While most outgoing Badgers have played in their final competitive football game, at least three members of the 2009 Wisconsin football team have the chance to play professional football in the National Football League, as tight end Garrett Graham, defensive lineman/linebacker O'Brien Schofield and safety Chris Maragos have hooked up with NFL teams.
Graham was the first Badger to come off the board in the draft, selected by the Houston Texans in the fourth round, the 118th overall selection. Schofield was also a fourth round pick, taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the 130th overall selection. Maragos went undrafted, but was snatched up by the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent shortly after the last name was called Saturday.
In 2009, Graham caught 51 passes for 624 yards, both good for second-best on the team for Wisconsin. He also led the team in touchdown receptions with seven, on his way to earning All-Big Ten honors in 2009 and 2008, being named to the first team by the media
Graham's 16 career touchdown catches rank fifth in school history, and his 121 career receptions for Wisconsin place him sixth all-time. Graham is also 11th in school history with 1,492 career receiving yards.
As a member of the Texans, Graham will reunite with former Badger and Pro-Bowler Owen Daniels. Graham was a freshman when Daniels was a senior at UW.
Graham continues a good run of Badger tight ends in the NFL draft, becoming one of four from Wisconsin in the last five years. The others include Travis Beckum in 2009, who was drafted by the New York Giants, and Daniels and Jason Pociask in 2006, who were taken by the Texans and the New York Jets, respectively.
Schofield, who was taken only 12 picks after Graham, joins the Arizona Cardinals after tearing his ACL in a Senior Bowl practice last spring.
Schofield experienced a breakout senior season as a defensive end. Schofield posted a team-high 12 sacks, which tied him for fifth in the nation. Schofield also led the team with 24.5 tackles for a loss, which was only .5 behind Michigan's Brandon Graham for most in the country. He was named to the All-Big Ten first team by the coaches and the media, and received an All-American honorable mention.
Despite exclusively playing as a down lineman, scouts projected Schofield as an outside linebacker in the NFL for a 3-4 defense, thus, despite never previously playing the position, Schofield played as a linebacker in the East-West Shrine Game and played well enough to be named the game's defensive Most Valuable Player.
With his NFL draft stock soaring, Schofield then suffered the injury leading up to the Senior Bowl, creating an uncertain NFL future. Yet Schofield was still selected, providing him the opportunity to compete for a roster spot in the NFL.
Maragos was not drafted, but was signed a contract with the 49ers after the completion of the draft on Saturday. A former walk-on for the Badgers now has another chance to prove himself, this time at the professional level. As a senior Maragos led the Badgers with four interceptions, and finished seventh on the team with 49 tackles. He was an All-Big Ten team honorable mention in 2009.
Another Badger may get a shot in the NFL in linebacker Jaevery McFadden. McFadden was not drafted, nor has he been signed by any team, but he is scheduled to work out for both the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings, and hopes to join Graham, Schofield and Maragos in NFL training camps this summer.
Other Badgers who may be looking for roster spots in the NFL this season include safeties Shane Carter and Aubrey Pleasant and defensive lineman Jeffrey Stehle.