Plymouth offensive lineman has been attracting some big-time college looks, but he’ll need a good senior year to lock down offers
By Greg Bates
With each punishing block, Evan Ladwig is attracting more and more college scouts.
Schools such as LSU, Texas Tech, Iowa and Iowa State have taken notice of the powerful senior-to-be offensive lineman from Plymouth (Wisconsin) High School.
“He really blossomed into an amazing offensive lineman last year,” Plymouth football coach Dan Knaus said. “Big, physical kid that plays with good tenacity and toughness.”
Ladwig is a solid run blocker as well as good pass blocker.
“There’s really nothing I feel like I can’t do,” Ladwig said.
At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds he has the prototypical size that the state of Wisconsin is known to produce.
“I think for sure it doesn’t hurt that you’re a high school Wisconsin lineman,” Knaus said. “I think college coaches from around the Midwest are always sniffing here to look and see who we have and understand that Wisconsin produces very, very quality offensive linemen, and I think that helps in his recruiting for sure.”
Said Ladwig: “In my opinion, I’m just more physical. I don’t let anyone and I don’t want anyone to be more physical than me. I play with good form. I’ve got the drive and I’ve just got a high motor. I’m quick.”
Growing up on a farm in Cascade, Wisconsin, Ladwig has developed a lot of his strength from tossing hay bails and working with heavy equipment. He has that “farm strong” mentally, benching nearly 300 pounds and squatting 425.
“As a coach, that’s what you kind of dream of with your offensive linemen being, farm kids that have grown up with hard work and toughness and little things don’t affect them because they’ve lived it their whole life,” Knaus said. “Maybe they’re not weight room strong kid, but their strength is from different things and they didn’t lift weights until they were a sophomore in high school. But they’re stronger than everybody in the weight room because of lifting hay bales and whatever else they might have done on the farm.”
With his big frame and long wing span, Ladwig has the size of a tackle. However, in Plymouth’s offensive system, Knaus likes his best lineman at guard.
“He’s one of our most athletic lineman, and we do a lot with our guards pulling, so we have him there,” Knaus said. “Our tackles don’t have to be as agile as he is.”
Knaus sees Ladwig as a tackle in college. His coach feels Ladwig’s game translates well to the next level.
“I think he’s big, physical strong kid. He’s got great leverage because of wrestling background,” Knaus said. “I think all of those things will benefit him at the next level.”
Ladwig has always used his size to dominate his opponents. He started playing football in fifth grade, and by seventh grade, he was lining up against eighth-grade players and showing them a thing or two.
“I knew at that point I kind of had something going,” Ladwig said. “At my eighth-grade graduation when my high school coach came up to me and says, ‘You’re probably going to be on JV if not varsity this next year.’ I knew that I had potential and what people saw in me.”
As a freshman, Ladwig was a starter on the Plymouth junior varsity squad and traveled with the varsity for every game. He earned some spot playing time in his first season. The next year, Ladwig was plugged into the varsity starting lineup at offensive guard and he saw some time on the defensive line. Last year as a junior, Ladwig started on both sides of the ball.
He was recognized as honorable mention all-state, first-team all-area, all-region, first-team all-conference and conference lineman of the year.
Ladwig felt he made huge strides from sophomore to junior year.
“I just realized what the potential I had, so I just started lifting weights and I actually ended up joining wrestling because everyone was telling me that’s what a lot of good football players do to help (themselves),” Ladwig said.
Ladwig wanted to become a better athlete, so he joined the Plymouth wrestling team as a sophomore.
In his first season wrestling heavyweight, Ladwig joined the team late and came up just one win short of state. He wasn’t going to be denied as a junior. A top-10 ranked wrestler in Division 2, Ladwig won a sectional title to advance to state. He lost his only two matches at state to finish his campaign with a 36-11 record.
Competing in wrestling has made Ladwig quicker in all phases, which has helped him on the football field.
His he’s been cooped up inside for the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ladwig has been training hard. With a ½ weight room in his house, be keeps busy working out five to six days a week, lifting, jumping rope and running.
With the coronavirus all but shutting down in-person recruiting and campus visits, that’s really impacted Ladwig and how his recruiting is going.
“I think it really effected Evan, because he’s kind of late into the game a little bit being it started so early with recruiting now,” Knaus said. “This was the summer he was going to get out and showcase himself on these college campus and get to compete against other kids at their recruiting and really show his worth, and he didn’t get that opportunity.”
Knaus has high goals for his final season at Plymouth when all eyes will be on him.
“I take pride in being the best player I can be and the best player in the state or conference or whatever it is,” Ladwig said. “So, hopefully get that conference lineman of the year, that all-region. Instead of being honorable mention, I want to be all-state both sides of the ball and hopefully lock up a couple Division I offers.”
Ladwig knows how important his performance on the field will be in his final high school season.
“I really hope everything eventually works out,” Ladwig said. “It kind of sucks because this was my opportunity to go out and meet new coaches and coaching staffs and different schools and go on these visits and explore possible options.”
Right now, Ladwig has offers from a number of Division II colleges: Concordia-St. Paul, Southwest Minnesota State, the University of Minnesota Duluth, Upper Iowa and Minnesota State Mankato.
But the bigger schools are knocking. Ladwig has been in close contact with Iowa State, Northern Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota. Iowa was interested, but it has already filled the offensive linemen protocol for its 2021 recruiting class. According to Midwest Collegiate Prospects owner Jon Larson, LSU and Texas Tech are among Power 5 schools showing interest.
“I’m just kind of keeping my options open,” Ladwig said. “Right now, I’m looking at who’s giving me their honest opinion. Who’s giving me the looks and who’s making the connections. I personally haven’t talked to Wisconsin.”
Ladwig was told by a Northern Illinois coach that if some schools had a player on their list before the pandemic hit but hadn’t seen them yet in person that they might be off the list.
How well Ladwig plays and how consistent he is during his senior season will be critical.
“A lot of recruiters have told me they haven’t evaluated senior tape in so long just because of how recruiting has went,” Knaus said. “But now they’re kind of excited they get to evaluate senior film again.”
Ladwig and Knaus recently had a text conversation in which Knaus said Ladwig might be getting overlooked by some coaches just because he hasn’t been able to get in-person visits at colleges.
“He said, ‘I’m going to prove them all wrong and I’m going to show them on my senior film. I’m going to play like a beast and they’re all going to see,’” Knaus said. “He’s motivated for sure.”