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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Poker decides between Pitt, Wisconsin

By Jared Shanker

Ocomonowoc (Wis.) senior Zach Poker spoke to Wisconsin on Wednesday morning. Later that morning, Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst was in the high school. By Wednesday afternoon, Poker had a decision.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound tight end/linebacker committed to the Panthers as a scholarship athlete over a walk-on opportunity with the Badgers.

“I heard from [Wisconsin] this morning," Poker said, "but I committed to Pitt."

Poker officially visited Pittsburgh this weekend and added an offer while on the visit. He also held FBS offers from Air Force and Syracuse.

“The visit went well,” Poker said Wednesday night. “I got to see the city of Pittsburgh and meet the coaching staff and current players. It seemed like it was a cool city to be in.”

The Panthers coaches want Poker as a strongside linebacker, but they have not ruled out playing offense. Poker is willing to play either but admits he prefers offense, which is where Wisconsin was going to use him.

“They want a person who is out of the box and a moving linebacker,” Poker said, “and I’m a more agile person.”

Poker liked the idea of staying close to home and playing at Wisconsin but was not willing to go as a walk-on. He said Wednesday if the Badgers did not offer a full scholarship he would move on. The conversation last night was not going in the direction Poker hoped for, so he committed to Chryst less than 24 hours later.

He planned a decision once he found out where he stood with Wisconsin and said he would sign with Pitt if the Badgers were not an option. He was not interested in Air Force or Syracuse.

Poker plans to major in engineering, which was also a big factor in his decision.

“The education, they’re ranked high in engineering,” Ocomonowoc coach Ryan McMillen said.