MADISON, Wis. — When George Panos first envisioned himself as a Division I college football player, only one school ever crossed his mind as a perfect match.
Panos, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman, grew up a Wisconsin kid following all things Badgers football. His dad, Joe, had been an offensive lineman at Wisconsin. Those factors, coupled with Wisconsin’s impeccable reputation for producing NFL-caliber players on the offensive line, had Panos sold on his home state program.
The only thing Panos, a sophomore at Hartland Arrowhead High School, needed was a scholarship offer.
“He always said that if Wisconsin would ever offer, he’d commit on the spot,” Joe Panos said.
Just before Wisconsin’s spring football game on April 28, Badgers coach Bret Bielema extended that scholarship offer to George Panos. And Panos held true to his word by committing instantly, making him the first player to commit to Wisconsin’s football program from the Class of 2014.
According to his dad, the decision was a no-brainer.
“Why screw around, string any other team along?” Joe Panos said. “He’s a lineman. Forget about me. He’s an offensive lineman in the state of Wisconsin. Where the hell are you going to go? Name a school that’s got better tradition at offensive lineman than at Wisconsin.”
George Panos quickly took to his Twitter account to share the news: “I’m gonna be a Badger #livingthedream #OnWisconsin,” Panos tweeted. “Never been so happy.”
The commitment came just one day after Nebraska offered Panos a scholarship. Joe Panos informed Bielema of Nebraska’s offer, and Bielema told him that Wisconsin intended on offering George the next day before the Badgers’ spring game.
Joe Panos couldn’t attend the spring game because he works as a sports agent, and the final day of the NFL draft took place on the same day. But he told his son to enjoy the game and expect nothing, making the offer more of a surprise.
“I kind of BS’d him and told him there’s no chance they’re going to offer you,” Joe Panos said.
With the commitment, George Panos will carry on a family tradition.
Joe Panos was a captain on Wisconsin’s 1994 Rose Bowl team and famously told reporters, “Why not Wisconsin?” after the Badgers began that season undefeated. The Badgers would go on to win their first Big Ten title in 31 years. Panos was a third-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994 and played seven seasons in the NFL.
Panos is the director of football operations for Lock Metz Malinovic Sports Management and works as an NFL player agent. This year, he represented two former Badgers in the draft: offensive linemen Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby.
In addition to those duties, he also has a rare view of his son’s skills. He serves as the offensive line coach at Arrowhead High School. And Panos said he knew his son would eventually become a Division I-caliber player.
George Panos has been a varsity starter in each of his first two seasons in high school. During that time, Arrowhead has gone 17-4. The Warhawks are a perennial state power in Division 1, the largest classification in the state.
“I had a feeling he would become one if he did things the right way,” Joe Panos said. “I just didn’t think we’d get him this early. Obviously he’s come along faster than I thought. He’s got a ways to go. He knows it. All the pieces are there. Everything is lined up the way he wanted them to line up. His attitude is there, his body, his temperament.
“All the coaches I’ve talked to say for a big young kid, he’s aggressive and physical. Most kids who are young and big aren’t very physical.”