When Nolan Groulx committed to Wisconsin’s football program Jan. 28 during an unofficial campus visit, it marked the culmination of a yearlong courtship of the highly coveted wide receiver. Groulx developed a strong relationship with Badgers receivers coach Ted Gilmore and was convinced Gilmore would help elevate his game as part of a special recruiting class.
But in the ensuing months, Groulx and his family began having reservations about sticking with the Badgers. As a result, he tweeted his de-commitment from Wisconsin on Wednesday night.
“When I committed, we were fully committed to Wisconsin,” Groulx told Land of 10 late Wednesday. “Over time, stuff just started to play out where we thought it wasn’t the best decision. Probably the last three weeks, me and my family have been talking about it a lot. We just thought we’d make the decision now to just open my recruitment back up.”
Groulx said he informed Gilmore, as well as running backs coach John Settle and director of player personnel Saeed Khalif, of his decision Wednesday.
“I called Coach Gilmore up and wanted to be straightforward with him and be straightforward with the staff that I just wanted to de-commit and try to do it formally in a way that they would respect and understand,” Groulx said.
“It was very difficult for me. Me and my family had built a great relationship with not only Coach Gilmore but the whole staff from going up there. The way they treated me the whole time, we built a great relationship. So it was obviously very difficult to tell them.”
Groulx, a 3-star prospect from Cornelius, N.C., is rated as the No. 19 player in North Carolina and the No. 63 receiver in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports composite. He has been a standout receiver for two different pass-heavy high schools. As a sophomore at Davidson Day, he caught 108 passes for 1,853 yards with 24 touchdowns. He transferred to Hough High School and finished his junior season with 75 catches for 1,101 yards and 8 touchdowns to earn all-conference honors.
Groulx said that Wisconsin’s wide receiver depth wasn’t a factor in his decision but did say that “style of offense definitely played a role in it.”
“I think that was always — concern is not the right word — but if it was always going to be the right fit for who he is,” Hough football coach Matt Jenkins told Land of 10. “I think a lot of things that Wisconsin has to offer really trumped a lot of those decisions that were going for him. But the family continued to talk about the situation.
“In reality, it’s a business decision that they’re making because that’s what it is. Any kid that looks at it differently is crazy. In a business decision, you’ve ultimately got to do what’s right for the company. When you look at yourself as the company, he kind of felt like there may be some others out there that fit his skill set and his company a little bit better.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Groulx earned wide receiver MVP honors last month at the Nike Elite 11 regional in Charlotte. Groulx said he has been in contact recently with Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Texas A&M. He indicated the fact so many other programs had remained in contact with him was not a reason for his de-commitment.
“If I wanted to go to Wisconsin, that was going to be my school and it didn’t really matter if anybody else was recruiting me,” Groulx said.
It is worth noting, however, that all of the schools to contact him recently other than Texas A&M are within a 4-hour drive of Groulx’s hometown.
“I really think location had something to do with it a little bit,” Jenkins said. “I can tell you this: It was nothing Wisconsin did that I know of. At the end of the day, Nolan’s a great kid who’s decided to do what he thinks is right for himself and his future.”
Nolan Groulx’s junior season highlights
Jenkins said that communication from other schools inquiring about Groulx “never stopped,” even after he committed to Wisconsin.
“Nobody stops recruiting anybody,” Jenkins said. “Anybody that tells you otherwise is not telling the truth. They call and keep recruiting until the end because kids change all the time and situations change all the time.”
Groulx initially picked Wisconsin over scholarship offers from N.C. State, Central Michigan, Duke, Elon, James Madison, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and West Virginia. He earned an offer from Wisconsin on March 27, 2017, and visited the school in June. The Badgers quickly became a front-runner in his recruitment.
He had hoped to return for Wisconsin’s regular-season home finale against Michigan on Nov. 18, but his high school team was busy making a deep playoff run. Groulx didn’t visit again until late January when he committed, one day after safety Bryson Shaw (Potomac, Md.) picked the Badgers while on a campus visit.
Coincidentally, Groulx and Shaw have both de-committed from Wisconsin in the last two weeks. Shaw de-committed from Wisconsin on April 28 and picked Ohio State the same day.
“The coaching staff was great to me,” Groulx said. “Coach Gilmore, Coach [Paul] Chryst, along with all the commits were what really kept me committed there. But it was just the best decision for me and my family as of right now to open my recruitment back up. Nothing against Wisconsin at all. I still love the school, and it’s a great program.”
Wisconsin now has seven players committed in the class and has fallen to No. 19 in the 247Sports composite team rankings for the 2019 class. The Badgers cracked the top 5 for the better part of the last several months. They have never finished a recruiting cycle ranked higher than No. 30 in the 247Sports composite system.
Wisconsin still has one player committed in the class who could begin his career at wide receiver. Marcus Graham, a dual-threat quarterback from Mount Holly, N.C., is an athlete who is being considered at either receiver or defensive back. The early signing period is still seven months away, which means if the Badgers want to pursue another receiver, they have the time to find one.
“It’s a 17-year-old kid trying to make a life decision,” Jenkins said. “He’s a smart kid who’s really kind of thought through the whole process. What I commend him on is figuring out early enough that Wisconsin has a chance to go on and find somebody who’s right for them.
“It’s early enough in the process for both parties to move on to what they think is right for each, and it’s not a last-second type of thing. I think at the end of the day, since it’s done early enough, both sides can say, ‘Hey, at least it was done the right way.’”