February 8, 2009

Dream comes true for Hemer

Suiting up for the Wisconsin Badgers and playing at Camp Randall on Saturday's has been Ethan Hemer's dream for as long as he could remember.

And when the opportunity-a preferred walk-on invitation from the Badgers-presented itself, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound all-state prospect from Medford, Wis., turned down full-scholarship offers in order to stay in state and turn that dream into reality.

"I just chose Wisconsin because it was my dream to play there," Hemer told BadgerBlitz.com Sunday night, just a few days after it was officially announced on Signing Day that he was one of three preferred walk-on's in UW's 2009 class.

"The opportunity was there, and I just couldn't pass it up."

Head coach Bret Bielema, a former walk-on himself at Iowa, knows all to well the journey Hemer is set to embark on.

"Ethan was in our camp. We really liked him and he was on the verge of getting a scholarship, not only from Wisconsin, but had several other scholarship offers from Division I AA schools," Bielema said Wednesday. "The part that I like about Ethan is he has a dream. He has a dream about playing at Wisconsin, earning a scholarship. I can always say as a head coach, you know, I was a former walk-on myself at one point, a guy that had the same dreams that you did, was able to go out and earn a scholarship.

"The part that the NCAA has put in place that makes a lot of sense is if someone wants to come here and it doesn't work out, they can always transfer down. I know Ethan doesn't want to go down that road, but it does provide that same option that's open to him now and allow him to come in here next fall and try to prove his way up the ladder and get himself in a position of success."

Along with Bielema, Hemer was able to build a strong relationship with Bob Bostad and Charlie Partridge, two assistant coaches that made a memorable in-home visit.

"They came up there to my house and they talked with me," said Hemer, who had offers from Northern Iowa, South Dakota and Illinois State. "After talking with them, they said they had a plan for me and a place where they wanted me to play. They came up to see me and I thought that was pretty special, and that's when I knew Wisconsin was the school I wanted to play for."

That plan, according to Hemer, is a switch from defensive end to defensive tackle, a huge position of need on the current Badger roster.

"They want to bulk me up and play defensive tackle," Hemer said. "Right now I'm about 260 pounds but they said during my first year I would have no problem getting up to around 285 pounds or even more. I've played all over the line throughout my high school career, both on offense and defense, so I've seen things from each side. I really don't think it will be very hard to make the transition."

Hemer joined linebackers Nicholas Hill and Ethan Armstrong as preferred walk-on's that were officially announced by Bielema on Singing Day.

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