Thomas Heiberger commits to Wisconsin Badgers football
Sioux Falls Jefferson linebacker chooses Big Ten power over several other major college football offers
SIOUX FALLS — Thomas Heiberger is going to be a Badger.
South Dakota's most prized high school football recruit made his decision on Easter Sunday, announcing via social media he has verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin.
A 6-foot-4, 215-pound linebacker, Heiberger has been fielding offers from many of the biggest and most successful programs in college football this spring after a standout junior year for Jefferson High, but ultimately chose one of the first power conference teams to show an interest in him.
"They kind of 'found' me," Heiberger said. "They were one of the first to show interest, which allowed me to get there three times to visit. I knew after those visits this was the place for me. Them being there early definitely helped develop those relationships.
"It always kind of felt like home," Heiberger added. "Big Ten football has been the dream, that's the conference I want to play in, it's not too far from home and at the end of the day the staff there really pushed hard for me to come."
Heiberger chose Wisconsin over, among others, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Utah, Stanford, Kansas, Kansas State, Washington, Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and South Dakota State. Though he was certainly a productive and tantalizing player for the state champion Cavaliers last fall, much of the interest Heiberger has received has been based on potential. Originally a quarterback, he's still learning defense, and has measurables, flexibility and athleticism that has had college coaches and scouts drooling. He was rated as a three-star recruit by most scouting services. He was also a standout baseball player and is a 4.0 student.
"With his size, his measurables, I mean, there aren’t a lot of 6-4, 215-pound kids who can move and bend like he does," Jefferson coach Vince Benedetto said in February. "When you pair that with his football knowledge and his maturity, it makes sense that he's getting these offers."
From Heiberger's standpoint, Wisconsin has a lot to offer. A longtime Big Ten power, they've played in a Bowl game 21 years in a row. That said, they fired coach Paul Chryst after a 2-3 start last season, and the Badgers would eventually finish 7-6. Former Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell was hired last November, and the new staff made an impression on Heiberger. He's fired up about the chance to return Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten.
"A new staff provides some security that they're gonna be around while I'm there," Heiberger said. "Coach Fick has proven he can win and he sees a future for Wisconsin. They've had some good seasons and I think they can be great going forward. I wouldn't be planning on going there if I didn't believe that. I truly believe we'll be competing for Big Ten championships and I'm excited to be a part of that."