Sep. 25—LA CROSSE, Wis. — It came down to two schools for Jack Studer, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Turns out the beauty of the Coulee Region won out, with its bluffs, woods and the majestic Mississippi River winding through it.
Studer, a stellar athlete at Dover-Eyota High School, has never second-guessed his decision to bring his football act to Division III UW-La Crosse. Instead, he just keeps falling deeper and deeper for the offerings of his home of the last five years.
"It's been a great experience here," said Studer, in his third year as a starting wide receiver for the Eagles. "The football has been great. But even outside of football, with the city of La Crosse, it's great. There are just so many things to do here — hike, go to the beach, and lots of places to eat."
Good thing for the UW-La Crosse football coaching staff that Studer was ready to slide on a "I HEART La Crosse" T-shirt almost from the moment he stepped on campus. Because being able to land him after the senior year he put up at Dover-Eyota was a coup.
Studer looked the part of a football star, a pieced-together 6-foot-2, 190-pounds as a high school senior. He also acted the part, timed in 4.6 in the 40, owning a rare 33-inch vertical jump and a thirst to compete. Put it all together and this was what he came up with as a D-E senior: 73 receptions, 1,536 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns.
It was enough to have some Division I programs checking him out.
In the end, though, it was Division III UW-La Crosse that he settled on, with its proximity to home (50 miles from Dover), Its ambiance and its rich history of winning football. UW-L has won 34 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football titles and three national championships.
Studer and his teammates have their eyes on winning one more of each this season. The Eagles are 3-1 and ranked 14th in the country.
They've even come up with a mantra for those goals.
"We say '35 and 4,' " Studer said. "We have national championship aspirations."
Studer is doing his part to make this a memorable team. Now up to 6-2 and 205 pounds, running a 4.5 40 and with a 35-inch vertical jump after putting himself through grueling off-season workouts the last four years, Studer has never been better.
He's been by far the team's leading receiver through four games, with 23 catches for 328 yards, three touchdowns and 14.3 yards-per-catch average. He's already surpassed his yardage totals from a year ago when he amassed 279 receiving yards.
Since his team's opening day of practice this season, Studer knew he'd landed himself on a new football plane. His obsessive summer workouts had done it.
"I put a lot into this," Studer said. "The summer is the best time of the year to get better. I was grinding the whole time. The first day of practice, I felt different, like I was the fastest player on the field."
UW-La Crosse head coach Matt Janus knows he has a special one on his hands in Studer. He also knows that this version of him is the best one yet.
"What Jack is doing right now is pretty special," Janus said. "He is on pace to have a really good season. His speed and some of the things he can do in the open field and his ability to block — he's a complete player. You put the ball up in the vicinity of him, and he's going to go up and get it."
Janus added that Studer is playing with one of his closest friends.
That person is his roommate, Keyser Helterbrand. A first-team all WIAC quarterback a year ago and like Studer a senior with one more year of eligibility after this one (due to COVID-19 wiping out the 2020 season), Helterbrand and Studer are quite the duo.
Their friendship has a lot to do with that.
"Having the connection off the field that we do, that helps," Studer said. "We're always by each other. We even had the same job this summer, working at Big Al's (restaurant) as servers."
They are on the same page and it has helped put Studer on a new plane.
It even has him thinking about what might be when his college days are done.
"Pro football interests me," Studer said. "I think if I keep working hard, I have a chance."