MADISON, Wis. — Left tackle Ryan Ramczyk forged a unique path to No. 8 Wisconsin.
In just two seasons, he has gone from starter at a Division III school to a front-line anchor at a Big Ten program known for producing quality offensive linemen. What’s more, the junior became an AP All-American in his first year as a starter.
“If you study his path that he’s been on just to get to this school, it’s definitely a lot of work,” said 1,300-yard rusher Corey Clement, the beneficiary of Ramczyk’s work up front. “I can definitely tell why he (was named All-American) because every time I go to his side, it’s definitely either a big play or a big chunk of yards.”
The athletic, 6-foot-6 Ramczyk has been so impressive that some NFL draft boards project him as possibly a first- or second-round pick. He’s not expected to make a decision on whether to skip his senior season until after the Badgers play Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl on Monday.
Whether Ramczyk decides to have surgery to fix a hip injury that he disclosed during bowl practice may also affect his decision. The injury wasn’t serious enough for Ramczyk to miss any time this season.
In fact, Ramczyk thrived.
“I wouldn’t say I expected it, but was definitely a goal of mine,” the reserved Ramczyk said of playing well enough to earn postseason accolades. “I wanted to come in here and compete with the best.”
Ramczyk arrived in Madison in 2015 after spending his first two seasons of eligibility at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He redshirted in his first year with the Badgers.
Even then, there were already whispers about the talent and potential from Ramczyk on the scout team. He entered the 2016 season as the starter at left tackle.
“The big thing with Ryan was you saw some things that he did naturally, and athleticism that he was blessed with,” said Joe Rudolph, Wisconsin offensive coordinator and line coach. “And then it was just teaching the offense and once you get down the basics, it becomes communication and awareness.”
They had to rely even more on Ramczyk after center Dan Voltz, the only senior on the projected line, retired from football during training camp because of injuries. He was supposed to be the leader up front.
Sophomore Michael Dieter, the next most reliable linemen, slid right one spot to take over for Voltz. Ramczyk ended up being the oldest starter on a line otherwise filled with sophomores and freshmen.
After Ramczyk and Voltz, the Badgers mixed and matched for much of the first half of the season, in part because of injuries, but also as Rudolph sought to find consistency as well as build depth.
“You had to reward guys for how they played, and you believed that the best guys would emerge,” Rudolph said. “But they needed to feel competition, guys needed to be rewarded for good play. I think at the end it brought out the best in each group.”
No need for competition to bring out the best in Ramczyk, though. He was a rock at left tackle all season, helping Clement average 123.1 yards rushing over Wisconsin’s last eight games.
“Quiet guy, but he makes the most noise on the field,” Clement said.