Rodney Wedig was bored.
Running out of TV options and not much of a fan of crossword puzzles, the Milton High football coach decided to put a list together.
A list of the top 25 players he’s coached in his long and storied career.
Wedig has a 156-109 career record with stops at Almond-Bancroft, Walworth Big Foot, Beloit Memorial and Milton.
He coached Big Foot to a WIAA Division 4 state title in 2009 and runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2012. He led Milton to a 9-2 record in his first season last fall and helped the Red Hawks to a share of the Badger South Conference title.
With individual talent aplenty at all four of his coaching stops, Wedig knew his list would be tough to compile but would be a fun project during these tough times.
Spoiler alert: Even though he’s only up to No. 19 on his list--which you can follow on his twitter account @Rodney_Wedig--he revealed his top three to me.
And according to Wedig, they were three no-brainers.
At No. 3 is running back Mason Dixon, who shares his full name with a famous American land-boundary divider, a perfect fit given his north-south running style.
The 2012 Big Foot graduate is the program’s all-time leading rusher with 4,522 yards. He scored 74 touchdowns.
In the 2012 season, Dixon rushed for 2,243 yards and led the state with 42 touchdowns. He averaged 11.7 yards a carry.
“Mason wasn’t what you would call a super athlete, but he sure was a damn good football player,” Wedig said. “His work ethic was second to none.”
Dixon went on to a prolific career at Beloit College. He is second on the Buccaneers’ all-time career rushing list with 4,511 yards, trailing only his father, Steve, who finished with 4,792.
At No. 2 for Wedig is another stud running back--Michael Walker.
The 2009 Big Foot graduate led the Chiefs to back-to-back state title game appearances, including 2009’s D4 state championship.
Walker’s stellar 2009 season saw him rush for 1,180 yards with 19 total touchdowns--16 of them on the ground.
In the 2009 state title game against Kewaunee, Walker finished with five touchdowns--a state-record for all divisions--in the Chiefs’ 42-13 win at Camp Randall. The record still stands today.
“Michael was just so explosive,” Wedig said. “He had a chance to score every time he touched the ball.
“And he had a tryout with the (Minnesota) Vikings and a great career at St. Cloud State (Minnesota). Just a phenomenal football player.”
Walker was first-team all-NSIC North in 2012 and ran for 860 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013 at St. Cloud State.
Which leads us to No. 1 on Wedig’s list.
Not only was Travis Frederick the best player he’s coached, but he will also certainly go down as one of the best players to come out of Wisconsin, linked in with such greats as Joe Thomas, J.J. Watt, Mike Webster, Alan Ameche and Jim Otto.
Frederick, a 2008 Big Foot graduate, dominated on both sides of the ball. He was a man among boys, according to Wedig.
“I remember when Travis came into my room after his freshman year and asked me what he needed to do to play in college,” Wedig said. “I told him he had to work his butt off, and if he did that the rest would take care of itself. He certainly had the physical tools.
“After that, I don’t think he ever missed a day in the weight room. He was dedicated to being the best player he could be.”
Frederick had a productive career at the University of Wisconsin, earning All-America honors his junior year before declaring for the NFL Draft in 2013.
He was drafted in the first round at pick No. 31 by the Dallas Cowboys and spent seven years with the team. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was an All-Pro selection in 2014, ‘15, and ‘16.
Frederick retired from the NFL last week after battling back from Guillain–Barré syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that caused him to miss the 2018 season.
Wedig said he was not surprised at Frederick’s decision.
“In talking to Travis, I got the sense that if he couldn’t play at a level that he was used to, he wasn’t going to play,” Wedig said. “I know he came back last year from the disorder and made the Pro Bowl again, but I don’t think he ever got back to or thought he was going to get back to being 100%.
“He’s got a family now, and his Blocking Out Hunger Foundation is very important to him. He’s got strong roots in Dallas and realizes there’s a lot more to life now than just football.”
Wedig, who is a psychology teacher at Orfordville Parkview High, said compiling the list has helped take his mind off an uncertain future with no end in sight of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really pretty remarkable when I think about all the great players I’ve had a chance to coach,” Wedig said. “It has certainly made my job a lot easier.”