HUDSON, Wis.-- Cade McDonald and his dad Brandon were on their way to the University of Iowa’s high school football camp last June when University of Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst called and offered McDonald a scholarship.
“We turned around and drove home,” McDonald said. “Because I knew that was where I wanted to be. That has been the goal from the start.”
Just an hour or so earlier McDonald had spent nearly 90 minutes talking to Chryst in the coach’s office overlooking the field at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. “Nothing formal,” McDonald said. “He’s just a super laid-back guy.”
McDonald was in Madison for the Badgers’ high school camp, and after a tour of the facilities and his talk with Chryst, he and his dad headed to Iowa for the second of six summer camps he planned on attending. But that all changed with Chryst’s phone call.
“About an hour or so down the road I got a text from the area recruiter saying thanks for coming out, Coach Chryst wants to call you,” McDonald said. “I told my dad and I gave Coach Chryst a call and he said we’d like to offer you a scholarship to play on the team.
“My dad started tearing up a little bit,” he added. “He had to pull over because we were driving. And Coach Chryst said; ‘If you’re still going to Iowa I hope you play really (crappy) tomorrow.’ He was just joking but I had already decided right there. And he said; ‘wow, this is probably one of the quickest commitments I’ve ever had. We’re really glad you love it here.”
McDonald made it official Wednesday, Dec. 18, signing his official letter of intent to play at Wisconsin on college football’s national signing day during a ceremony in Hudson High School’s fitness center. He said being a Badger is a dream come true.
“I’ve been to the campus a couple of times and I’ve been a Badger fan since I was a little kid,” he said. “It’s always been a dream to play at Camp Randall and once I got that opportunity I was like, wow, this is it.”
The 6-7, 250-pound all-state defensive lineman had received scholarship offers from a number of Division 1 Football Championships Series (FCS) schools, including North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Northern Illinois and Illinois State. He had conversations with Iowa and Minnesota as well, but nothing official. So when Wisconsin called?
“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “Wisconsin is where I want to go.”
Hudson football coach Adam Kowles said the Badgers are getting a hidden gem in McDonald.
“They’re getting somebody who will put in an unbelievable amount of time into what he does, on the field and off the field,” Kowles said. “He earned his scholarship by going to their camp and showing exactly what he can do, and they just loved everything about him-- his work ethic and everything he’s done. So they’re getting a great player, but a great person too. And there’s no question he’s going to be successful.”
McDonald is the third Raider to earn a football scholarship to Wisconsin, following 2004 graduate Kraig Urbik and 2005 grad Eric Vandenheuvel. That pair went on to make 80 combined starts together on the Badger offensive line from 2005-09. McDonald said he’s heard from both former Raiders since committing to Wisconsin.
“It’s pretty crazy to think that I’m only the third guy from here to ever do it,” McDonald said. “I knew Mr. Vandenheuvel when he taught at the middle school and had the privilege of talking to him since I got my offer and committed, and I’ve had the privilege of talking to Mr. Urbik as well. He helped me a lot during the recruiting process. They’re both super great guys and it’s an honor to be among those Hudson greats.”
McDonald has already completed his required studies to graduate early and will enroll at Wisconsin for the spring semester. He said he’s looking forward to getting a jump on his college career.
“I’ll get in the weight room in the spring and get acclimated to school, so I’ll be in the groove of things by the time fall arrives,” he said. “Hopefully that will help me make the travel roster my freshman year and hopefully get on the field a couple of times. That would be great.”
McDonald is one of 19 new recruits signed by the Badgers for the 2020 season, a class that is ranked 25th nationally by 247 Sports, four spots higher than 2019. He said he’s ready to do whatever he can to help the team.
“I’m going to do the best I can, whatever I can, and work as hard as I can,” he said. “Obviously we want to make it to the national championship; that’s the end goal. And we have one hell of a recruiting class coming in.”