Take a snapshot of Vince Biegel’s life the last couple months and you’ll see nothing but change.
In December, Biegel graduated from Wisconsin after spending four-and-a-half years in Madison. A few days before Christmas, he chopped off his trademark mullet and went with a more socially acceptable haircut ahead of the pre-NFL draft evaluation period.
Biegel kicked off the new year in Dallas by playing in his final college game, which was a Cotton Bowl victory against Western Michigan. Three weeks later, Biegel went down to Mobile, Ala. and spent a week at the Senior Bowl.
The following weekend, he was in Carlsbad, Calif., where he popped the question to his college sweetheart, Sarah.
Tonight I asked my best friend to marry me. Through all the ups and downs she's been my rock! Excited for what the future holds. pic.twitter.com/4ZGDml4RLH
— Vince Biegel (@VinceBiegel) February 6, 2017
Carlsbad, Calif. is where Biegel currently is. It’s a long way from Madison or his family’s cranberry marsh back in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc. Biegel’s time is spent at EXOS’ San Diego facility, where he’s training for the NFL Scouting Combine — Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and Taco Charlton are there, too — at the end of the month. In two-and-a-half months, Biegel’s name will be called at the NFL draft and his new career will begin.
Oh, and his July 1 wedding is less than five months away.
“It’s definitely been a busy 2017,” Biegel told Saturday Tradition.
But Biegel is used to dealing with a little craziness. During his five years in Madison, he played for three head coaches, three defensive coordinators and five position coaches. Still, he became the steadying force of a Badger defense that was known for looking like organized chaos.
Spend 15 minutes talking to Biegel and you’ll question if his life really is as hectic as it sounds.
Eleven months ago, Biegel could’ve pressed the fast forward button. The NFL was calling the third-team All-B1G selection after he helped lead the top scoring defense in the country in 2015. He could’ve potentially been a Day-2 pick after his redshirt junior season.
Instead, Biegel returned to school to get his degree and be a team captain.
That decision paid major dividends for the Badgers in the first month of the 2016 season. Biegel, a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan, helped Wisconsin take down No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field in the season opener. Three weeks later, the Badgers went into East Lansing and stymied No. 8 Michigan State.
Biegel led Wisconsin to a 4-0 start and a No. 8 national ranking. The storyline was no longer on the Badgers’ gauntlet schedule or if the defense could survive without defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. The Badgers had all sorts of momentum behind their dominant defense.
But Biegel had been dealing with foot pain the previous couple weeks. Two days before Wisconsin’s showdown at Michigan, he underwent surgery to insert a screw into his cracked right foot. The midseason procedure sidelined him for the next three weeks.
Naturally, Biegel thought about what life would’ve been like had he left early for the NFL. But at no point did he regret his decision.
“I truly mean this when I say this. I’m not giving you any B.S. I was very, very happy that I came back my senior year,” Biegel said. “I was able to be team captain, and I honestly had great peace in my heart because I knew that’s where I needed to be. That reassurance was very comforting.
“I knew that sustaining a foot injury helped strengthen me. I grew as a man. I matured. I understand defense so much more than I did last year. I know 100 percent, without a doubt, I’m a much better football player than I was last year. I’m a better man, I’m a better person and I’m more ready for the challenges and the things that are going to come in the NFL.”
Part of that challenge was returning and showing no lingering effects of his broken foot. Biegel found his groove in Wisconsin’s final four games with 24 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
OLB Vince Biegel finished with 2 sacks, 1 hit, 2 QB hurries, 4 stops and the highest grade in the Badgers' win over the Gophers. pic.twitter.com/wsFwY2X8BG
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 27, 2016
Despite the midseason injury, Biegel finished his career tied for Wisconsin’s all-time record of 54 games played. His 21.5 sacks were seventh in school history and his 39.5 tackles for loss ranked 10th. Even better, Biegel was the leader of Wisconsin’s winningest senior class in program history (41-13).
Still, the Senior Bowl was a major test for Biegel. Against the top senior draft prospects, he had to show that he hadn’t lost a step.
Fortunately for Biegel, he did just that. He unofficially recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, which made him Pro Football Focus’ third-highest graded defender on the North squad.
Biegel did have to answer another big question all week, though.
“Guys were like, ‘Vince, where the heck is the mullet, man?’” Biegel said. “They almost missed it more than I did.”
Biegel’s clean-cut look will certainly be around for a little while longer. Believe it or not, his fianceé supports the mullet, “but I’m sure come wedding time, she’ll have her opinion on what my haircut should be,” he joked. The mullet will be put on hold at least until Biegel establishes himself in the NFL.
That’s the next step.
The coaches, coordinators and position coaches changed, but Wisconsin’s base defense never did. Biegel projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker because that’s where he made a name for himself in college.
There’s an NFL team in Wisconsin that Biegel grew up watching that just so happens to run a 3-4 defense. That team also has an outside linebacker with some trademark hair.
Has that ever crossed Biegel’s mind?
“Absolutely,” Biegel said. “Green Bay is a great place.”
Like every draft prospect — except Myles Garrett, apparently — Biegel said he doesn’t care where he ends up. His plan is to get back up to 245 pounds for the combine, but he doesn’t mind putting on more weight if it makes him a better fit for the team that drafts him.
When Biegel and T.J. Watt are selected, Wisconsin will have had four linebackers drafted in four years. That number will only rise with the likes of Jack Cichy, Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards next in line.
Fittingly, Biegel’s fellow linebackers will have a new defensive coordinator to work with in 2017. But just like with Biegel’s class, that won’t shut down the linebacker factory in Madison.
“It’s really special to see,” Biegel said. “It’s a standard that we’ve set at Wisconsin. We’re obviously known for our running backs as well, but I’d definitely argue that Wisconsin could be and is already in place of being the next Linebacker U.”
Biegel will look to leave his mark on a new organization. He’ll try and establish a defensive culture like he did at Wisconsin.
And if history is any indication, the mullet will be back in no time.