Like a good receiver looking for an opening, Jared Abbrederis made a point to deliver an important message to the new Wisconsin coaching staff soon after they settled into their offices.
Abbrederis told offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig he planned to earn every second of playing time in 2013 — a commendable sentiment, but not necessarily one that needed to be sent by the team's top receiver.
Abbrederis' exemplary college career is about to come to an end. It features a record of hard work and deceptive quickness that helped produce a new standard at a program already known for producing quality walk-on players.
"When I first met Jared ... he just told me he wants to work for everything and that's all he's done," Ludwig said recently at a practice in Madison for the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 against South Carolina. The 19th-ranked Badgers (9-3) are now in Florida getting ready for the game.
"Comes to work every day. Blue-collar team player," Ludwig said.
No wonder Abbrederis won this year's Burlsworth Trophy, a relatively new college football award for the most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on. Abbrederis traveled to Arkansas this month to receive the honor.
Abbrederis didn't even start his career as a receiver, but as a walk-on quarterback. He's now second on the school's career receiving list with 3,110 yards, behind just Lee Evans' 3,468 yards.
Abbrederis has 1,051 yards receiving this year going into the Capital One Bowl, becoming just the third player in school history to go over the 1,000 yards in a season.
The senior admits he might play with a proverbial chip on his shoulder at times but "I don't think I tried to prove anything."
"I mean yeah, a times, it's nice to be able to prove that people are wrong like that, but that was never really the underlying determining factor," he said. "It's just because I love playing and love playing hard."
This year, he benefited early in the season from all the attention paid to the potent Wisconsin running game with James White and Melvin Gordon. That allowed him to break free for big pass plays from quarterback Joel Stave.
But the passing game struggled in a 31-24 upset loss to Penn State in the regular-season finale, and the Badgers couldn't make the defense pay for concentrating on stopping the run. Getting the passing game going has been a focus of bowl practice, perhaps giving Stave a head start on a potential quarterback competition in 2014.
Abbrederis won't be there for that, but he can help younger receivers get ready to fill the big void he'll leave after the bowl game.
The 6-foot-2 Abbrederis isn't necessarily a home-run threat on every play, but he's quick and knows how to get open. Abbrederis proved his worth after getting 10 catches for 207 yards matched up mainly against standout cornerback Bradley Roby in a 31-24 loss to Ohio State in September.
Abbrederis cites the experience of understanding defenses and coverages, and studying film. He encourages younger players to work on route running, and the ability to set up defensive backs.
"By watching film and knowing coverages you kind of learn how to set people up, and anticipate where they're going to be and that helps you get open," Abbrederis said.
Ludwig smiled while remembering the first meeting with the player nicknamed "Abby."
"He offered to me and said 'I'm not looking for anything to be given to me. I want to earn everything, work my tail off to have a great senior year,'" Ludwig recalled.
It all came true.