Jon Budmayr’s mind was willing to give football one more chance.
The former Marian Central quarterback had the desire and certainly ample eligibility after missing so much time with various injuries and rehabilitations. He longed for a last shot to play quarterback for Wisconsin.
Budmayr’s body had other ideas.
Three weeks into the Badgers’ winter workouts, Budmayr felt a twinge in his right elbow that had been repaired twice for nerve damage. He also felt numbness in a knee that made the joint feel unstable.
And he made the dreaded phone call.
“I called my parents [Rick and Jackie] and will never forget that day,” Budmayr said. “It was very emotional. The support they gave me made it so much easier to come to grips with things.”
At 22, Jon Budmayr was “retired.”
“I can never be thankful enough for the blessings God gave me,” Budmayr said. “I had the opportunity to play in some tremendous games in high school and up here. I know God has a plan for me, and I’m excited about this next opportunity.”
That will come as a Badgers’ student assistant coach for the upcoming season, an announcement Wisconsin made official Monday. Budmayr will finish his degree in sociology in December and then determine what comes next.
“My heart is set on getting into college coaching,” he said. “There’s kind of a basic path that you follow. I reached out to [Pittsburgh coach] Paul Chryst, who used to be our offensive coordinator, and a couple other people for advice on that. You try to become a graduate assistant, then learn from there.”
Budmayr’s last extended game action was magical. He was a junior at Marian in 2007, one year removed from quarterbacking the Hurricanes to a Class 5A state runner-up finish. After missing four games with a strained hamstring, Budmayr was blazing through the playoffs.
In four games, including victories against Montini and Nazareth Academy, he threw for almost 1,000 yards. Although the ’Canes lost to Morris, 10-9, in their semifinal game, visions of what Budmayr could do as a senior were tantalizing.
Colleges were all over him, and he committed to Badgers coach Bret Bielema before his senior season. Budmayr experienced a remarkable string of rotten luck since that point.
One quarter into his senior season, his high school career ended with a broken collarbone.
Budmayr was progressing nicely at Wisconsin until the nerve problem was discovered. Then came the torn labrums in both hips. Then more elbow and shoulder issues. In one nine-month span, Budmayr underwent four surgeries.
Budmayr was grateful his girlfriend of five years, Marian graduate Kaitlyn Hartlieb, a nursing student at Madison’s Edgewood College, was close.
“She’s a very special girl,” Budmayr said. “She’s been putting up with me through all these surgeries, and I can be unpleasant, and she’s been a rock for me.”
The support Budmayr has received is invaluable. He thanks his older siblings – Travis, Brody and Tessa – for being role models and creating the foundation for him to follow. He thanks his younger brother Joey for his poise and confidence, and calls him an inspiration.
And he appreciates the opportunity now presented him by Badgers new head coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.
Giving up playing was as difficult as anything Budmayr has done. He knows the game inside and out and can make the progression reads on plays, but his legs and arm just will not allow him to compete at the highest level.
So now he will impart his wisdom with the Badgers’ offensive players. And he hopes that without the physical demands of football, he can lead a relatively normal life. He wants to play golf with his family or buddies. Or toss the football with Wisconsin’s quarterbacks or receivers. Or someday throw with his children.
“I want to be able to do the truly important things in life,” Budmayr said. “You learn the real value of relationships and your faith and social life. It’s kind of bittersweet.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.