Kenosha’s Zac Epping won’t have to go far for a crack at the National Football League.
There is also a chance the Tremper graduate will be reunited with former teammate Trae Waynes.
Natural athleticism was a huge factor, of course, but it wasn’t a simple stroke of luck that got Trae Waynes, Melvin Gordon and Zac Epping this far.
This is their story, not just from the players themselves, but from those who watched them closest:
The Kenosha News obtained some of the following quotes on Trae Waynes, Melvin Gordon and Zac Epping in a phone interview with Dave-Te’ Thomas, the director of operations for NFL Scouting Services. Thomas, the godson of legendary Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, has scouted the NFL since 1968 at age 14 and provides reports on players to 27 of the league’s 32 clubs.
The other comments are from a conference call with NFL Network analyst/draft expert Mike Mayock in which the Kenosha News participated and those published in Sports Illustrated’s NFL draft issue.
If all goes as expected, Melvin Gordon and Trae Waynes will be joining an exclusive club on Thursday night.
Projected as first-round choices in the 80th annual NFL draft, the former Bradford Red Devils would become only the fifth set of high school teammates selected in the first round of the same draft since 1990.
MADISON — Wisconsin running back Corey Clement was taking a break at spring practice when a former teammate leaned over with a question.
Kenosha’s Melvin Gordon is still trying to make Clement better even if the runner-up for this year’s Heisman Award is no longer a Badger.
The NFL scouting combine is a test of body and mind.
It is as much a physical showcase as it is a mental marathon and Kenosha native Melvin Gordon ran the gauntlet of tests at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last week.
Bradford graduate Melvin Gordon was the center of attention at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Thursday.
Here is a look in photos at the former Wisconsin running back’s day with the media as he prepares for an NFL career.
MADISON (AP) — Running back Melvin Gordon is giving thanks to Wisconsin fans before turning his attention to getting ready for the NFL draft.
The Bradford graduate posted a thank-you letter on his Twitter account and on Wisconsin’s athletic Web site on Wednesday.
Trae Waynes made it official: Thursday’s Cotton Bowl was his final game as a Michigan State Spartan.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Wisconsin hoisted Barry Alvarez into the air for one more victory ride.
The school’s career victory leader called it quits — again — after the 17th-ranked Badgers took down No. 19 Auburn 34-31 in overtime in the Outback Bowl on Thursday.
No. 17 Wisconsin (10-3) vs. No. 19 Auburn (8-4), 11 a.m. Thursday (ESPN2)
Series: Tied 1-1-1.
TAMPA, Fla. — Auburn and Wisconsin began the season with aspirations of competing in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
While the 19th-ranked Tigers and No. 17 Badgers fell well short of that goal, they’re hardly disappointed to be playing in today’s Outback Bowl.
Trae Waynes would not confirm if the Cotton Bowl Classic will be his last game for the Michigan State University football team when the eighth-ranked Spartans face fifth-ranked Baylor at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex.
He only made it clear that he’s just focused on the game itself.
Zac Epping vowed that this year’s bowl game won’t be a repeat of last year’s for the University of Minnesota football team.
Not that Epping — a Tremper graduate and redshirt senior left guard who’s started 46 straight games for the Golden Gophers — guaranteed victory, but he did guarantee that the team would be better prepared for its bowl game than last year, when Epping admitted that the Golden Gophers weren’t as prepared as they should’ve been before a 21-17 loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.
MADISON — Not that he needs any extra motivation, but Melvin Gordon has a few options when he plays in his final football game for the University of Wisconsin.
The dynamic fourth-year junior will look to cement his legacy as one of the top running backs in program history when the No. 17 Badgers take on Auburn in the Outback Bowl 11 a.m. Thursday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
MADISON — In Sunday night’s 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch delivered the knockout punch with an amazing 79-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Colorado State-Pueblo didn’t have a football program seven years ago.
Now, there is none better in Division II.
As the Kansas-bound bus carrying the Minnesota State University football team rolled through Iowa on Wednesday night, Justin Otto shared a sparkling personal statistic with a teammate.
“Between my junior and senior year of high school and my first three years here, I’ve lost five games total,” the fourth-year junior cornerback said. “That’s pretty unreal.”
MADISON — Paul Chryst is back at Wisconsin, settling into familiar surroundings in his hometown.
This time, with a bigger office.
Marcus Mariota wrote it all down, every word of his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. It was a good thing, too, because getting through it might have been tougher than sprinting away from linebacker or tossing a long touchdown pass for the Oregon Ducks.
The understated star quarterback became Oregon’s first Heisman winner going away Saturday night, capping a three-year climb to college football’s most prestigious individual award.
The voice sounded a little weary. The steps were a bit slow, at least compared to Melvin Gordon’s usual gait around Camp Randall Stadium.
Nearing the end of a memorable season, 17th-ranked Wisconsin’s star running back sounded and looked like he could use a pick-me-up days after his team’s humbling 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
MADISON (AP) — Wisconsin running back and Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon made it official Wednesday, skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Unlike the departure of coach Gary Andersen for Oregon State, this move was expected in Madison.
