that although UW was handcuffed with scholarship offers, the coaching staff gave him a preferred walk-on opportunity. That was enough for Botticelli, who made his decision and then went out to shut down Menomonee Falls.
"(Talking to the coaches), they really wanted me in their program," Botticelli said. "They were really up-front and honest to me. It was hard at first to walk away from free money, but playing at Wisconsin and against top competition is something I wanted to do."
Taking his official visit on the weekend of December 12 and hosted by sophomore defensive tackle Patrick Butrym only further sealed the deal for 6-foot-5, 240-pound prospect.
"You could tell how much he (an in-state guy) enjoyed playing for Wisconsin," Botticelli said. "He told me about the amount of work the guys put in and that's something that excites me. After visiting, you can't tell who the scholarship players are and who the walk ons are. There really is no difference and that's what makes it great."
Botticelli visited on the same weekend Michael and Marcus Trotter took their official visits.
"That would be great to play with those guys for a couple of years," Botticelli said.
A player that takes pride in his work and who lives in the weight room, Botticelli isn't planning on quitting his after-school routine, especially when he sees what happens to walk-on athletes that work hard in UW's football program.
"You look at a guy like J.J. Watt, who came in, worked hard and got a scholarship," Botticelli said. "It's a little difference situation, but it serves as motivation to go to a school that rewards hard workers with a scholarship. To get a scholarship down the road would be an added bonus for me."