An uncertain return to practice to prepare for next season serves as motivation for four Stoughton High School graduates on the football team at the University of Wisconsin.
The quartet of players – redshirt senior Adam Krumholz, redshirt sophomore Brady Schipper, redshirt freshman Jordan DiBendetto and incoming freshman Jack Nelson – are being creative in finding ways to complete workouts during the coronavirus pandemic.
UW’s spring practice was scheduled to start March 10, but the Badgers pushed back the start date before the school’s athletic department announced that all athletic facilities would be closed until June 30. It is uncertain when players will return to campus to begin practice and
Krumholz said PJ Rosowski, a 2014 SHS graduate, who went on to become a kickoff specialist for the Badgers, is a player many in Stoughton looked up to.
Rosowski averaged 63.6 yards per kickoff on 99 career kickoffs. He was part of a senior class that went 42-12 overall and 27-8 in the Big Ten.
“It’s not easy for a guy from a smaller town like Stoughton to get to Wisconsin for football,” Krumholz said. “Once you see one person do it, you believe you can do it too. I think that is what has happened the last couple of years at Stoughton.”
One of four senior wide receivers on the Badgers roster next fall, Krumholz is looking to emerge and break out into a larger role.
He has three receptions for 25 yards in 31 games with the Badgers, with the majority of his action on special teams.
Krumholz was a star at Stoughton, racking up 42 receptions for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior in 2016. He went on to finish eighth in the high jump at the Division 1 state track and field meet and was a state qualifier in the long jump, triple jump and 1,600-meter relay.
“I’m excited for the season, but you still have to earn your stripes in the summer,” Krumholz said. “I have to show them I’m a guy they can count on.”
Many players have resorted to using makeshift weight rooms in their parents’ basements, open fields and high school football fields for conditioning and drills. Krumholz uses dumbbells and jump ropes in the on-campus house he is renting.
In addition to taking online classes as a communications major, Krumholz has been running at the field where the UW Marching Band practices and at SHS’ Collins Field. He uses the sand volleyball court next to his house for acceleration workouts.
Krumholz said working on his explosion and movement in the sand will make his cuts and routes stronger as a wide receiver.
New UW wide receivers coach Alvin Whitted has conducted Zoom meetings two to three times a week to go over film study in recognizing various defensive coverages. Whitted served as the wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers last season.
“He has done a great job of keeping us connected,” Krumholz said.
As a redshirt freshman, Schipper finished last season with 25 rushing yards on eight carries. After recovering from a shoulder injury, he got his first carry against Central Michigan on Sept. 7. He rushed for a season-high 21 yards on six carries against Kent State on Oct. 5.
Schipper is coming off labrum surgery on both of his shoulders. He has been rehabbing his shoulders with internal and external movements and exercises to build strength.
Schipper has had to rehab without the medical staff and workout equipment he would usually have access to at Wisconsin. He has a weight room set up in the basement of his parents’ house in Stoughton.
He hasn’t started bench-pressing or curling yet, but he will soon be medically cleared to jog and run.
“I’ve come back from this injury before in high school,” Schipper said. “I know the things I must do to make sure my shoulders are back to full strength.”
Schipper was named honorable mention all-state as a senior in 2018 after rushing for 1,975 yards and 27 total touchdowns. He rushed for 3,975 yards and scored 48 touchdowns in his Stoughton career.
Schipper made his UW debut against Rutgers on Nov. 3, 2018. He also played in the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami on Dec. 27, 2018, serving as a backup to running backs Jonathan Taylor and Garrett Groshek.
“I took the season as more of a learning experience,” Schipper said. “I was learning from JT and Groshek. I really learned a lot from those guys and saw how they go about their business.”
An all-around athlete at Stoughton, DiBenedetto has recovered from devastating fluke injury during the Vikings’ Badger South Conference opener his senior year in 2017.
He went up for a chest bump with Stoughton assistant coach Jeremy Dunnihoo, but had to be helped to the sideline after his left knee gave way when he landed. DiBenedetto missed the rest of his football season, all but a few seconds of his senior basketball season and all but a month of his senior track and field season after tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
DiBenedetto earned preferred walk-on status and redshirted last season at UW.
“I knew I was going to be able to play because I had other Division II offers,” he said. “I really wanted to go to Wisconsin and I got in as a student. After I returned, they were still interested. I took a shot on myself and I was able to make it.”
DiBenedetto starred as a wide receiver, running back and defensive back for the Vikings, scoring 14 touchdowns in his injury-shortened career and earning all-conference honorable mention notice twice. He was named first-team all-conference as a junior basketball player, and was a first-team all-conference sprinter and two-time state qualifier on the track.
DiBenedetto is focused at wide receiver for UW. During the COVID-19 shutdown, he’s lifting weights and running routes at Collins Field and the practice field in Stoughton.
“I want to be the best route runner I can be when football does return,” he said. “I’m working to maintain my strength and endurance. I will catch passes at times when I find someone to throw to me.”
Having graduated a semester early in December 2019, Nelson then played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. He started taking classes at UW on Jan. 21 to get a jumpstart in the classroom, weight room and practice field.
Nelson has been lifting weights at his parents’ home in Stoughton. He’s following in the footsteps of others who became legendary linemen for the Badgers, including his father, Todd, who was an offensive lineman at UW in the late 1980’s.
Despite the fact that there is no spring football practice, Nelson has been working on offensive line drills and blocking techniques with his father and younger brother, Barrett.
“I don’t want to make an excuse that I didn’t know or wasn’t ready,” he said. “I want to make it look like I went through spring practice.”
The 6-foot-7, 275-pound left tackle committed to the Badgers during his sophomore year at Stoughton. He is rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN Recruiting Database and 247sports.com, and is ranked 122nd in the nation by 247sports and 146th in the 2020 ESPN 300.
Nelson was a four-year letterwinner and starter for the Vikings, and was a captain on the 2019 team that won the program’s first conference championship since 1975.
The first-team all-stater was the recipient of the 2019 Joe Thomas award winner – given to the state’s top senior offensive lineman – and the Badger South Conference’s Lineman of the Year for the third straight season.
Todd has given Jack some advice about preparing for his first season with the Badgers.
“He told me you have to know the playbook 100% so you are not worried about mental mistakes,” Jack Nelson said. “Then you can focus on technique.”
Despite no spring practice, Nelson still relishes the chance to get a head start on his training with offensive line coach Joe Rudolph. He’s taking 12 credit hours this spring as a real estate major.
“I still had a chance for a couple of months of training with the team, getting to know the team and learning the playbook,” Nelson said. “I have to be ready to come back whenever they tell us to.”