Austin Ertl has accumulated a dozen football scholarship offers, and that number likely will rise this summer before his senior season in high school begins. As he evaluates his college options, Ertl is making sure to keep an open mind.
But Ertl admits there is one offer he does not hold — from the University of Wisconsin — that would be particularly significant.
“It would mean everything,” Ertl told Land of 10. “That’s what I’ve been working for, for a while since I visited my first time my freshman year. I’ve probably been back there I’d say 10 times. To be able to work for one would be awesome.”
Ertl is an offensive and defensive lineman for Wauwatosa West, which is located roughly 75 miles from Wisconsin’s campus. He grew up on Badgers football and remembers attending a Kids’ Day event in Madison as early as the second grade.
Now, Ertl has developed into one of the better in-state high school football prospects in the 2019 recruiting class. According to 247Sports, he ranks as the No. 8 player in Wisconsin. The Badgers already have commitments from the top two in-state players: linebacker Leo Chenal and running back Julius Davis. Wisconsin also has a scholarship offer out to athlete Da’Shaun Brown, who is the No. 3 prospect.
Whether Ertl becomes the next in-state player to earn a scholarship remains to be seen. But Ertl is optimistic he has the tools necessary to gain the offer he so covets.
“I believe that I’ll earn one this summer,” Ertl said. “I’m putting my mind to it, and if I put my mind to it, I think I can do it. It’ll be at an individual camp. I played defensive end in high school, but I’ve got to make sure I can compete at nose tackle and I can move people around and that I can finish because that’s the one big thing I think I can show.”
Ertl is listed at 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds. He said that during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Wisconsin’s coaches discussed the possibility of him playing on the Badgers’ offensive line. But he has not grown enough to be considered a viable offensive lineman at Wisconsin. Instead, coaches have spoken to him about potentially playing nose guard.
Other college programs largely have been split on whether Ertl would play as an offensive or defensive lineman at the next level. His scholarship offer list includes Mid-American Conference schools Buffalo, Central Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois.
Ertl noted that Dartmouth, Columbia and Fordham were among the East Coast schools to have offered him. He also is drawing interest from Syracuse, Boston College, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Iowa and Iowa State. He visited both Iowa and Iowa State over the weekend.
Last season, Ertl earned Wisconsin Football Coaches Association all-state honors on both offense and defense. He was a first-team selection as an offensive lineman and an honorable-mention pick as a defensive lineman. Ertl registered 35 tackles with 15 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. He also possesses a lot of the intangibles that a program like Wisconsin would appreciate.
“He’s far and away the best lineman I’ve ever coached in my career, maybe I’ve ever seen at the high school level,” Wauwatosa West football coach Matt Good said. “The way he plays is just different. He has a different level about him, a different level of intensity that is unimaginable at the high school level. It’s his energy level, his passion for the game, the way he plays it. He gets after you in a way that I’ve never seen. He’s relentless.”
Austin Ertl’s junior-season highlights
Good said there were a couple of Ertl’s individual performances that stood out last season. Recalling Wauwatosa West’s opener against Brookfield East, Good noted that Ertl “single-handedly” kept his team in the game on defense by living in the opponent’s backfield. Ertl recorded 9 tackles with 4 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles.
During another game later in the season, an opposing team ran right at Ertl on the first two offensive possessions. After being snuffed out both times, the entire opposing offense shifted away from Ertl, Good noted.
“They weren’t coming anywhere near him the rest of the game,” Good said. “I haven’t seen that in a long time in high school football where you just run away from a guy.”
Good noted Erl began wrestling for the high school team two years ago to help with his football ability. The sport allowed him to hone his quickness and balance, which are two areas in which he excels on the football field.
Wisconsin has offered scholarships to six uncommitted defensive tackles in the 2019 class: Faatui Tuitele (Honolulu), Jowon Briggs (Cincinnati), Mazi Smith (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Rodas Johnson (Columbus, Ohio), Jaden McKenzie (Wake Forest, N.C.) and Lloyd Murray Jr. (Wichita Falls, Texas). But there are no guarantees the Badgers ultimately will land commitments from any of them. That could open the door for Ertl to showcase himself this summer.
Austin’s father, Phil Ertl, helped the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse win the 1985 NAIA championship and was a two-time All-America defensive lineman. Phil started coaching Austin in the fourth grade and noticed Austin’s athletic ability and work ethic stood out.
“In his mind, he was just not going to be outworked,” Phil said. “I think that was kind of the thing that he learned early on if he wanted to do something. He’s one of those kids that sets a goal. No matter what it is, whether it’s academically in a class or anything, he pretty much will do what it takes to get there.”
Austin visited Wisconsin’s campus again last month and took in a Badgers basketball game against Michigan State with a handful of other football prospects. Phil said the family is planning several road trips this summer so Austin can accurately evaluate all his choices. But perhaps Austin’s next visit to Wisconsin in the summer will yield the offer for which he has hoped.
“Coaches play their cards pretty close,” Phil said. “They’ve got a job to do, too. They’ve got to get the best players they possibly can. They obviously are interested. There’s a number of Big Ten teams and Power 5 teams that have interest in him.
“He’s done a great job at camps. As a junior, he performed really well at all the camps he went to. You’ve got to go into those camps with a mindset of, ‘I’m going to make them make a decision. I’m not going to let them not offer me. I’m going to do that well.'”