by Greg Bates
Special to the Community Spirit
It was a call Tyler Biadasz had been waiting to receive for two days.
When it finally came, boy, was it worth it.
Biadasz, a 2016 Amherst High School graduate who helped the Falcons win the WIAA Division 5 state football championship his senior year, was going to be living out his dream of getting drafted and playing in the NFL.
After a solid three-year career at the University of Wisconsin, Biadasz declared early for the NFL Draft and was predicted to be a top-75 selection as one of the nation’s top interior offensive linemen.
Biadasz, his family and some of his closest friends and former coaches gathered at Biadasz’s former Amherst and Wisconsin teammate Garrett Groshek’s parents house on Friday, April 24 to watch Rounds two and three of the draft. Biadasz didn’t get selected and everyone gathered again the next day for Rounds four through seven.
During the pre-draft process, Biadasz either met or talked with most of the 32 NFL teams. But it was the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams that showed the most interest. So, every time those three teams were on the clock, Biadasz and his supporters around him were glued to the television.
As the fourth round was winding down and the Philadelphia Eagles had the final two picks of that round, Biadasz got up and walked away from the TV. His head football coach at Amherst, Mark Lusic, walked outside to get some fresh air.
“Garrett Groshek’s fiancé screamed as it came across the TV, and we’re like, ‘What?’ We run inside and he’s a Cowboy,” Lusic said. “We sat there for hours after hours next to him, and he actually got the phone call when he was in the kitchen.”
That phone call was a special one.
Jerry Jones, the charismatic billionaire owner of the Cowboys, was on the other line. He had traded up with the Eagles to select Biadasz with the final selection of the fourth round, No. 140 overall.
“We just picked you,” Jones told Biadasz.
“I appreciate that, man,” responded Biadasz, who was the fourth center off the board.
“You’re a Dallas Cowboy,” said Jones, sitting on his $250 million yacht. “We think a lot of you, obviously, and congratulations. I hope your career with the Cowboys is as good for you as it has been for me and others. It’s a privilege, and I know you’ll give it everything you’ve got. But congratulations, you’re a Dallas Cowboy.”
Biadasz quickly remarked: “I’m coming to work.”
“There you go, buddy,” said Jones. “You come from a place that’s got a great reputation on the offensive line, so I know you’re proud of that. Carry it on here.”
Jones then got Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy on the line to talk to Biadasz.
“I have to make sure I have a big piece of Wisconsin with us down here in Dallas,” said McCarthy, who coached the Green Bay Packers for 13 years. “I’ll tell you, you’re a great fit for us. And I know this is a special time for you and your family, so enjoy it. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Biadasz said. “I’m really excited. Can’t wait.”
Biadasz went back out to the living room to celebrate with his family and friends. His buddy Groshek loves to collect throwback NFL jerseys and he happens to have a Cowboys jersey of legend Emmitt Smith. Biadasz quickly threw on the threads after being drafted by “America’s Team.”
“Very excited,” Lusic said about Biadasz getting drafted. “Excited at first, but also a sense of relief that it finally happened. It was a long two days, there’s no doubt. We were all hoping second or third round and he fell into the last pick in the fourth. But he made it, that’s the key part. He’s part of the NFL now and that’s a dream he’s always had. Now it’s a reality.”
Biadasz – who became the first Wisconsin Badgers player to win the Rimington Award, which is given to the nation’s top center – was hampered by the draft process this year, like all the draft prospects, and not being able to meet with teams for one-on-one interviews and having his pro day cancelled because of COVID-19.
“It’s the second half of the more impactful stuff, the meetings with coaches, the meetings with teams, looking at the facilities and flying everywhere and trying to get that whole experience and that all gets like shut down,” Biadasz told the Community Spirit prior to the draft. “I’m really glad my experience at the combine and all the experiences with FaceTime and Zoom and all this stuff, so I really gave out a good first impression. It was my only impression to them, because you usually don’t get more than one call. Really just making the most of your time, you want to get to know the coaches and know the playbooks and what they’re all about and the most of it.”
Biadasz was not able to compete at the combine this year. Following last season, Biadasz had a minor AC joint scope on his shoulder and he recovered well. Prior to the draft, Biadasz said he was 100% healthy.
“Some teams, they get nervous and I understand why, it’s an investment,” Lusic said. “Tyler and the doctors were all telling them that he was all right, that he’d be just fine. But not being able to be at the combine was probably the biggest reason why he slipped.”
Because of the stay-at-home restrictions, the Cowboys weren’t able to have their doctors personally examine Biadasz. However, team doctors were confident in what they heard from doctors at the combine that Biadasz’s health is solid.
