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Mutual interest existed year before Badgers' hiring of Bobby April III

Mutual interest existed year before Badgers' hiring of Bobby April III

The University of Wisconsin's hiring of new outside linebackers coach Bobby April III was one that began to take shape more than a year ago.

April, having just been part of Rex Ryan's staff that was let go by the Buffalo Bills following the 2016 season, applied for the Badgers' inside linebackers position vacated by now-Cal coach Justin Wilcox. April and recently promoted UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard had narrowly missed teaming up on multiple occasions during Leonhard's playing career. April served as an assistant coach for both the New York Jets (2013-14) and Bills (2015-16) within two years of Leonhard's departure from those teams.

The two have known of each other and shared mutual friends for more than a decade, dating back to Leonhard's first three years in the NFL with the Bills when April's father, Bobby April Jr., was Leonhard's special teams coach.

UW ultimately hired Bob Bostad last year, but Tim Tibesar's recent departure to Oregon State opened the door for Leonhard and April III to finally unite.

"I've known about Bobby for a long time," Leonhard said. "When the inside linebacker position opened up (last year), had a lot of people reach out - former coaches, former players, former teammates of mine that kind of put that recommendation.

"I'm fired up. He's coached great players. He knows my background as well, kind of scheme-wise and some of the things that we used to do. ... I love his energy, I love his attitude and I think our players will really gravitate towards that."

April III took the 2017 season off from coaching. After exploring job opportunities in January and early February of last year, he and his wife, Laura, opted to for a break from the grind of the profession.

The two planned to spend extra time with family. April III could stay home with their 2-year-old daughter, an opportunity "that'll never happen again," he said.

April hasn't coached in college since being the special teams coordinator and safeties coach for Nicholls State in 2010. UW will mark his first job at a Power Five program after spending 2011-16 with the Eagles, Jets and Bills. He said he's always been a fan of the Badgers, and there weren't many college jobs that he'd have been willing to take.

"Getting the opportunity to come here would have definitely trumped other opportunities," April said. "If it had been another college football job, I don't know if I would have done it. I would have probably still pursued the NFL."

April's entire NFL experience came with a 3-4 defense, the same scheme UW runs. He described the Badgers' outside linebackers as "tough, instinctive" football players.

UW must replace both starters at that position this season, with Leon Jacobs and Garret Dooley vying to be selected in the NFL Draft next month. Andrew Van Ginkel, Zack Baun, Tyler Johnson, Arrington Farrar and some talented young players remain on the roster, however, so the Badgers have an opportunity to reload without a massive drop-off.

UW has now replaced four defensive assistants over the last three years while maintaining one of the best units in the country. The Badgers hope this transition will follow suit.

"I'm excited and grateful that Bobby's here," UW coach Paul Chryst said. "I think he can add a lot to our team, not just the outside linebackers. The transitions for coaches or players, everyone knows it's been a good transition. Certainly, I'm impressed with his knowledge, but mostly impressed with who he was. I felt like he'd be a great fit and make a positive impact - a big impact not just on our players but on our staff."

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