Jordan Fredrick has a University of Wisconsin football jersey hanging in his closet. It’s the No. 37 that his father, Craig Fredrick, wore as a tight end for the Badgers in the early 1980s.
Sam Arneson has a miniature replica of a UW helmet on the dashboard of his car. His dad, Dave Arneson, wore No. 85 and also played tight end for the Badgers in the early to mid-’80s.
Craig Fredrick and Dave Arneson were once teammates at UW. And now their sons have decided independently to follow in their footsteps.
As part of their 2011 recruiting class, the Badgers have received verbal commitments from Jordan Fredrick and Sam Arneson, who are entering their senior year of high school.
Fredrick, 17, is a cornerback and wide receiver at Madison Memorial.
Arneson, 17, is a linebacker and tight end/quarterback from Merrill.
“Craig and I won’t be remembered for our stats as players,” Dave Arneson said. “So it wasn’t like the Badgers felt like they ‘owed’ us something to recruit our kids because they didn’t.
“All of this really speaks to Jordan and Sam. They have enough talent and worked hard enough to gain people’s respect. It wasn’t because their dads played for the Badgers.”
Craig Fredrick and Dave Arneson were recruited by UW assistant Mario Russo and played under the late Dave McClain.
Fredrick didn’t take a direct path to UW. After earning all-state honors at Oshkosh West, he spent one year at a junior college in Kansas.
Fredrick was a fleet and sturdy 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back who was converted into a tight end by the Badgers. In 1980, he had only three receptions, but two were for touchdowns.
During his senior year, UW upset Michigan, Purdue and Ohio State and played in the 1981 Garden State Bowl.
Fredrick was the backup to Jeff Nault on a UW offense that rarely threw because its quarterback, Jess Cole, was a runner.
“My great experience at Wisconsin not only helped develop me as a player,” Fredrick said. “But the work ethic that I gained has helped me with my job and dealing with people.
“Some of my better friends today I met while I was playing here. Tim Stracka lives down the street. And I usually run into old teammates at Badger games and we’ll reminisce.”
Dave Arneson, who is three years younger, was a sophomore when Craig Fredrick was a senior.
Arneson, like Fredrick, was converted into a tight end after leading Clintonville High School to the 1978 Division 2 state championship as a safety and a quarterback.
Bret Pearson was the starter at tight end and Arneson was his backup on the 1984 UW team that upset Ohio State and had three players — Al Toon, Richard Johnson and Darryl Sims — taken in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft.
Toon’s son, Nick, is now a wide receiver for the Badgers, while one of Arneson’s former teammates, Paul Chryst — a UW freshman in ’84 — is the offensive coordinator.
For the past 25 years, Arneson has been on the coaching staff at Merrill.
“The guys I hung around with at Wisconsin — Bret Pearson, Brett Armstrong, Chris Osswald — are still good acquaintances,” Arneson said.
“Any place I go, outside of Merrill, I still get introduced as, ‘Dave Arneson, he’s a Badger.’ I’m a broken-down old man but they still look at me as a player.”
Dave and Marge Arneson were obviously thrilled by Sam’s decision to attend UW rather than waiting on other offers.
“He’ll have a great opportunity here; probably better than I did,” Dave Arneson said. “But I told him, ‘This is not my goal, at all, this is not my dream. You have to make it yours.’
“Some guy asked me, ‘Why did Sam commit so early (mid-April)?’ I said because that’s exactly where he wanted to be.”
Craig and Andree Fredrick were definitely excited when Jordan picked the Badgers over Iowa.
“We told him, ‘We’ll be very happy wherever you choose because you’ve got two great options, you can’t go wrong,’ ” Craig Fredrick said. “He said, ‘Dad, I want to play here.’ And I just said, ‘Then call them. Don’t wait.’
“He wanted to make a decision right away because he didn’t want to have to worry about it during the season. He wants this season to be about his teammates and the team.”
Dave and Sam Arneson crossed paths with Craig and Jordan Fredrick during a UW recruiting function in Madison last year.
“The Badgers have a lot of cool kids coming in from the state,” Dave Arneson said, “and the opportunity that they have to carry on the tradition or to even make it better is exciting.”