Alex Erickson eyes the NFL

Alex Erickson, a former Wisconsin walk-on during his early days at UW, has always been overlooked.

When he found out he would not be attending the NFL Scouting Combine, he could not help but to be a little frustrated. As an All-Big Ten selection with 77 catches, 978 yards, and 3 touchdowns, and quality performances against secondaries with future pro players such as Alabama and Minnesota, he thought he was going to get the invite.

“I was disappointed,” Erickson said. “It’s one of those things where it’s whatever. I just knew it made the [Wisconsin] Pro Day more important.”

The combine would’ve given him a shot to perform in front of all 32 teams, as well as side by side with the other hopeful pros. Listed at only 6’0″ and 199 pounds, a lot of scouts have focused in on his 40-yard dash time, and the combine would’ve been a great place to answer the questions about his speed. For wide receivers with a smaller frame, the 40-yard dash time is often the most important stat that scouts want to see. Without a good 40-yard dash time, it can be hard for smaller receivers to even get their shot at the NFL, much less get drafted.

Erickson knew that number would be important. So important, in fact, that he spent eight weeks with a guy in Detroit that specialized in improving athlete’s performance in that very drill – the 40-yard dash. Erickson said that most scouts and coaches believed he would run somewhere in the 4.6-4.65 second range.

Then Wisconsin’s Pro Day came, and he shattered that time.

Erickson couldn’t even confirm what time he got, he just knew it was anywhere between a 4.48 and 4.52. Either way, it was a number that solidified his chance of an opportunity at the next level, and increased his draft stock.

Erickson had every right to be super thrilled with that number, but he wasn’t overly thrilled. To him, it’s his film that counts.

“I look at it like a job interview,” Erickson said. “You go through college. My film is my resume. The combine and pro day are just like job interviews. I think people should be looking at more film than anything.”

That Pro Day got him on the radar for many NFL teams, saying he spent a lot of time with officials from the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Chiefs that day.

After the Pro Day, he stayed in Madison for a little less than two weeks. Then he trained in Florida with former Badgers receivers Chris Chambers and Lee Evans for two weeks, which he said was a pretty surreal experience. He then had to come back to the Midwest for a workout with the Vikings, which provided some interesting questions for Erickson.

As a boy born and raised in Wisconsin, of course the Vikings had to ask him a few questions about the Packers.

“One of the coaches asked me if I was a Packers fan growing up, and I said ‘Yeah, but I think I would look good in purple and gold,'” Erickson said.

And then he looked down at his lunch thinking, then he smiled and mumbled to me, “I think I’d look good in any of the 32 colors.”

The questions from the Vikings didn’t stop there, however. He was also asked if he would purposely fumble against Green Bay, to which he said he couldn’t help but laugh. This week, he has an upcoming visit with the Bengals.

Since the Minnesota visit, he’s been in Madison. The preparation for the draft comes with a lot of pressure, pressure of things that you can’t necessarily control, Erickson noted.

Erickson said his schedule has basically been train, golf, eat, and sleep. He’s been golfing with a few other guys who are looking to make their NFL dreams a reality: Joe Schobert and Joel Stave. Erickson said they keep the draft talk to a minimum. For them, it’s all about getting some relaxation in their hectic schedule.

But the unknown of his future, Erickson said, is something that sticks in your mind. Luckily, he has a good friend to lean on for some advice. Erickson keeps up with former Badgers walk-on and current Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who was in the same place Erickson was just two years ago. Abbrederis was drafted in the fifth-round, sharing the same smaller wide receiver prototype as Erickson. The third day, just like Abbrederis, is right where Erickson is hoping to get the phone call. The two have been working out together over the off-season.

Abbrederis has always been a mentor for Erickson, going back to the days when they were both at UW. He’s been compared to Abbrederis quite often over his career, with the walk-on and small wideout label, a comparison that Erickson is proud of. Seeing former Badgers who were middle round picks is something that Erickson draws confidence from, noting Abbrederis’s improved role last year for the Packers and James White’s success for New England.

“You know what type of people and players they were,” Erickson said. “You saw how they trained.”

As we’re walking around State Street and grabbing lunch at a local restaurant, he realizes how much his life is about to change in the next few weeks. As mentioned earlier, he is a guy born in raised in southwest Wisconsin, playing football at the University of Wisconsin, but his days in the state are soon over (unless he gets selected by the Packers, of course). He declares that it’s crazy how fast his college days went by, even offering me some words of wisdom to live it up while I’m here, because “being graduated is much less fun.” Gone are the days, he said, where he could just text someone and walk two blocks and hangout. For now, it’s just him, Schoebert, and Stave finding new hobbies in between training.

Erickson, as the rest of the NFL prospects, is going to be moving in a few weeks, and he has no idea where. “I’ll get the call, pack my bags and move out,” said Erickson. He thinks about how crazy it is that his pro football dream is about to come true, but he’s not necessarily in shock.

“Nobody gets to the NFL by luck. You have to realize you’re here for a reason, but the guy across from you is, too.”

He’ll be watching the draft in his hometown of Darlington, WI, surrounded by his family, noting his mom will be making food all weekend. He isn’t sure how much of the three day event he’ll watch, but he is interested in seeing where everyone lands. He mentioned that some of the players that are getting drafted are players he’s competed against or trained with, and seeing where Schobert and all the other Badgers get drafted will be cool to watch.

But the third day is the day Erickson’s most interested in, the one where he’s hoping for a phone call. He wasn’t able to say for certain whether he’d be getting drafted or not, but either way, he realizes he’s going to have to produce in camp to have job, believing special teams could play a role in his future in the NFL. He returned punts for the Badgers last season, and thinks that may be one way to contribute at the next level.

As for the next week and half until the draft, Erickson said he’s going to keep working on his golf game, hitting a bunch of courses around Madison, along with some training for the NFL. But Erickson is ready to figure out where is career his going to start, putting a rest to all of the pre-draft speculation.

Like he said, “I’ll get the call, pack my bags and move out.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s