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November 26, 2001In a surprise commitment, six days before his official visit to Madison, Quarterback John Stocco gave his verbal commitment to Wisconsin coaches Barry Alvarez, Jim Hueber and Jeff Horton when they visited his home Sunday afternoon.
The 6-3, 179-pound quarterback from Holy Angels High School in Richfield (Minn.) decided several days before the visit he would attend Wisconsin, and wanted to inform the coaches as soon as possible.
"I had kind of known for a while, and I kind of wanted to wait it out to see if I had any other options, but I've always liked Wisconsin," Stocco said. "I didn't want to drag it on any longer when I decided that was where I was going to play."
Stocco will make his official visit this weekend, his third trip to the Madison campus. He attended summer camp at UW after his freshman season, and was offered a scholarship when he attended the 2001 Spring Game.
He said Wisconsin's loyalty from day one was one of the primary factors in his final decision. After narrowing his choice to two schools, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Stocco decided he definitely wanted to play for the Badgers.
"It's the overall package. Wisconsin showed interest in me first, before anyone, and they've always let me know where I stood with them," Stocco said. "Whereas Minnesota, I don't know where I stand with them, and I don't talk to them nearly as much as I talk to the Wisconsin guys. It's the location, the coaches, the winning program and the overall package."
Stocco led Holy Angels to the state tournament for the first time in its history this season (they lost in the first round to the eventual state champion), but he was unsatisfied with his individual performance.
He feels there are a number of improvements he can make over the next year to become a bigger threat at the college level.
"I probably need to get bigger, and I probably need to get a little faster," Stocco said. "I think I need to throw the ball away sometimes. I take quite a few sacks rather than throw the ball away. I played alright this season, but I don't think I played great."
Stocco was slated to attend Saturday's Wisconsin-Minnesota game, but unlike every other home Gopher game this season, Stocco's written invitation to attend the game never arrived.
"That's alright. I had no problem sleeping in," Stocco said.
Stocco caught the game on television and was very surprised at the result. He's watched every televised Wisconsin game this season, getting a close eye at the quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, Brooks Bollinger and Jim Sorgi.
"I think I'm more comparable to Brooks," Stocco said. "He throws well and he runs well, and I can run pretty well too. Also, Brooks plays baseball too. I think I'm going to play baseball there on that town team."
Many quarterbacks would be scared away by the level of depth and talent in the Badgers' quarterback ranks, but Stocco has assurances from Horton he will get a fair shot to compete.
Stocco knows it will be a couple of years before he's given serious consideration for the job, but all he's asking for is a fair chance.
"(Horton) basically told me I'd redshirt next year, which I would probably do at every school," Stocco said. "And the year after that, he'd be disappointed if I wasn't the No. 3 quarterback. He said he's going to give me a shot. He's not going to promise me any playing time. He said he's going to give me a real shot and that's all you need."
Stocco is the sixth commitment for the 2002 recruiting class, which should be rapidly expanding as the Badgers begin bringing in top recruits for official visits this weekend.
Stocco was considered a solid possibility to commit after his official visit, but his early decision was a pleasant surprise.
"I think (the coaches) might have been a little bit surprised, but it's hard to tell," Stocco said. "They all seemed pretty excited."