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From Amherst to Pasadena, Badgers' Tyler Biadasz, Garrett Groshek share special journey
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From Amherst to Pasadena, Badgers' Tyler Biadasz, Garrett Groshek share special journey

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PASADENA, Calif. — Before they were part of the University of Wisconsin football team, Tyler Biadasz and Garrett Groshek hugged on the field at Camp Randall Stadium.

They had just won the WIAA Division 5 state championship for Amherst in 2015, but they didn’t know what the future held. Biadasz had a scholarship to UW, but Groshek was still deciding on his college future. In that moment, they shared how much they appreciated each another, not knowing if they’d ever play together again. They learned they would months later when Groshek chose to join UW as a walk-on, and the redshirt juniors have enjoyed successful careers with the Badgers.

A similar scene could play out after Wednesday’s Rose Bowl — the Badgers (10-3) take on Oregon (11-2) with Biadasz’s and Groshek’s future as teammates again in flux.

Biadasz is one of the top-rated interior linemen eligible for the NFL draft and is a projected first- or second-round pick. He hasn’t announced a decision yet, but he did submit his name to the NFL’s College Advisory Committee for a second consecutive year.

Biadasz and Groshek have taken on leadership roles and been key players in UW’s offense since their redshirt freshman seasons — an unlikely experience for many players, especially players from Amherst, a town of about 1,000 people 16 miles southeast of Stevens Point.

“What Tyler and ‘Grosh’ have done, they’ve done it their style. They’ve done it by being true to who they are, incredibly unselfish. It’s pretty cool because you would never guess, just percentage-wise, you get two guys from that town maybe in the history of the program. And those two to be doing it side-by-side, in very different ways, it’s pretty cool,” UW coach Paul Chryst said.

Entering what could be their final game as teammates, they know the path they’ve forged together was built on sacrifice and a strong friendship — and that they’ve made an impact on the program.

“As we’ve been here for a few years now, four years, you kind of start to realize how special it is. And at first you don’t really realize it, but as the end starts coming, then you start to realize it more,” Groshek said.

Ability to adapt

At UW, Biadasz and Groshek each play a different position than the one they excelled at for Amherst.

That’s saying something when you consider how valuable each has become at their new spots for the Badgers. Biadasz won the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center this year, and was a unanimous All-American pick. Groshek has been a do-everything tailback behind junior Jonathan Taylor and a special teams ace throughout his UW career.

Mark Lusic, their coach at Amherst, wasn’t surprised when Biadasz made the transition from defensive lineman to center — especially after he saw offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph pull Biadasz to his group to have him watch and learn at a spring practice. But Groshek’s move from quarterback to running back stunned Lusic.

“Not in a million years. I’m not saying he couldn’t succeed (at running back), but I never thought he’d be there to be honest with you,” Lusic said. “I remember I went down to spring practice when he got moved. He got a lot of carries because (Taylor) wasn’t there yet and Bradrick Shaw and Chris James were penciled in to start. Garrett took a lot reps, and he actually looked pretty good running the ball, looked pretty smooth back there. That spring practice you could tell he had something going on. You could see he was hitting his holes, reading the offensive line when they opened up for him.”

Lusic didn’t let Groshek to play defense at Amherst — he was too valuable at quarterback. But Lusic told college coaches Groshek was smart enough to play any spot on the field that they thought he could fit athletically.

Groshek has been the best pass-blocking back for UW through his career, which speaks to the unselfish nature Chryst sees in both him and Biadasz.

“I think it does go back to love of the game, and I think love of a team. Like, ‘Whatever you need us to do, we’ll do.’ And then when they do it, they go all-in,” Chryst said.

Reluctant leaders

It’s rarely what they intend to have happen, but people tend to follow Biadasz and Groshek.

Being as talented as they were and as important as they were to their Amherst teams, it was natural they’d take on leadership roles. They were starters on a state championship team as freshmen, and by the time they were juniors, Lusic made them captains.

Problem was, neither wanted the role.

“I said, ‘Tough. That’s how it’s going to be. You’re the two best players, everybody knows it, and you guys do it right. This is how it’s going to be,’” Lusic said.

“Year by year, they molded into that, they found their voice. The big thing was the weight room — they led there. A lot of times those guys would lift three times a day. They’d come in the morning, lift in the morning, they’d lift during our weight room period or study hall, and then come after school when they could. So they were always in there, always encouraging guys. So that was probably the biggest thing — guys trusted them.”

Those leadership qualities came with them to UW. Biadasz’s role at center makes him a natural leader because he’s making calls at the line of scrimmage. Groshek’s varied roles and success in them made him someone to emulate, Chryst said.

“Our passion is to get the guys ready to play, each and every group, and bringing an energy. When we do that, and we see each other do that, I think that says enough,” Biadasz said. “If we lead together, and do stuff together like we always have, that’s special to me. Just to carry that over from high school and to do that at a collegiate, Division I level, I’m really proud of us and what we’ve done so far. But we’re never satisfied. That’s the thing that’s awesome about it.”

Leaning on each other

While they were friends in high school, being at UW brought Biadasz and Groshek much closer.

“We never went different ways. We never had a chance to not talk to each other and not communicate and interact with each other. So that’s really helped to grow our friendship,” Groshek said.

They’ve lived together and been there for each other through difficult times, like this past offseason when Biadasz needed surgery on his hip.

People around them see their bond clearly.

“I think they’ve probably always pushed each other and enjoyed doing that for each other along the journey. And I think they continue to — they have fun back and forth but they count on each other in a big way. And it’s awesome to see,” Rudolph said.

Appreciated in Amherst

Groshek laughed when asked about what it’s like to go back to his hometown.

It’s rare that they get the chance, as school and football take up so much of their time, but when they do, it’s always an event.

“I know when they come back, they get mobbed pretty good by the community,” Lusic said.

Amherst, a town already full of Badgers fans, has had two players to feel connected to for four seasons. That’s been something Lusic said is felt every Saturday — the community roots especially hard for its native sons.

With Biadasz’s NFL decision on the horizon, and Groshek’s career about to enter its final year, Lusic said it’s been bittersweet.

“It’s going to be a sad day, for me personally. I haven’t coached them in four years, I wish I could coach them again, every day I wish I could coach them again,” he said.

“But it’s going to be a great day. Hopefully they get the ‘W,’ that’s the biggest thing, but it’s going to be different if Tyler decides to move on. And Garrett’s going to graduate no matter what next year also. It’s going to be a different, but hey, to go out on a Rose Bowl, there would be no better place to go if they can take care of business. They can walk off that field together, it’ll be a special moment, no doubt.”

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