For Haakon Anderson, Walking On to Wisconsin a "Clear Choice"
Haakon Anderson believes he has been to 25 to 30 Wisconsin games in his lifetime already, whether with his grandparents' season tickets as a kid or tagging along with friends. He has been a UW fan his entire life. His room is decked out in cardinal and white gear.
Now he will get an opportunity to be a Badger.
On Saturday afternoon, Anderson, from the nearby Madison suburb of Verona, announced that he had committed to Wisconsin. He confirmed to AllBadgers.com that he will be a preferred walk-on, which was previously reported by BadgerBlitz.com's Jon McNamara.
“It's incredibly surreal," Anderson told AllBadgers.com on Saturday. "I'm very relieved to have this process over because I've really enjoyed the process, but it does get long at some points with just the various visits, staying in communication with various coaches. Then there's been pressure that's totally been relieved off my shoulders.
"It’s a really cool opportunity because just so many different aspects -- from the academics to all of the walk-on tradition at Wisconsin -- it's just a clear choice to me that when I was given the opportunity that I was going to go with it."
Anderson, who is listed at 6'1 and 200 pounds according to his Hudl profile, noted the relationships with the coaching staff and the resources of the program. Outside of paying tuition, he also stated that walk-ons are not really treated differently from the scholarship players in terms of academic assistance, nutritional opportunities and player reputation in the program.
“I committed to Wisconsin just because throughout all of our relationships, my visits and just knowing that the program and how they do their business and how they carry themselves, it mirrors kind of what I try to live my life as and just try to reflect that," Anderson said.
Anderson previously attended one game as a recruit along with making the short trek to Madison for a junior day. The relationship with Wisconsin first started after his junior season in 2018 when he sent the program some of his film.
In December 2019, Anderson received the preferred walk-on offer from UW. Shortly thereafter with his school returning from winter break, special teams coach Chris Haering stopped by Verona to discuss the aspects of the opportunity presented.
“Then at that point, it was just kind of a transparent understanding from that point where I was open and upfront with them saying that in this position right now, even going forward no matter the case, I wouldn't really have anything that would change my position," Anderson said.
"So going forward, that was just kind of a waiting game to get my application acceptance to the university back," Anderson said. "About a week or two ago, I received the actual application back, I completed all the necessary materials to put the down payments and everything towards the school. Then just a few days ago, I was able to sign an actual acceptance for football so that's how it went from there. I talked with the coaching staff this week, and it wasn't really necessarily a surprise to them. But it was just everything is set in stone now, and we’re able to go forward with what had been planned.”
Verona utilized Anderson in various ways in his time at the prep level. According to WisSports.net, he finished second on the Wildcats in rushing with 693 yards on just 45 carries with nine touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 28 passes for 442 yards and five touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Anderson recorded 51 tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned 97 yards for a score. His senior highlights list him accumulating 1,310 total yards and 15 touchdowns. He ended his prep career being named a 2019 WFCA all-state honorable mention in the tight end/fullback category.
With what he was asked to do for the Wildcats, Anderson said Wisconsin likes his versatility.
“I played an H-back (role), slot receiver, split out wide receiver, even like similar to a tight end or a split back, so our offense is pretty versatile at that point," Anderson said. "So the coaching staff just liked that I can be effective at a lot of different positions. Then, I played safety this past year as well with some injuries on our defense, so that kind of helped with versatility. Being able to go just both ways and just saying, ‘Hey wherever I fit the best is where I want to help the team the most and not having a specific position that they feel the need that they would have to fill.”
As to where he will play at the college level when he gets to UW, that appears to be fluid at the moment.
“A lot of people are wondering, and they weren't focused on that at this point," Anderson said. "They mentioned that a lot of times, they like to just bring in (a) preferred walk-on as a general athlete and at that point they can have a lot more options to how it fits the system and scheme and how my versatility and skillset will help with that. So I will essentially just go in, just try to find my best place and best fit at that point.
"They really liked the versatility as well as possibly the amount of yards I had after (the) catch or just putting the ball in my hands and breaking a couple tackles throughout different plays in my senior year especially.”