The Houston Texans and J.J. Watt officially parted ways late last week when the five-time All-Pro defensive end was granted his release from the unabashedly rebuilding franchise. Instantly, Packers fans and other NFL faithful started to speculate whether the Pewaukee, Wisconsin native and former Badgers standout would return to his home state and join a Green Bay team that, once again, came one game shy of reaching the Super Bowl. Admittedly, the Packers front office would have to clear a lot of salary cap space and significantly adjust its priorities in free agency to make this happen, but it’s definitely possible…especially if Watt is willing to give Green Bay a slight hometown discount.
In addition to the rumors involving the Packers and Watt potentially reaching terms when NFL free agency officially begins next month, Green Bay has also been talked about as a possible destination for another player with University Of Wisconsin ties. With both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams about to enter free agency (if a deal isn’t made in the next few weeks, at least), former Badgers and longtime Patriots running back James White has been suggested as a possible replacement for one of them.
Adding Watt and/or White would be a huge boost to Green Bay’s roster, and would surely make a lot of folks in Wisconsin happy. While bringing either of these guys to Titletown would certainly be among the highest-profile instances of Badgers signing with the Packers, it’s not all that uncommon to see UW student athletes later wearing Green and Gold. In fact, it’s happened quite a lot. As we wait to see where Watt and White land this offseason, here are the 10 best Badgers to later play for the Green Bay Packers.
10. Rick Wagner (with Packers from 2020 to present)
We don’t want West Allis native Rick Wagner’s number 10 ranking to be seen as an insult. The sample size of his Packers career is quite small (nine games last season), but his story isn’t over. The Badgers offensive tackle for three Big Ten Champion teams, who spent time with the Ravens and Lions before signing with Green Bay in 2020, is under contract with the Packers for the 2021 season as well.
9. Lance Kendricks (2017 to 2018)
Following a solid collegiate career in Madison (including a great senior year in 2010), Milwaukee native and Rufus King standout Lance Kendricks was taken by the Rams in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He spent six seasons there before he was released, leading to the hometown Packers bringing him in for tight end depth in 2017. In limited snaps during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he had 39 receptions for 373 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
8. Don Davey (1991 to 1994)
Raised in Manitowoc, it was a no-brainer for Don Davey to take his talents to Madison when it came time to pick a college. Once his NCAA days were through, it was an equally easy decision for the Packers to draft the Badgers defensive lineman in 1991. The third-rounder was quietly consistent in four seasons, but there simply wasn’t enough room for him on Green Bay’s roster once the likes of Reggie White and Gilbert Brown came to town. Davey finished his playing career in Jacksonville, and has seen lots of success after football as a Firehouse Subs franchisee with stores throughout Wisconsin and Florida.
7. Gary Ellerson (1985 to 1986)
These days, Packers and Badgers fans know Gary Ellerson from his work on The Big Show. Long before he was a part of the sports talk radio program, Ellerson was a promising Badgers running back and returner. After spending the 1984 season with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL, he returned to Wisconsin and join the Packers. In two seasons (mostly as a backup), he had 122 carries for 492 yards and five touchdowns. He also returned 36 kickoffs, averaging 18.8 yards per return.
6. Randy Wright (1984 to 1988)
Randy Wright wasn’t particularly good as a Packers quarterback, but that didn’t stop the franchise that was experiencing some pretty dreadful seasons from putting him under center with some regularity. The sixth-round selection and Badgers alum was mostly used as a backup. He did, however, start all 16 games in 1986. That season, Wright posted a 4-12 record with 17 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Over five seasons, he had 31 touchdown passes (compared to 57 interceptions) and three rushing touchdowns.
5. Deral Teteak (1952 to 1956)
Middle linebacker Deral Teteak was born in the small Wisconsin town of Oconto and attended high school in Oshkosh before deciding to play for the Badgers. In 1952, the Packers picked “The Little Bull” in the ninth round of the NFL Draft. He’d play just five seasons. Tackles and sacks weren’t recorded in the 1950s, but he did have six interceptions and five fumble recoveries in his abbreviated career. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year.
4. Ken Stills (1985 to 1989)
The father of modern day speedy wide receiver Kenny Stills, former Badgers defensive back Ken Stills was taken by Green Bay in the eighth round of the 1985 NFL Draft. Over his five seasons with the Packers, the free safety made good on their hometown pick. Between 1985 and 1989, he had seven interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), four fumble recoveries, and a sack. He was also used sparingly as a kick returner in three seasons.
3. Ed Jankowski (1937 to 1941)
Eddie Jankowski was Wisconsin through and through. Born in Milwaukee, the fullback turned heads and punished defenders at East Division High School, leading to him being recruited by the Badgers. In 1937, the Packers picked Jankowski in the first round (ninth overall) in that year’s draft. Though his numbers aren’t astounding by today’s standards, they were enough to earn the local favorite enshrinement in the Packers Hall Of Fame. After football, Jankowski served as an officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Following the war’s end, he worked at Miller Brewing Company and later coached at Whitefish Bay High School.
2. Ken Bowman (1964 to 1973)
Though everyone knows Jerry Kramer, far fewer people remember the guy who lined up directly next to him on the offensive line during Green Bay’s glory years. After attending University Of Wisconsin, Ken Bowman was drafted by the Jets in 1964 AFL Draft AND the Packers in the 1964 NFL Draft. Fortunately for him, he decided to stay in-state and play for the Packers. As the starting center for the Bart Starr-captained teams, Bowman played an integral part on two Super Bowl-winning teams (and two other NFL Championship teams), and he was also directly involved in Starr’s famed Ice Bowl touchdown.
1. Mark Tauscher (2000 to 2010)
After spending his college years clearing holes for two-time Heisman-winner Ron Dayne, Mark Tauscher was selected in the 2000 NFL Draft. Just barely. Midway through the last round, the Packers used a low-risk pick on the former Badgers offensive lineman and Auburndale, Wisconsin native. Nobody (except perhaps Tauscher) could have known how well that pick would wind up working out. He played parts of 11 seasons with the Packers (including returning as a free agent late in the 2009 season to bolster a struggling line), providing top-notch protection for Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. He retired after an injury-shortened 2010 season, but cemented his reputation as both a Badgers and a Packers great by winning a Super Bowl ring before calling it a career.