The Wisconsin Badgers have a storied walk-on tradition. Year after year, players walk on to the Badgers team and work their way into the starting lineup, and many go on to have successful NFL careers.
Currently, nine former Wisconsin football walk-ons are on 90-man NFL rosters heading into 2017 training camps, and those nine players combine to average $33,353,740 per year in salary.
The group is led by a few high-profile players — as you'll see below — but the fact that nine former walk-ons from Wisconsin's program alone are currently on NFL rosters is a testament to the coaching staff at Wisconsin and their ability to mold players.
Here's a look at the nine former Badgers walk-ons who currently combine to make more than $33 million per year in the NFL. Salary information refers to average yearly salary, compiled from overthecap.com.
J.J. Watt, DE — Houston Texans
A former walk-on tight end who transferred from Central Michigan to Wisconsin, Watt switched positions and became a dominant defensive end in the college game. He went on to be drafted No. 11 in the 2011 NFL Draft, and has since become one of the best players in the NFL.
Rick Wagner, OT — Detroit Lions
Another former walk-on tight end, Wagner joined the Wisconsin program in 2008 and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup, playing 62 games and starting 47 over his career. He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens, and signed a free agent deal with the Lions this offseason that made him the highest paid right tackle in the league.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT — New Orleans Saints
Ramczyk walked on to Wisconsin after transferring from Division 3 Stevens Point, and after sitting out a transfer season, started every game at left tackle on his way to a first round draft pick in 2017. Ramczyk will start his career blocking for Drew Brees.
(*Note — I checked with Wisconsin walk-on expert Jake Kocorowski — while Ramczyk initially came to the Badgers as a walk-on, he was awarded a scholarship ahead of the 2015 season)
Chris Maragos, S — Philadelphia Eagles
Maragos is a story of constantly working his way up the ladder. He started his college career as a wide receiver at Western Michigan, but transferred and walked-on at Wisconsin. During his transfer season he switched positions, and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup at safety.
He was an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco 49ers, but eventually worked his way onto the field. He was released following the season, but joined the Seattle Seahawks (winning a Super Bowl ring) and later the Philadelphia Eagles. He was a special teams standout at each stop, and has started at times for the Eagles.
Joe Schobert, LB — Cleveland Browns
From walk-on to the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year to the NFL, Joe Schobert is another in a long line of success stories for the Badgers. He was a fourth-round draft pick by the Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Jared Abbrederis, WR — Detroit Lions
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers out of Wisconsin, Abbrederis struggled with injuries early in his his career and is now trying to make an impact with the Lions.
Dare Ogunbowale, RB — Houston Texans
The former walk-on and Wisconsin football captain signed in undrafted free agency with the Houston Texans after the 2017 NFL Draft.
Alex Erickson, WR — Cincinnati Bengals
An undrafted free agent in 2016, Erickson earned a spot on the Bengals roster and made his name as the team's starting returner.
Joel Stave, QB — Kansas City Chiefs
The winningest quarterback in Wisconsin football history, Stave bounced around the league in his first year after going undrafted, and is looking to stick as a backup in Kansas City.