Austin Kafentzis has football in his blood.
Not literally, of course, but the Kafentzis family's ties to college football and the NFL are extensive. His father, Kyle, played defensive back for the Hawaii Warriors, as did four other uncles. Three of Austin's cousins played football at Hawaii, too, while others have gone to schools like Arizona, BYU, and Oregon.
And with his sophomore season now in the books, Austin Kafentzis is almost ready to join them and move up into college football. A 6-foot-1 soon-to-be junior quarterback from Sandy, Utah, Kafentzis already holds scholarship offers from Utah, Utah State and BYU, but his family's history with new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen prompted Austin and his father to visit Madison for the Badgers' spring game after they offered Kafentzis a scholarship in January.
"Gary has done a great job of recognizing Austin's talent," Kyle Kafentzis told BadgerBlitz.com on Sunday. "He offered him right away here, and we really appreciate that."
But the Badgers didn't just offer a quarterback out of the blue: the Kafentzis' and Andersen have known each other for several years, dating back to when Andersen lived in Utah before moving to Wisconsin to coach the Badgers.
They weren't next-door neighbors, but Kyle coached Andersen's son, Keegan, in high school, and his nephews played football with Andersen's twin sons, Chasen and Hagen. But Kyle said Andersen's scholarship offer is more than just a courtesy between friends. The Badgers want to start recruiting dual-threats at quarterback, and Austin certainly fits the bill.
Kafentzis threw for 3,018 yards as a sophomore last season, but also picked up 1,884 yards with his legs. He combined for 58 touchdowns through the air and on the ground, and was named Utah's 'Mr. Football' for the second year in a row. But the accolades haven't gone to the younger Kafentzis' head. Austin said he's enjoying his recruitment so far, and enjoyed visiting Andersen at his new home in Camp Randall Stadium.
"We went down and visited the campus all day," Kafentzis said. "We got there at seven and then we were there until about seven at night. We just visited everything, and there was always a coach next to us. They never left our sight, and they just showed us everything and talked to us about everything. They just showed a lot of love."
Kafentzis also said he liked the renovated facilities the Badgers had on display during their spring game, which he and several other recruits got to attend as well.
"Everything about it is nice," Kafentzis said. "They have the old part, and then they have the new part built around it. I think there's like a real 'home' feeling to it, and everyone is welcoming -- all of the fans, the players and the coaches. No one was uptight."
It was also a learning experience for Kafentzis, who said he didn't know much about Wisconsin's history before making the trip to Madison, other than their recent Rose Bowl trips. And coming from a family where Kafentzis' father and several uncles had an opportunity to play in the NFL, Kafentzis said he was impressed with Wisconsin's recent streak of getting players to the next level.
"Now since I've been out here, you see the history on the wall. It's just crazy to think that J.J. Watt went to Wisconsin, and Russell Wilson," Kafentzis said. "There's a lot of successful people in the NFL who came out of Wisconsin. I didn't know much about them, so everything was new to me."
Kafentzis and his dad are also planning to visit Wisconsin again during the summer, after offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig pays a visit to Utah in early May. The two are also hoping to visit the Badgers unofficially for a football game in late November, after the end of Kafentzis' junior season of football. Kafentzis' schedule will likely prevent him from visiting many other football games this fall, but other schools like Oregon, Baylor, and Vanderbilt are all hoping to see him work out during the spring as well.
Kafentzis said he's hoping to make his college choice at the end of his junior season, so for right now Kafentzis and his dad are looking around the country for a school that fits the best.
"We're not going to try and fit a square peg into a round hole," Kyle Kafentzis said. "If you can't see the talent or you haven't looked at [the film], then it's not a fit for him. But Gary's done that, and we appreciate the offer, and we know they also need to watch first hand. We felt a need to come here."
And as of right now, Kafentzis said the Badgers have established themselves as a serious contender for his commitment with six or seven months to go until he hopes to make a decision.
"Of all my offers, they're probably the top one," Kafentzis said. "I like the facilities, I like the people, I like the coaches, and I like the education."
"Everybody was very welcoming," Kyle Kafentzis said. "I won't say which schools, but some head coaches have a hard time saying hello to the players. Gary does a great job of -- even though we're friends -- he understands you do have to shake the kid's hand and talk to him. The staff is awesome. They're doing a great job."
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