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Badgers class of 2021 recruit T.J. Bollers has tools to be feared rusher
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Badgers class of 2021 recruit T.J. Bollers has tools to be feared rusher

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TIFFIN, Iowa — Everything about this place screams quintessential Iowa.

The rolling crop fields that get more picturesque as the sun sets. The main drag through town, U.S. Highway 6, is dotted with houses and small businesses. Neighborhoods feature large, open lots and kids playing in backyards on a crisp, early-fall night.

TJ Bollers MUG


Tiffin, Iowa — population 3,670, 10 miles west of Iowa City on Interstate 80 — isn’t the town a Power Five college football coach would expect to find a potentially game-wrecking edge rusher. But T.J. Bollers, in many ways, defies expectation.

The University of Wisconsin won a heated recruiting battle for Bollers, one that saw him pull in offers from some of the best football programs in the country. Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Alabama and most of the Big Ten were in the mix, as was close-to-home pick Iowa State.

Speaking after his Clear Creek-Amana High School squad trounced visiting Benton Community last week, Bollers said being around the Badgers felt like home.

“The first time me and my mom visited, we had an amazing visit. After that, when we would go back, we kept learning more and more about the school,” Bollers said. “Coach (Bobby) April, he’s an amazing coach, and coach (Paul) Chryst is fantastic, very personable guy. He’s someone I’m looking forward to spending three, four years around.”

At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Bollers’ body sets him apart on the football field.

Benton had no answer for Bollers last week, even though he was dealing with lower-back issues that took away some of the explosiveness for which he’s known. One first-quarter series saw Bollers tally three consecutive tackles — plowing through a double-team on the first, staying home to cut down a reverse attempt on the second, and stopping a run well short of a first down on the third.

He also moved in from tight end to play tackle for the Clippers, who had injuries along the offensive line.

His blend of size, quickness and athleticism makes him a player coaches project as an every-down threat, just as capable of making a play in the run game as he is rushing the passer.

“He’s a kid that’s had the physical tools ever since he started playing high school football, but he’s really worked hard to improve his skills and improve his body,” CCA coach Gabe Bakkers said. “He loves competing … He’s a very positive kid, very charismatic. He’s fun to be around.”

Ranked a four-star recruit by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals, Bollers has been a Badgers target since 2018. He attended a camp on campus last summer, and was at Camp Randall Stadium last season to watch UW beat Michigan in September and Iowa in November. He also visited the campus in March before the NCAA shut down in-person recruiting due to COVID-19.

Bollers, who wants to major in engineering or a field of biology, said UW’s academic reputation was a major factor in his decision to commit, and why schools like California and Northwestern were among his top choices. The recruiting process also challenged him to stay grounded as he was flooded with college attention.

“My family was always preaching to me to stay humble. I feel like my family did a good job of keeping my humble throughout this entire thing because it’s really easy to get ahead of yourself and think you’re all that when you’re a national recruit,” Bollers said. “So just being humble and staying true to who I am is how I handled it.”

With his team up 42-3 at halftime, Bollers and Bakkers, who played at Iowa State, decided to keep him on the sideline in the second half. By unofficial count, he finished with six tackles, including a sack.

Even through the pain, Bollers never stopped moving. That’s something that applies to all of his sports. He was a key piece to CCA’s basketball and baseball teams, both of which qualified for the state tournament his junior season. He also competes in track and field, primarily as a thrower, but he’s run in the 200-meter dash as well.

In the free time he has away from practices, he works at Tiffin’s Fareway grocery store.

“He’s just a great kid in our community. I’m really proud of his leadership the past couple of years. That’s the thing that’s grown the most, both as a player and as a person,” Bakkers said.

Bollers is part of a 2021 recruiting class that’s on pace to be the Badgers’ best in the internet recruiting rankings era. With 19 commitments, UW’s class is in the top 15 nationally on 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals. Bollers is active on social media celebrating new recruits joining the class and encouraging others to follow him to Madison.

He says he wants Badger fans to know he’s as excited to don a UW uniform as they’ve shown him they are to have him.

“They’re going to get a fast, energetic player. I’m going to play with my guys, be excited with my guys, make sure that I’m keeping them pumped up and we’re going to work hard when we get there,” Bollers said. “This 2021 class is coming. We’re ready.”

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