UP native Pedersen looks to surprise at NFL level

Jacob Pedersen
Jacob Pedersen
INDIANAPOLIS - Former Badgers tight end Jacob Pedersen isn't quite sure how he ended up in Madison. Not many people he played with, nor those he watched grew up watching drew many college scouts to the Upper Peninsula.

Pedersen is pretty sure ... he's heard rumors, but never confirmed it ... that a coach from Homestead High School tipped off Badgers coaches after Pedersen and Menominee took on Homestead. He's talked to that coach afterward, but never got up the nerve to say, you know, were you the guy who helped get me a college scholarship?

In fact, he was.

"[I told them] 'boy, if you don't look at this guy, there's something going on," said Homestead High School football coach Dave Keel.

Keel says he got in touch with Bob Bostad, then the recruiting coordinator on the Badgers staff. He told them in no uncertain terms, get up to the UP. See this guy Pedersen. Keel still remembers Pedersen's number 88 jersey on the field, at all times, as he coached twice against Menominee, each team winning one. Keel says he particularly remembers coming out of the halftime locker room, and seeing Pedersen, still out on the field.

"He said, 'coach, are you ever going to stop triple teaming me?'" said Keel. "I said, 'nope, you're going to get triple teamed the whole way. We might even put four on you."

Keel's advice to the Badgers coaches, that they should check out this do-it-all player from the Upper Peninsula, was sound. Pedersen finished off his senior season at Wisconsin with 17 career touchdown receptions, most ever by a Wisconsin tight end.

"I come from a small community, the Upper Peninsula is small in intself," said Pedersen at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "If I can go here, if I can be successful, if I can have a successful career in the NFL or just make a team, it's just that small town kid pride. Like, 'hey, I went and I did something.' I'm proud of my community, I'm trying to make them proud of me."

Pedersen went to Menominee High School in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He says he played nearly every position at one time or another for the Maroons; if any NFL team wants to run Menominee's famed single wing offense, Pedersen says he still has an arm enough to throw a few passes.

Pedersen checked in at 6'4, 240 pounds in front of NFL scouts at the Combine on Thursday. He admits, yeah, that's a little small for a tight end. He's always been looked at as small, he says. But his lack of overwhelming size comes tandem with a strength.

"My versatility," said Pedersen. "I can line up as an [H-back], a fullback, as a wide. I can motion in the backfield, I can put my hand in the dirt."

Pedersen hopes he can be the next example of a seemingly growing Wisconsin tradition of overperforming expectations in the NFL. See: Russell Wilson. He says, like them and fellow NFL-hopeful Jared Abbrederis, he is "not all about the flash." He says he'll be happy with any NFL team, though, of course, there's one squad that would be a little different to play for.

"Growing up 45 minutes from Green Bay, it would be a childhood dream to play for your home team," said Pedersen, who mentioned Aaron Rodgers and a revitalized running game as even more reasons to want to don the Green and Gold.

Pedersen is projected by as a 6th-7th round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. projects him as a 4th-5th rounder.

Pedersen claimed to media at the Combine he wasn't sure if the high school coach he went up against was the one who got him on the Badgers' radar. Keel, the opposing coach, says he got a thank you letter from Pedersen's parents, so they seemed to have a good idea. Keel equates Pedersen to former Badger Joe Thomas, if not in position, in off-field demeanor: a humble guy bound to have a successful NFL career.