Over the past month, as wide receiver Nolan Groulx’s visit to Wisconsin approached, conversations with his parents struck the same chord when it came to evaluating a potential college choice. He liked Wisconsin’s football coaches, the campus, the business school, the fans, the big stage and the fact that the Badgers won as much as anybody.
By the time his trip to Madison arrived last weekend, there was little left to think about for Groulx.
“There were some other Big Ten schools and some other SEC schools that were talking to Nolan,” Nolan’s father, Steve Groulx, told Land of 10. “But as I told him, even if they did offer and you wrote down every school that’s in the area, you’d still end up going to Wisconsin, so what are we waiting for?”
Groulx, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior from Cornelius, N.C., announced his commitment to Wisconsin via Twitter on Sunday, one day after he informed Badgers coach Paul Chryst while sitting in his office. The news prompted hugs and high fives from Wisconsin’s entire coaching staff, which entered the room to celebrate.
— Nolan Groulx (@nolan_groulx) January 28, 2018
Groulx held scholarship offers from North Carolina State, Central Michigan, Duke, Elon, James Madison, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and West Virginia. But Wisconsin was the school that piqued his interest the most, ever since he took an unofficial visit there in June. He had hoped to return for Wisconsin’s regular-season home finale against Michigan on Nov. 18, but his high school team was busy making a deep playoff run. Groulx was supposed to visit two weekends ago, but he was forced to cancel because he was sick.
In the end, his trip was more than worth the wait.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while and trying to let it all sink in,” Groulx said. “So it’s all a surreal experience. It’s pretty cool.”
Groulx finished his junior season at Hough High School with 75 catches for 1,101 yards and 8 touchdowns to earn all-conference honors. His versatility was one of the areas that appealed to Wisconsin’s coaches. Hough football coach Matt Jenkins said his high school team utilized Groulx at nearly every receiver position, on screen passes, jet sweeps and as a tailback on outside zone runs. Groulx also returned punts.
“He’s got a great work ethic,” Jenkins said. “He takes his ball seriously. Not just his craft on the field but in the weight room, in the classroom. He’s a leader on the field. He’s constantly playing with a chip on his shoulder, which I think is really, really important for young kids to succeed.
“At the end of the day, he’s always trying to prove that he belongs and that he’s better than the guy next to him. I think that’s carried him a long way.”
Groulx, a 3-star prospect, is rated as the No. 19 player in North Carolina and the No. 70 receiver in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. He transferred to Hough from Davidson Day, where he caught 108 passes for 1,853 yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore.
One of the things Jenkins first noticed about Groulx before this season was his fearlessness. During practices, he routinely went after teammate Tyus Fields, a cornerback who is rated as the No. 4 player in North Carolina for the 2019 class and also has a Wisconsin scholarship offer.
“He and Tyus will go at it all day,” Jenkins said. “You could tell there’s some people who would be intimidated by Tyus at corner, and Nolan’s not one of those kids. You could just tell from that standpoint that he was going to be really good. He doesn’t shy away from competition. He wants the best guy on him and because of that he continues to get better.”
Nolan cited his quickness in and out of a route as his biggest strength. Steve said Nolan often is praised because he runs good routes, but that skill set is the product of hard work. Nolan will occasionally drive his dad’s car around toward the back of the house so he can shine lights on the backyard and run through the entire wide receiver route tree.
“He’s not bigger than other people,” Steve said. “He’s not faster. He just works on his craft.”
Nolan Groulx’s junior season highlights
Nolan noted he watched Wisconsin with great interest during the season and was impressed by the manner in which the Badgers used their receivers. Quintez Cephus, Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor and A.J. Taylor each had their moments to star and showed that Wisconsin is willing to throw the ball to its playmakers. He also built a strong relationship with receivers coach Ted Gilmore, who already has put together one of the deepest receiving units in recent Badgers history.
“He’s a guy that will help turn me into a man,” Nolan said. “He was definitely a part of my decision to commit. Just the way he coaches and how educated he is about the game, from coaching with the Raiders and Nebraska and different places, he’s one of the better receiving coaches I was able to meet.”
Steve said Nolan spent nearly an hour on his visit talking with Wisconsin’s strength and conditioning coaches and that he got along with everyone. The Groulx family also came away impressed with how many coaches were Wisconsin alums ― a list that includes Chryst, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, tight ends coach Mickey Turner, quarterbacks coach Jon Budmayr and head strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodziej.
“When you look at how much they just enjoy the town and enjoy the camaraderie and things going on, they’re die-hard Badger nation, so to speak,” Steve said. “You don’t really see that in a lot of schools where so many people on the staff all played there.”
Wisconsin now has seven committed players in the 2019 recruiting class, which ranks No. 3 in the country in the 247Sports composite. Nolan Groulx has begun developing relationships with some of those committed players through a group chat, including quarterback Graham Mertz, offensive tackle Logan Brown and offensive tackle Joe Tippmann.
Mertz, a 4-star prospect and the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in the country, is considered the centerpiece of the class so far. But Groulx’s addition represents an important pickup in a class that could go down as Wisconsin’s best in the online recruiting ranking era.
“I’ve formed a pretty good relationship with Graham,” Groulx said. “We’ve been talking over the last couple days, me and a couple other linemen. I saw something that we were ranked third nationally right now, which is pretty awesome. The class we have coming in, we’re just trying to get more players to join us.”