June 29, 2008

The next Newkirk?

If you were to mimic the work ethic of any one player on the current Wisconsin roster, it would be tough to find a better leading example than Mike Newkirk.

A projected starter heading into his senior season, Newkirk entered the Badger program as an undersized defensive tackle but soon chiseled himself into a 6-foot-3, 264-pound warrior in the weight room.

Following closely in Newkirk's sizeable footsteps is fellow Ladysmith native Zach Anderson, a senior-to-be who thinks the world the Badger star.

"He comes home and wrestles with me every winter when he comes home from football," said Anderson, who like Newkirk, excels on the wrestling mat. "I see him quite a bit and he's got me in shape a lot.

"I just can't say enough about Mike. He means a lot to me and this entire town."

Keeping Ladysmith on the roster

Coming from a small town with a population of around 4,000, Anderson didn't have to look far for a role model growing up.

"Mike's always been an idol of mine," said the 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive tackle. "Just to watch how he works out and prepares, I've learned so much from him. He's a great guy to have around and watch."

If Anderson had it his way, Ladysmith High School would remain on the Badger roster long after Newkirk exhausts his eligibility this season.

"I've always wanted to keep the tradition going of sending a guy from Ladysmith to the Badgers," Anderson said. "I want to keep the Ladysmith name up on the roster for the Badgers for as long as I play.

"My top two schools have always been Wisconsin and Minnesota but I've always been a diehard Badger because of my dad and later because of Mike. We always went to the Madison camps. I snuck in there when I was in eighth grade when Coach (Barry) Alvarez was still there and he thought I was a sophomore because I beat everyone at the sophomore level."

Impressive UW camp performance

If you officially count his eighth grade debut, Anderson has now taken part in four straight Badger camps with his most recent coming two weeks ago in Madison.

And in typical Anderson style, he felt he did quite well for the fourth consecutive year.

"For three days I thought I did real well," he said. "Travis (Badger verbal Travis Frederick) wasn't there at that camp but they brought in a kid in from North Dakota ([db]Brent Qvale) and a kid from Illinois and I beat every single one of them.

"I've done it every year now. Each year they would put me up with a higher class and I would beat those guys. This year, I couldn't go any higher, so hopefully that was enough because it was all I could do."

While in Madison, Anderson reported he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds and the pro agility in 4.7 seconds on the turf at Camp Randall. Those times in addition to his performance in the trenches was enough for one future Badger to take notice.

"Jordan Kohout was there from Waupun and he thought I was going to get offered, but they told us they only have one more defensive inside scholarship and they want to look at our national level in the second camp," Anderson said.

"He (defensive line coach Charlie Partridge) said you're right up on top of our list and he told my dad in front of Newkirk, 'You're a Division I athlete and you're what we're looking for.' It's just hard right now because they only have one scholarship for a defensive tackle remaining."

Options remain open

The first school to recognize Anderson was the University of South Dakota, led by the recruiting efforts of former Badger graduate assistant and Oak Creek all-state performer Jake Sprague.

A few days later, Northern Illinois entered the race minutes after a solid showing at their camp, followed closely by Ball State who offered based solely on game film.

"At the NIU camp, I ran a 4.9 40 at 290 pounds, they offered me right on the field," Anderson said. "They were really excited and that was only their second offer of the year at that time. At NIU, we did the 225-pound bench press and I did it 20 times but stopped myself because I knew we still had a three-hour practice ahead of us. I was putting up the reps pretty quick but I stopped myself, so I just racked up it and it turned out to the second highest one there.

"After I got back from the Badger camp, my defensive line coach at Ladysmith told me to call the coaches at Ball State right away. So I called the coach back and they offered me right on the spot. The head coach (Brady Hoke) there was the defensive line coach at Michigan and he said he really liked my film and wanted to offer me right away."

Most recently, Minnesota and head coach Tim Brewster entered the mix in hopes of luring Anderson out of state next season.

"I just got back from Minnesota on Monday after a day camp," he said. "They wanted to see my hand speed and my quickness so they flew a kid from Arkansas in. They made me go against him like 10 times and I beat him every time. He's supposed to go to the USC football camp, he's like 6-foot-8, 290 pounds, but I was able to beat him with my outside speed.

"Minnesota wants to offer me a scholarship, but the problem is there's this junior college kid (Tim McGee) that is stopping Coach Brewster from saying yes. He's supposed to be on campus right now but he's not there because of his grades and he can't get out of junior college because of his grades. So they're kind of stalled up on that. But Tim Cross, the defensive line coach, he was just in a meeting about the recruits and he said he doesn't even want to look at another defensive tackle because he wants to offer me right now. In his eyes, he said I'm the top defensive tackle in the nation for my class."

What the future holds

Currently, Anderson will continue his same routine in hopes of adding more offers to his collection.

Whether the Wisconsin staff will make a serious run remains to be seen.

"Wisconsin basically told me keep in touch because they only have that one spot," Anderson said. "Jordan already committed and then they offered a kid from Minnesota (Beau Allen) that is younger than me. Minnesota said that if we offer a scholarship, Madison will be coming right behind us because they're pretty proud of keeping all the Wisconsin kids at home.

"I've just been going to camps and giving it all I got. I lift weights, I bench 430 pounds and squat 630 pounds. I just try and get bigger and stronger and beat the bigger kids that they throw at me. But I have to keep all my options open at this time. All I want to do is here those words that we want to offer you a scholarship and I would probably commit right on the spot, but I have to keep my eyes open to other schools."

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