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ROSE BOWL NOTES

'Wild ride' for Wisconsin's J.J. Watt could end Saturday

The 6-foot-6, 292-pound junior defensive end is thought of as a potential first-round NFL draft pick. He has come a long way from not being offered a scholarship by the Badgers out of high school.

December 29, 2010|By Gary Klein

This could be it for Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt.

The 6-foot-6, 292-pound junior, a possible first-round NFL draft pick, might be playing his final college game Saturday when the fourth-ranked Badgers play third-ranked Texas Christian in the Rose Bowl.

If he does bolt for the NFL, it would complete quite a transformation for a former tight end who was not good enough to earn a scholarship to Wisconsin out of high school.

"It's been a wild ride," Watt said Wednesday, "but every second has been worth it."

So, apparently, has every pound that Watt added to his frame during three years in Madison.

Watt said he weighed 228 pounds when he graduated from high school in Pewaukee, Wis. His talent drew serious attention from schools such as Central Michigan and Minnesota, but not Wisconsin.

He committed to Central Michigan, only to see coach Brian Kelly leave for Cincinnati. He then committed to Minnesota, but coach Glen Mason got fired.

After visiting several schools, Watt wound up enrolling at Central Michigan, where he started as a freshman in 2007 and caught eight passes for 77 yards. But he said pro aspirations and the lure of playing in the Big Ten Conference prompted his transfer to Wisconsin in an effort to make the team as a walk-on.

After a redshirt year playing defensive end on the scout team, he moved into the starting lineup last season.

This season, he amassed 21 tackles for losses this season, including seven sacks, as the Badgers won a share of the Big Ten title and earned a Rose Bowl berth.

Watt was a second-team All-American and also won the Lott IMPACT Trophy for his play on the field and community service off of it.

He said he would decide after the game whether to make himself available for the draft.

"It's been pretty wild," he said of his career arc. "It gets my head spinning sometimes."

Special talent

Jeremy Kerley is TCU's top receiver and a game-breaking kick returner.

In a game featuring teams that both average 43.3 points a game, the outcome could come down to special teams.

That's fine with Kerley.

"It's the unit that decides every game, for me," he said, laughing.

Double duty

Dave Doeren, Wisconsin's defensive coordinator, has been busy juggling his final responsibilities with the Badgers and his new position as head coach at Northern Illinois.

"I'm at the best bowl you can be in with a bunch of players that I love to coach, my family is having a great time and I'm head football coach at a great school," he said. "Everything is as good as it can be."

Doeren said the time he would have spent recruiting for Wisconsin has been devoted to putting together his staff and recruiting for Northern Illinois.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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