The desired qualities of Wisconsin’s football players are well-known: Smart. Tough. Dependable. But it’s the sometimes subtle, know-it-when-you-see-it trait that the Badgers look for in recruiting that has made all the difference in developing UW’s culture.
BY ANDY BAGGOT
MADISON, Wis. — Not long after Paul Chryst became the Wisconsin football coach in 2014, he had an experience unlike any in his 17 years on a college staff.
He visited Chris Orr, a linebacker prospect at DeSoto (Texas) High School, and came face-to-face with perhaps the most elusive piece of the recruiting puzzle.
The It Factor.
Orr has a great background — his father and older brother played in the NFL and another brother is a major-college starter — and had passed muster on the most important characteristics sought by UW coaches.
Smart. Tough. Dependable. Hard-working.
Orr had already committed to the Badgers, driven in part by his desire to break the mold of his family footprint — all Texas-oriented resumes — and make a name for himself under a different spotlight.
Early on in his get-acquainted visit with Orr, Chryst saw The It Factor, that elusive trait that's hard to describe, but you know it when you sense it.
"I go to the school and he's fired up about Wisconsin and he's telling me why," Chryst recalled. "He had a vision of himself and 'Why Wisconsin.' He wanted to be different and be great.
"He took me around his school and I met every teacher. It was unbelievable. I'd never seen a kid do that before, so you knew the kid had something that you were attracted to that had nothing to do with the game of football."
The It Factor.
It helps explain why the charismatic Orr became a starter at inside linebacker as a true freshman in 2015, became a pseudo assistant coach while recovering from season-ending knee surgery as a sophomore and is viewed as a prime leader heading into his third year.
Every prospect that comes to UW — including members of the 29-member Class of 2017 that joined the fold Wednesday — has The It Factor to some degree. Sometimes you see it right away. Sometimes it takes years to bubble to the surface.