SALISBURY, CONN. >> Wednesday was the day Jake Hescock said he's been waiting for. It was the day that Hescock officially became a Wisconsin Badger.
"It's a special day. It's a lot of hard work that has finally paid off. It's a lot of sweat and tears and grinding out on a football field," said Hescock. "Now I finally get to see some payment for it. It's also a special day for my family."
The Pittsfield native, along six of his Salisbury School football teammates, signed National Letters of Intent to attend college in a ceremony Wednesday morning on the Salisbury campus. Hescock was flanked by head coach Chris Phelps and athletic director Tim Sinclair as he signed his name to the paper that would later be sent to the University of Wisconsin, where he became part of head coach Paul Chryst's second recruiting class.
His parents, Jeff and Carey Hescock, watched with pride as their son signed his LOI.
Hescock grew up in Pittsfield and played his freshman season at Taconic. He then went to the Connecticut prep school, where he was the top tight end in the state his senior year and a three-star recruit according to Scout and Rivals.com, along with ESPN.com and 247Sports.com.
In addition, he was a first-team, All-USA Connecticut selection by USA Today, a Boston Globe All-Scholastic and the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council's player of the year. He was named the NEPSAC offensive and defensive lineman of the year. Hescock, the president of the senior class at Salisbury, was co-winner of the Edward R. Childs Football Award with Nate Carter. That's given to "the player or players whose hard work, devotion, talent and courage best exemplify the Salisbury spirit."
On the football field, Hescock caught 23 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
Hescock signed with a red Wisconsin hat on his head, and said that wearing the hat was "awesome."
"It feels like it's well worth it. It feels like going home again," he said. "It's a great school, a great football program, and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Also beaming was Salisbury head coach Chris Phelps. Phelps has been head coach at Salisbury since 2010, and brought an extensive resume there that included assistant coaching stops at New Hampshire, Hobart and Siena and a stint as head coach at his alma mater, St. Lawrence.
"I think the growth that he had was in his work ethic, learning how to compete hard at a high level and learning how to go to practice every day and play against good competition," Phelps said after the signing ceremony. "The growth was in his competitiveness, those intangibles that college coaches look for but are tough to see on film sometimes."
Hescock said he really liked head coach Chryst and tight ends coach Mickey Turner. They were at the Hescock home in Pittsfield last week on a final visit before signing day.
"It's a really good day for us and our program. It's the culmination of a lot of work," Chryst said during a press conference aired on the Wisconsin web site. "It feels better having been able to recruit this class for a full year and truly get to know them.
"One of the common threads about this whole group is as varied as their backgrounds are, their positions and where they come from, each individual is a great fit."
Hescock is joining a Wisconsin team that went 10-3 last year and beat Southern California 23-21 in the Holiday Bowl.
He is the only tight end on the Wisconsin recruiting list and will join five on the roster in the fall. Troy Fumagalli, a rising junior, was the backup tight end to a senior in last year's Holiday Bowl.
Hescock isn't the only Badger recruit with a Pittsfield connection. Linebacker Griffin Grady from Dublin, Ohio, is the son of former Pittsfield High School girls basketball standout Keyburn McCusker Grady. Hescock said they've become friends and could be roommates when they report to Madison in June.
Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Florida were Hescock's final three schools. All are solid Division I-FBS programs and he might have a chance at a national championship at any of them. But he said that the decision to go to Wisconsin was about more than just X's and O's.
"The people, honestly. The program, the history, everything's great about it," said Hescock. "The way they win, the way they act, the way they hold themselves. It's a great program. It made me feel at home when I was there."