Feb. 3, 2010
With National Signing Day upon us, UWBadgers.com has spent the last few days reflecting on last season’s Signing Day, focusing specifically on five true freshmen that made an impact on the field during the 2009 season. Today is the final installment of the five-part series and features wide receiver Kraig Appleton. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the first four parts to the series.
MADISON, Wis. -- The previous four entries in this series knew relatively early in their recruiting process that they were going to attend Wisconsin. Offensive lineman Travis Frederick and defensive end David Gilbert even signed early so they could become involved in spring practice.
The same cannot be said for wide receiver Kraig Appleton. As Signing Day approached, he was still debating whether to sign with the Badgers or the University of Illinois.
“As it came down to signing day, I was thinking about what school would have my best interest at heart and what school showed the most interest in me,” the East St. Louis, Ill., native said. “The coaches here at Wisconsin did a great job recruiting me and when I came up, the players just welcomed me. They gathered around me – I was going through some things with my friend – they built that comfort zone around me. It’s just been a great experience.”
Given the dearth of high school players that make it to the college football ranks, let alone make an impact, Appleton wasn’t sure what to expect in his first season on campus. People in his hometown brought up the possibility of starting.
“I said, ‘hopefully, I don’t know.’ But as I got here and got into the heat of things, I realized it’s much more than just starting,” Appleton said. “At the beginning of the season, I didn’t say to myself that I was going to come here and start, even though you want to have high standards you set for yourself, I came in to contribute just what I could for the team; try to find my place.”
The first day of fall practice was a shock to the system for Appleton.
“I remember the first day like it was yesterday,” he said. “Being that I was a top prospect coming in, that first day, I thought that I could handle anything, no matter what obstacles there were. But that first practice, I threw up. It was a little tough, but I hung with it.”
Like when he first arrived, Appleton relied on his teammates to get him through the down times.
“When I got so tired of it that I didn’t want to do it anymore – it takes a couple of days and these workouts burn you out – my teammates, again, wouldn’t leave me alone. All of the receivers and others came around and made it better for me and I was able to finish out the season.”
In his first season, Appleton played in 11 games and caught three passes for 26 yards. He says the biggest thing he takes away from his freshman campaign is the comfort he feels within the program.
“The key point I was really focused on was fitting in and being comfortable,” he said. “As I got a feel of the whole season, and the bowl game and different trips, I got to see different things, it’s been great.
“Now that the season is over, I don’t feel uncomfortable and I have a good idea where I am on this team and where I fit in.”
Signing Day Reflections
UW Athletic Communications