OSHKOSH — Not that Jared Abbrederis pays attention, but there has to be some level of comfort in knowing there are some doubts about his ability to fit in the NFL. After all, beating expectations and overcoming limits have kind of been his hallmark.
“Being the underdog, being there before where I was the guy no one really wanted, I think that’ll definitely help me out,” said Abbrederis.
The former Badgers wide receiver, tied for the most receptions in Wisconsin history and second on the touchdown catches list, is getting ready for next week’s NFL Draft. Back at home in Wautoma for a few days, Abbrederis is happy to work out with friends at the Oshkosh YMCA and cling to some normalcy before quick, dramatic changes come with the stroke of a pen on some team’s draft card.
“It’s crazy to know that in a couple days we’ll know where we’ll be and we’re excited for that,” said Abbrederis.
Back to those doubts. Abbrederis, then a quarterback, led Wautoma High School to a division 4 WIAA state title in 2008. He was, however, lightly recruited, until his father and coach lobbied Wisconsin to take a look. The Badgers did, offering Abbrederis a preferred walk-on spot on the football team. He had planned to run track in Madison.
“Being the underdog, being there before … I think that’ll definitely help me out.”
“His numbers and stuff didn’t just jump right out at people,” said former Wautoma football coach Dennis Moon. “That’s probably why he was never offered a scholarship.”
The scholarship would come, as would the first-team All-Big Ten honors his junior and senior years and even the Burlsworth Trophy, going to the nation’s best player who started their careers as a walk-on.
Doubts doused, right? Then this part will sound familiar. Heading into the NFL Draft, there are questions about his size and speed. According to NFL.com, Abbrederis ran the 40 yard dash at the combine in 4.5 seconds and measured 6’1, 195 pounds. Various expert scouting reports (which are, of course, by media members and not NFL teams) call Abbrederis “[a] blue-collar overachiever lacks exceptional athletic traits,” “lacks speed that will invite any sort of special coverage” and “Abbrederis doesn’t scream NFL prospect.”
“I think Wisconsin searches for those type of guys that can overcome things, not be taken back when people start doubting you,” said Abbrederis.
Look no further than the too-short Russell Wilson, Abbrederis’ former quarterback, as a player who isn’t tall enough but managed to have NFL success anyway.
This is not to say scouting reports are totally down on the former Badger. Many project him as a 3rd or 4th round pick, lauding his route running ability even if he is not listed among the top receivers in this draft class. Abbrederis says he’s received positive feedback from the teams he met with at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, and feels his game translates to the NFL.
“Definitely special teams, I love doing punt return, kick return, things like that,” said Abbrederis. “Receiver, I can be in the slot, I can be in the field, to the boundary, I’ve done it all at Wisconsin and that definitely helps me.”
His former coach says the doubts could pay off. Similar players have faced similar questions about size and speed and carried those chips on their shoulders through successful careers.
“He reminds me of those Wes Welker kind of guys, Donald Driver guys,” said Moon. “Not quite fast enough, big enough, but he’ll go some place and he’s going to turn some heads.”