Greenfield — After leading the state in passing yardage and yards per game in each of the last two regular seasons, Whitnall quarterback Joel Stave is ready to meet the challenge of playing for Wisconsin's highest-profile college program.
Stave announced last week that he has given a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a preferred walk-on player. "This is a good opportunity for me and it will be fun to be a member of the Badger team," he said.
What's more, he will not even wait until next fall to join coach Bret Bielema's squad. Stave officially graduated from Whitnall High School in December, though he will return to receive his diploma at the regular ceremonies this upcoming spring.
He will enroll at Madison in January and can now take part in the Badgers' spring practices. "This helps in two ways," he said. "I can learn the offense ahead of time, and it will help me get used to college life and learn to budget my time better."
Whitnall coach Rob Leboeuf believes it's important that the Badgers wanted Stave a few months early. He thinks that arrangement indicates that they have special plans in mind for him.
Indeed, the Wisconsin coaching staff feels that the chances are good that he will eventually be offered a scholarship.
"He has a rocket for an arm, he is mobile and he understands the game," Leboeuf said. "He has thrown to college-caliber receivers in camps. He responds to a challenge and likes playing the role of the underdog.
"This transition should be easier for him, because our offense was centered around him at Whitnall; he threw 40 passes a game. At Wisconsin, he won't have that extra pressure; he will likely be more of a game manager, at least at the start."
In the 2010 regular season, Stave completed 168 of 294 passes (57 percent) for 2,405 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions in leading the Falcons to a WIAA state playoff berth. With the playoff game figured in, he totaled 2,635 yards through the air.
"He has a terrific work ethic and he approaches his classroom work the same way as a game," Leboeuf said. "He prepares for both equally well. After school, he is always in the gym, doing something to get better. He makes all his teammates better."
Yet, Stave realizes that he is just one part of a team. "He knows that all his accomplishments came through the hard work and the dedication of his teammates," the coach said. "He is appreciative and aware of his teammates."
Stave said his recruiting process began shortly after his junior football season at Whitnall. In the time since then, he had sifted through volumes of information. "I looked at a number of schools, but when it got down to the end, it was between Western Michigan (which offered him a full scholarship) and Wisconsin," he said.
He plans to major in math and science, with an eye toward an engineering career.
As for the football field at Madison, he said, "I want to learn as much as I can and make myself a better football player."
THE STAVE FILE
WHO: Joel Stave, quarterback at Whitnall High School
STATISTICS: In his two years on varsity, he totaled 5,017 passing yards, 26th in state history, with 40 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
HONORS: He was named first-team all-state by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and Woodland Conference Black Division offensive player of the year…he was also on the NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Team as a junior and senior.
COACH ROB LEBOEUF: "He is like the Pied Piper. Wherever he leads, kids will follow. He is just a once-in-a-lifetime kid."
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