BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
MADISON, Wis. — Quarterback Joel Stave and wide receiver Alex Erickson were back where it started — they were fine-tuning their throwing and catching after a Wisconsin practice. The alums weren't trying to turn back the clock at the McClain Facility as much as they were getting in some work before reporting to their National Football League teams; Stave to the Kansas City Chiefs and Erickson to the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's nice to get back (to Madison) and get around guys who know you," said the 24-year-old Erickson, who left with the sixth-most receptions (141) in school history, including 77 during his senior year in 2015. "It's a long offseason, so any time you can get back on the field and get the routes going again, it's always good. And it's always fun to do it with people you're friends with, too."
Another former UW wide receiver, Jared Abbrederis, has been working out at times with Erickson and Stave. After three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, the 26-year-old Abbrederis is getting a fresh start with the Detroit Lions. "It's nice to have guys to work out with," said Stave, the winningest quarterback in school history, "guys who are focused on the same thing that I am."
In a twist of fate, Stave and Erickson, both of whom were free agents, made their pro debuts on the same field last August in the 2016 preseason opener between the Minnesota Vikings and the Bengals in Cincinnati. Stave completed 8 of 13 passes for 76 yards with a pick. Erickson not only caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron but returned a punt 80 yards for a score.
"First one of the year," Erickson said of the return, "it was a good way to get going."
The Vikings and the Bengals held two days of joint practices in Cincinnati before the exhibition which gave Stave and Erickson more than enough time to catch up on things before going their separate ways as NFL rookies. "We stayed in contact throughout the year, too," said Erickson, who along with Stave was originally a walk-on at Wisconsin. "We stayed updated with each other just like friends do."
Toiling on practice squads for three different franchises, Stave lived out a challenging first-year odyssey through a string of releases and tryouts, not an uncommon path for undrafted players. "You just have to be ready for whatever is thrown at you," reasoned Stave, who got his degree in civil engineering. "I bounced around a little bit. You just have to kind of enjoy the ride." Potholes and all.
Photo: Getty Images
For more on Wisconsin: