Jared Abbrederis was undecided on the Bible verse to use for the upcoming high school state football game (2008). He was thinking of going to his “go to” verse and the one he writes under his signature now as a professional football wide receiver for the Detroit Lions.
“My buddy, Garrett Bickford, and I always draw a cross on our arms with a marker,” states Abbrederis, “and write a meaningful verse underneath it. I was trying to figure out what verse I wanted for the game at state. Joshua 1:9, ‘Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed, for the Lord our God is with you wherever you go,’ was the verse I was thinking about, but I was not positive.”
He continues, “My Wautoma High School coach, Dennis Moon, is a Christian. I asked him, ‘do you have a good verse for this week?’ Coach replied, ‘Joshua 1:9.’ That made two people thinking of the same verse at the same time.”
Wautoma required the team to attend the first two classes on the day of the game before they were to be dismissed. “While sitting in class,” shares Jared, “the school mail lady came into class to give me an envelope which never happens. When I opened it, I found some community lady sent me a key chain with Joshua 1:9 inscribed on it. It was so cool to see how God works. That was really the first time I felt God really spoke to me.”
Jared remembers going into that game with so much confidence as Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous, do not fear.. for the Lord.. is with you..” He comments, “I had so much confidence and felt so free to play and enjoy the fun. Just knowing God spoke to me was so special. It is a pretty cool story, and we won the game!”
“I had to lean on the Lord.”
Abbrederis was born in West Allis, Wisconsin; but at age 4 his parents, Scott and Lisa, moved Jared and his sisters, Tanya and Maureen, to Wautoma, Wisconsin, in the central part of the state. Jared shares about his early spiritual experience, “I was blessed to grow up in a family that followed our Lord. I was taught about Jesus, and at age 4 I accepted Him as my Savior.” He continues, “My faith became real for me in high school. I had an injury in football that tested my faith. I really had to lean on the Lord and rely on his faithfulness to get me through it. That was when I really took the next step in my walk with the Lord.”
Jared graduated from Wautoma High School in 2009 with a load of athletic awards and recognition. He was a three-time letter winner in football as a quarterback and defensive back. He was recognized his senior year as first-team all-conference as a quarterback and defensive back, conference offensive player of the year, and Wisconsin Football Coaches Association first-team all-state quarterback. His exploits in track were just as impressive, being a two-time state champion and record holder of the 110 m hurdles and state champion in the 300 m hurdles as a senior. Jared was BFS Male National Athlete of the Year and Gatorade track athlete of the year as a senior. He also participated in wrestling.
A Walk-on for the Badgers
Upon graduation, Abbrederis enrolled into the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He did not receive an athletic scholarship, but he decided to be a walk-on for the Badger football team. Heading to Madison, Jared remembers a verse to live by that his father shared with him. Jared shares, “The verse my dad shared while I was in high school was 1st Samuel 2:30, ‘..those who honor Me, I will honor..’ This verse was important especially for an athlete who is often in the spotlight. I want to make sure I don’t take any glory for myself but to reflect it back to the Lord. Humility was something my dad instilled in me.”
The first semester at UW-Madison was the first time being away from a supporting community and good friends who were accountability partners that help keep each other on the right track. Jared had friends on the football team and on campus, but he really didn’t get involved in any church groups. “The first semester was a struggle for me,” explains Abbrederis, “Madison is a great place with a great university; but if you want to live your life for Christ, you have to make an effort to do that. I did not get involved in any Christian groups and I had slipped into the party scene. There was no one within the Christian community I was close with to keep me accountable.” He continues, “By the end of the first semester, I could feel there was something missing. I was not fulfilled nor did I have the love or joy I had when I was following Christ daily back home.”
The second semester Jared decided to reach out. He began to participate in college age ministries through Blackhawk Church in Middleton. He also got involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Athletes in Action (AIA), and Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU). He was going somewhere almost every night. This participation was the beginning that brought new life to his walk with the Lord.
A Special Night at Life Group
One evening Jared attended a Life Group, similar to a Bible study, with his friend, Ethan Armstrong. That night turned out to be a special night. “One night at Life Group I met a lady that grabbed my interest. The first night at Life Group you go around introducing yourself and sharing a little of your story and how you got to where you are. I remember this lady (Rachel Otto) saying she had figured out how she would come to Madison to find a job. She said she prayed about it and felt Madison is where God wanted her to be. I was impressed!” On the way to campus, Jared told Ethan he was going to marry Rachel. Two years later, May 26, 2012, Jared and Rachel were married. They have been blessed with a 2 ½-year-old daughter, Kenzie, and they are now expecting their second child. They make Wautoma their off-season home, for now, and they worship at Waushara Community Church.
Jared and Rachel stayed involved with Life Groups as well as AIA and FCA through their college years. He had opportunities to share his faith at events (golf, church, camps) and speaking engagements. He comments, “Witnessing is what every believer tries to do. I always believed I can show my faith best through my actions, hoping others might see my actions which may lead to conversations. That allows me to share my faith without others feeling I am pushing my faith on them. My hope is others might see Christ living in me.”
Jared’s accomplishments for the Badgers is incredible considering he was a walk-on. As a senior, he won the Burlsworth Trophy, which recognizes an accomplished player who began his college career as a walk on. He finished his Badger career tied for the Badgers all time reception record of 202 receptions. He also has the single-season most receptions at 78, the highest average per kickoff return for career at 25.8 yards, and the most kickoff return yards in a game with 201 yards versus Oregon on January 2, 2012.
Abbrederis felt one of his biggest accomplishments was being a walk-on who earned a scholarship from his performance that resulted in receiving the Burlsworth Trophy. By the end of his sophomore year (2011), Jared achieved the remarkable feat of being rewarded with an athletic scholarship for his final two years at Wisconsin. He became one of the better receivers in the Big Ten. Jared points out to another college highlight, “Probably the biggest memory in college was going against a pretty good Ohio State team and putting up some pretty good yardage, 10 receptions for 207 yards. It was a ‘pretty cool’ night on the big stage.”
The FCA campus director at UW Madison and the Madison area, Steve Collins, shares, “I met Jared when he joined the University of Wisconsin football program as a freshman walk-on. While a freshman he volunteered himself to be a guest speaker at a high school for an event hosted by the FCA Huddle. I found him to be humble, genuine, and transparent in talking with the students who were enthralled by his compelling personal story of faith in Christ. Jared was an integral part of what would become the first FCA team study group on the UW campus. Though Jared had achieved individual acclaim on a national level, his core identity and personality remained unchanged. He had certainly grown and matured as an athlete and man and as a follower of Christ.”
Drafted in the NFL in the Fifth Round
Abbrederis graduated from UW-Madison in 2014 with a bachelor of science degree in the school of human ecology and family studies. He was drafted in the fifth round (176th overall) by the Green Bay Packers. Jared was excited to be drafted by the NFL team he supported growing up. His first season was ruined by an injury that cost him the whole season. The 2015 season was an “on again, off again” year, but he did have some quality games. The 2016 season was cut short because of injuries, and the Packers and Jared mutually parted ways. During this off-season with his injuries healed and feeling healthy, Jared signed with the Detroit Lions.
Jared felt being drafted was a huge accomplishment because one needs to consider the number of guys trying to get drafted with so few positions available. Jared considered a highlight as a professional when the Packers played Arizona in a playoff game where he played a ton of snaps and felt he contributed to the team. He comments, “I finally played consecutive snaps consistently during the game where I felt I contributed to the team. It was fun, and it reminded me of times in college where I was in most every snap and consistently contributed to the team.” Jared had six receptions for 69 yards (11.5 yards average) for that game.
Bradie Ewing, former Badger teammate and retired NFL player, has this to say about Jared Abbrederis, “Jared’s faith and relationship with Christ is evident in all aspects of his life and continues to motivate and inspire me along with others around him. From his role as a father and husband, to his involvement in the community, or his opportunity to play in the NFL, he has continued to find his identity, strength, and value in Christ through it all. I’m personally very thankful to call him a friend and a brother in Christ!”
“God means everything to me,” states Jared, “and I can’t imagine going through life without knowing my Lord, Jesus Christ. Having faith in Him allows one the freedom to really live and not worry so much. I know God has a plan for me, and He will put me where He wants me. I have been blessed and am truly thankful for all God has given me.”
Written by Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, WI
Photos by Detroit Lions and David Spluka, Wisconsin Badgers