MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin football coach Luke Fickell joined Wisconsin’s Afternoon News to discuss his historic recruiting efforts, the Badgers’ culture, family, his vision for the team and more. The conversation came shortly after confirming a transfer commitment from four-star wide receiver CJ Williams.
Fickell, who said he was on the phone with a recruit’s mom just minutes before his radio appearance, is responsible for helping to add some of the most high-profile recruits in Wisconsin football history. The former Cincinnati head coach said he was surprised as just how powerful the Wisconsin Badgers brand is.
“The one thing that I did not recognize was the power of the W,” Fickell said. “I’d known a lot of things Wisconsin from afar, but I don’t know that I recognized the power of the brand.”
That brand recognition extends far beyond the Midwest, as shown through the commitment by Williams — a California native. The former top 100 recruit was used sparingly in his freshman campaign, catching just four balls for 34 yards at USC. The Wisconsin football program brought Williams in for a visit last week, resulting in this announcement via social media:
As first reported by Evan Flood, Williams now becomes the highest rated wide receiver in Wisconsin football history. He reportedly chose to join the Badgers over high-profile programs like Texas A&M, Georgia, West Virginia and Notre Dame.
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Fickell isn’t just recruiting athletes — he’s recruiting young men who fit within the Wisconsin football culture and the program he is reestablishing.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to have a higher expectation than we do for ourselves,” Fickell said. “When you put enough of those guys who are highly motivated into a room together, there’s some unique things that gotta happen. I think that’s the essence of what gives us a chance to grow.”
He acknowledged that college football recruiting has changed with modern transfer rules, but at the end of the day, it’s still all about the quality of one’s character.
“It’s important for us to spend time and get the right [recruits],” Fickell said. “The only way you know if when you spend time with them.”
A husband and father to six children, Fickell has spent a lot of time working individually with his recruits, their families and his new staff to find players who fit that mold. Although it has kept him away from his family recently, he looks forward to seeing his football family and real family come together when they move to Madison later this year.
From a strategic standpoint, Fickell doesn’t want to completely deviate from the ground-and-pound identity this Wisconsin football program has upheld in the past. However, the injection of high-ranking quarterback prospects and explosive receiving weapons will give the team a new edge that it previously lacked.
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“The core values that have been here — the culture that has been here, the things that have always made Wisconsin a successful program and team— they’re not going to change. It’s still going to be about that toughness”
He assured Badgers fans that under his watch, the team will still prioritize the run game and defense; even if it looks a little bit different from what fans are used to.
The Wisconsin’s Afternoon News crew finished the segment by getting a little bit more personal, asking five questions about Fickell that have nothing to do with football. His responses are in bold below:
- When was the last time you sprinted? Fickell says he sprinted after receiving a commitment on Thursday afternoon.
- What brand of beer would you take with you if stranded on an island? Spotted Cow.
- Ideal guest conductor for Wisconsin’s band? Billy Idol.
- First car? Red Volkswagen Jetta, which his brother broke. Their parents still don’t know it.
- First job? Worked for his uncle’s blacktopping business.
The full interview is available in podcast form at the top of this story or by clicking here.
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