Giving Back to Madison as a Red Shirt Walk-On
Written by Zak Showalter, Senior Commercial Banking Associate
My dad teases me all the time about how much I love Madison. He’s right, I do. When I came here in the summer of 2012, I fell in love with this place. It was always my dream to play basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for Coach Ryan, but I didn’t fully understand all the amazing things UW and the city of Madison had to offer. From the first-class education, to the sports, to the lakes, to my future fiancée (an added bonus!) — what more could a person ask for? I will remember and cherish my time at UW for the rest of my life — it was incredible.
I loved being a Badger and representing the city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin every time I walked out on to the court. Even though I had scholarship offers at other universities, the reputation and values of Wisconsin made becoming a Badger walk-on my dream come true. I would have loved to stay forever, but unfortunately, the NCAA only allows athletes four years of eligibility. Transitioning from student-athlete playing Big Ten basketball in front of 15,000+ fans twice a week to a professional career in business can be extremely challenging. I admit — it hasn’t always been easy for me. At the university, our student-athlete development staff lectured us regularly that 99% of college athletes will go pro in something other than sports. I took that to heart and really focused on getting the most out of my education.
My junior year, I took a class called “Bank Management 410” with Professor Jim Johannes to fulfill one of my finance requirements. He often promoted commercial banking as a rewarding and challenging career that provides the opportunity to be involved in the community and help local businesses grow. This was music to my ears, and exactly the type of career I imagined for myself. Through the help of many involved with UW Athletics, conversations with friends and family, and self-reflection, my move to the “next chapter” has been as seamless as possible.
Madison has done so much for me and now I want to return the favor. The connections I’ve made with the people in this city bring me so much joy and pride. I want to help Madison grow and continue to meet people in the community who are passionate about providing goods and services that help people.
One of the greatest benefits of being a collegiate athlete are the friends and teammates that you work with each day to achieve a common goal. During my five years at UW, I developed friendships with people that I will value my whole life. The challenges you deal with together, whether overcoming “The Hill” during preseason conditioning, dealing with a tough loss, or just making it through that late February practice, encourage a bond that’s stronger than most people ever experience in their lives.
That’s why one of the first things I looked for in a company when I began my job search was a place where I could experience a bond with my colleagues that replicated what I had with my basketball teammates. I found it at First Business. I value the opportunities the company offers to really give back to the city I love so dearly. In our line of work, we’re helping businesses on a daily basis that, in turn, help the people of Madison. First Business also encourages its employees to volunteer in the community, again making a real difference every day. The values First Business embraces and its reputation give me the same feeling of joining something bigger than myself, and the joy of taking pride in the name on the front of my jersey. Except that logo is now on my coffee mug and pen.
Today I view myself as a redshirt walk-on again, and that’s fine by me. I have a lot to learn and improve, but I know with a motivated team, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to with persistence, dedication, and hard work.