MADISON — Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said he hopes to have a replacement for coach Gary Andersen before the 17th-ranked Badgers’ bowl game Jan. 1.
Andersen’s departure for Oregon State on Wednesday stunned Madison.
INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State’s No. 3 quarterback looked every bit as good as the other two.
Cardale Jones even did something his two all-conference predecessors could not. He led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title.
Name Ht. Yr. Hometown (High School)
99 Adeyanju, James DE 6-2 262 RS JR Chicago
22 Andersen, Chasen ILB 6-0 221 FR Logan, Utah
12 Armstrong, Thad QB 6-3 215 RS SO Ottawa, Ill.
49 Arneson, Sam TE 6-4 244 SR Merrill, Wis.
46 Austin, Matt ILB 6-3 218 FR Fond du Lac, Wis.
71 Ball, Ray OL 6-7 324 RS JR Columbus, Ohio
18 Baretz, Lance WR 5-11 195 SR Franklin, Wis.
66 Benzschawel, Beau OL 6-6 291 FR Grafton, Wis.
74 Biegel, Hayden OL 6-6 303 RS FR Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
47 Biegel, Vince OLB 6-4 244 RS SO Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. Bondoc, Evan S 6-1 201 FR Madison, Wis.
24 Brookins, Keelon S 5-10 209 RS FR St. Paul, Minn.
17 Cadogan, Sherard OLB 6-3 232 RS SR Washington Township, N.J.
7 Caputo, Michael S 6-1 212 RS JR Imperial, Pa.
48 Cichy, Jack ILB 6-2 220 SO Somerset, Wis.
6 Clement, Corey RB 5-11 217 SO Glassboro, N.J.
19 Connelly, Ryan OLB 6-3 225 FR Eden Prairie, Minn.
64 Connors, Brett OL 6-6 311 FR New Berlin, Wis.
54 Costigan, Kyle OL 6-5 319 RS SR Wind Lake, Wis.
31 Cummins, Connor WR 6-1 200 RS SR Kettering, Ohio
28 Deal, Taiwan RB 6-0 216 FR Capitol Heights, Md.
63 Deiter, Michael OL 6-5 317 FR Curtice, Ohio
55 Denlinger, Trent OL 6-6 308 RS SO Cuba City, Wis.
14 Dixon, D'Cota ILB 5-10 206 FR Oak Hill, Fla.
3 Doe, Kenzel WR 5-8 176 SR Reidsville, N.C.
55 Dooley, Garret DE 6-2 238 RS FR Rochester, Ill.
89 Eckert, Sam TE 6-5 220 FR East Troy, Wis.
53 Edwards, T.J. OLB 6-1 229 FR Lake Villa, Ill.
37 Endicott, Andrew K 5-9 175 SO Roseville, Calif.
86 Erickson, Alex WR 6-0 196 RS SO Darlington, Wis.
36 Ferguson, Joe S 6-1 210 RS FR Madison, Wis.
31 Figaro, Lubern S 6-0 179 FR Everett, Mass.
56 Fischer, Ben LB 6-0 211 FR Crivitz, Wis.
29 Floyd, Terrance CB 5-10 191 RS JR Boynton Beach, Fla.
9 Fredrick, Jordan WR 6-4 214 RS JR Madison, Wis.
48 Fumagalli, Troy TE 6-5 246 RS FR Naperville, Ill.
10 Gaglianone, Rafael K 5-11 231 FR Sao Paulo, Brazil
4 Gaulden, Devin CB 5-10 187 RS JR Miramar, Fla.
68 Gault, Jaden OL 6-6 310 FR Cottage Grove, Wis.
7 Gillins, D.J. QB 6-3 201 FR Jacksonville, Fla.
95 Goldberg, Arthur NG 6-3 290 RS SO Mount Lebanon, Pa.
25 Gordon, Melvin RB 6-1 213 RS JR Kenosha, Wis.
50 Harrison, Josh OLB 6-0 223 RS SR Huber Heights, Ohio
78 Havenstein, Rob OL 6-8 333 RS SR Mount Airy, Md.
41 Hayes, Jesse OLB 6-3 229 RS JR Cincinnati, Ohio
72 Hemer, Ben OL 6-4 274 RS FR Medford, Wis.
45 Herring, Warren NG 6-3 294 RS SR Fairview Heights, Ill.
5 Hillary, Darius CB 5-11 188 RS JR Cincinnati, Ohio
96 Hirschfeld, Billy DE 6-6 271 FR Okauchee, Wis.
13 Houston, Bart QB 6-4 218 RS SO Dublin, Calif.
27 Hudson, Austin DB 6-2 205 FR Tampa, Fla.
27 Jackson, Vonte S 6-1 200 RS SO Kenosha, Wis.
32 Jacobs, Leon OLB 6-2 230 SO Santa Clarita, Calif.
12 Jamerson, Natrell WR 5-11 180 FR Ocala, Fla.