“At the end of the day, the medical industry, the ethics of the medical industry are off the charts,” Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told the media after drafting Biadasz. “Most doctors have a lot of confidence in what other doctors tell them. These doctors are very educated and amazing in terms of what they’re able to do. It really didn’t hold us back. We’ll see what comes of this because usually you get your hands on them and probably do a little more work.”
Biadasz, who became the 12th Badgers offensive lineman to be drafted since 2011, started all 41 games at center for Wisconsin during his career. But longtime ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said health wasn’t the reason Biadasz wasn’t picked until late fourth round.
“If you look at Tyler Biadasz, some uneven performances,” Kiper said during Saturday’s broadcast on national TV. “Mixed opinion was created because of that. And then he started to slip down the draft board just a bit.”
Whatever the reason, the Cowboys weren’t spooked. Team brass is confident they got a great prospect in the 6-foot-3, 321-pound Biadasz.
“Not to put any pressure on him, he’s what you’re looking for,” said McCarthy during the Cowboys’ post-draft press conference. “You talk about our history and tradition of offensive line play in Dallas, he comes from an excellent program in college at Wisconsin as far as running the show, making the calls. He plays with great power; you can see it in the angles. His ability, he’s a natural center. That’s why the importance of going up there and getting him at the end of the fourth round was awesome. … It was great to get that done.”
Biadasz grew up watching McCarthy lead the Packers to some great seasons from 2006-18, including winning Super Bowl XLV. Lusic said it’s come full circle that Biadasz will now be able to play for McCarthy.
“Tyler didn’t have much contact with McCarthy in the offseason, but he had more with the O-line coach he talked to and a couple other people,” Lusic said. “I’m sure he’s excited. McCarthy’s got a (heck) of a track record – a Super Bowl-winning coach.”
Lusic feels the Cowboys are an ideal fit for Biadasz.
“I think it’s a great organization,” Lusic said. “Let’s be honest, back in the early ’90s, they weren’t my favorite team since they always beat the Packers. But they have a winning tradition. I know the facilities down there are unbelievable. Tyler had a chance to go down there to play in the Cotton Bowl, and he said the stadium is unbelievable. They’ve got some talent on that team. Joe Burrow’s the No. 1 pick, but he’s going to the Bengals. The Bengals have a long way to go.”
“I’m just ready for my next chance in my life,” said Biadasz five days before the draft. “I just hope I get to a team that fits me and that’s not by location, that’s more so by the schematics and coaching.”
Jerry Jones isn’t accustomed to trading up and giving away an extra draft pick unless he sees something he wants. He wanted Biadasz, who the Cowboys had high on their draft board. Dallas traded a fifth-round pick, No. 164, and a 2021 fifth-rounder to its rival Eagles to move up. That’s how important it was for the Cowboys to secure Biadasz.
“Personally, I think he’s being drafted to start,” Lusic said. “He’ll have an opportunity to play center and compete for a starting job.”
The Cowboys were in need of their center of the future after Pro Bowler Travis Frederick retired during this offseason. Frederick, who also played at Wisconsin, was selected by the Cowboys in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Biadasz knows he’ll be compared to Frederick and he isn’t going to shy away from the compliments.
“I’m going to be the best version of me,” Biadasz told the media after being drafted. “I have really high goals and starting is one of them.”
Biadasz has always admired Frederick’s game and has tried to utilize parts of his game.
“We used to watch so much film on Travis of when he was in college and when he was a Cowboy,” Biadasz said. “I try to mold [my game] like his. He’s one of the greats. He’s an animal. I try to play just like that. I think our body types are very similar.”
Similar, too, is the fact that both players dominated on the front line for the Badgers. During Biadasz’s three years calling plays and anchoring the offensive line, he helped pave the way for All-American running back Jonathan Taylor. The second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts rushed for 6,581 yards – going over the 2,000-yard mark in back-to-back seasons – in his three years.
“I take a lot of pride in that,” Biadasz said. “We knew JT’s success would be our success. We just wanted to be the best O-line in the nation.”
Biadasz will now be blocking for another talented running back in Ezekiel Elliott. In his first four seasons in the NFL, Elliott has become one of the elite runners, amassing 5,405 yards on the ground at 4.6 yards per attempt.
With COVID-19 putting a halt to all sporting events, Biadasz isn’t sure when he’ll be able to strap on his Cowboys helmet and go through contact drills for the first time. After the draft, Biadasz was advised he would be flown to Dallas in a couple of weeks to meet the Cowboys’ brass and go over details. Everything else is up in the air at this point.
But one thing is for sure, Biadasz will be ready to compete whenever it’s time. Slipping into the fourth round just adds fuel to the fire that burns deep within Biadasz.
“I think they got a steal in the fourth round,” Lusic said. “If he plays with a chip on his shoulder and that’s what he needs … He’s a motivated kid anyway. If you add that on top, good luck.”