6 James, Alec DE 6-3 259 RS FR Brookfield, Wis.
21 Jean, Peniel CB 5-11 194 RS SR West Palm Beach, Fla.
1 Jordan, A.J. CB 6-0 190 RS JR Dayton, Ohio
75 Kapoi, Micah OL 6-4 323 FR Kapolei, Hawaii
93 Keefer, Jake DE 6-3 269 RS JR Woodville, Wis.
39 Kelliher, Brady LS 6-8 247 RS FR Sussex, Wis.
22 Kinlaw, Caleb RB 5-9 180 FR Goose Creek, S.C.
30 Landisch, Derek ILB 6-0 231 SR Nashotah, Wis.
73 Lewallen, Dallas OL 6-6 321 RS SR Berlin, Wis.
16 Love, Reggie WR 6-3 214 RS SO Boynton Beach, Fla.
84 Maly, Austin TE 6-5 250 RS JR Waunakee, Wis.
61 Marz, Tyler OL 6-5 321 RS JR Springfield, Minn.
52 Maxwell, Jacob OL 6-6 295 FR Greendale, Wis.
5 McEvoy, Tanner QB 6-6 222 RS JR Hillsdale, N.J.
56 McGuire, James LS 6-0 216 RS SR St. Paul, Minn.
69 McNamara, Aidan OL 6-4 315 RS FR Madison, Wis.
90 Meyer, Drew P 6-3 187 RS JR Hartland, Wis.
19 Musso, Leo S 5-10 194 RS SO Waunakee, Wis.
38 Neuville, Zander LB 6-5 226 FR Waupaca, Wis.
34 Obasih, Chikwe DE 6-2 268 RS FR Brookfield, Wis.
18 Ogunbowale, Dare CB 5-11 188 RS SO Milwaukee, Wis.
58 Panos, George OL 6-5 301 FR Hartland, Wis.
92 Patterson, Jeremy NG 6-3 326 FR Screven, Ga.
11 Peavy, Jazz WR 6-0 187 RS FR Kenosha, Wis.
20 Ramesh, Austin RB 6-1 247 RS FR Land O' Lakes, Wis.
11 Reynard, T.J. CB 5-9 175 JR Virginia Beach, Va.
38 Rosowski, P.J. P 6-3 186 FR Stoughton, Wis.
57 Ruechel, Ben ILB 6-2 224 RS SR Oconto, Wis.
17 Rushing, George WR 6-1 190 FR Miramar, Fla.
97 Russell, Jack K 6-0 176 JR Waunakee, Wis.
10 Sanders, Krenwick WR 6-1 193 FR Jesup, Ga.
76 Schmidt, Logan OL 6-4 300 RS SO Gotham, Wis.
58 Schobert, Joe ILB 6-2 240 JR Waukesha, Wis.
49 Schweitzer, Justin OLB 6-1 208 FR Silver Lake, Wis.
14 Senger, Connor QB 5-10 183 RS FR Milwaukee, Wis.
94 Sheehy, Conor DE 6-5 279 FR Milwaukee, Wis.
8 Shelton, Sojourn CB 5-9 178 SO Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
36 Spurling, D.J. FB 5-10 212 RS FR Slinger, Wis.
2 Stave, Joel QB 6-5 220 RS JR Greenfield, Wis.
44 Steffes, Eric TE 6-3 259 RS SO Mount Calvary, Wis.
82 Stengel, Jake WR 6-3 203 RS JR Sheboygan, Wis.
26 Straus, Derek FB 6-0 230 RS JR Waunakee, Wis.
25 Tindal, Derrick CB 5-11 174 FR Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
46 Traylor, Austin TE 6-3 248 RS JR Columbus, Ohio
59 Trotter, Marcus ILB 6-0 226 RS SR Racine, Wis.
43 Trotter, Michael ILB 6-0 220 RS SR Racine, Wis.
60 Udelhoven, Connor LS 5-11 211 RS SO St. Paul, Minn.
70 Voltz, Dan OL 6-3 311 RS SO Barrington, Ill.
34 Watt, Derek FB 6-2 236 RS JR Pewaukee, Wis.
42 Watt, T.J. TE 6-5 247 RS FR Pewaukee, Wis.
15 Wheelwright, Robert WR 6-2 201 SO Columbus, Ohio
62 Williams, Walker OL 6-7 320 RS SO Tacoma, Wash.
91 Zagzebski, Konrad DE 6-3 277 RS SR Weston, Wis.
Aug. 30 — LSU 28, Wisconsin 24
Sept. 6 — Wisconsin 37, Western Illinois 3
Sept. 20 — Wisconsin 68, Bowling Green 17
Sept. 27 — Wisconsin 27, South Florida 10
Oct. 4 — Northwestern 20, Wisconsin 14
Oct. 11 — Wisconsin 38, Illinois 28
Oct. 25 — Wisconsin 52, Maryland 7
Nov. 1 — Wisconsin 37, Rutgers 0
Nov. 8 — Wisconsin 34, Purdue 16
Nov. 15 — Wisconsin 59, Nebraska 24
Nov. 22 — Wisconsin 26, Iowa 24
Nov. 29 — Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 24
Big Ten Championship Game
Dec. 6 — Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 0
Jan. 1 — Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31 (OT)