Ready for Launch

In his first interview since joining the University of Wisconsin football team, freshman quarterback Bart Houston talks about his rehab, his improvement during his redshirt year and his desire to not waste any team competing for the starting quarterback job.

LOS ANGELES – For a quarterback the caliber of Bart Houston to be told not to run, throw or do anything strenuous with a football for over five months is as close to purgatory as a four-star athlete from San Francisco's De La Salle High School could get.

But for a kid, who grew up in California, to spend New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl, it's football heaven, especially since it's a game that kicks off his campaign to be the 2013 opening day starter.

"As soon as the clock goes 0:00, I'm focused on starting," said Houston. "I may relax for a bit but after that it's back to the film room and to my high school to work out."

Never wavering from his early commitment to Wisconsin, Houston – one of the top prep quarterbacks in the 2012 class who picked Wisconsin over numerous high-profile scholarship offers – didn't come halfway across the country with the idea of sitting on the bench from day one.

Ranked by Scout as the No. 7 quarterback in the country, Houston holds school records for career passing yards and completions, completing 62.2 percent of his passes over his career for 5,178 yards and 46 touchdowns. More important than his numbers was his success as a leader, going 38-1 during a three year career that all ended with a state championship.

Houston was a long shot to play this season, but was taken out of the mix after a pre-college exam revealed a torn labrum in his right shoulder. To make matters more complicated, a cyst formed on the injury that helped Houston to not tear his labrum worse but not heal the problem.

"It sucks to sit on the sideline and watch, especially the past couple years when I've been the guy and been the one playing and everything" said Houston, who was medically cleared to start light throwing in late October. "Rehab has been going great. I am finally done with it although I go in two times a week to get (the shoulder) checked out."

Through workouts during bowl practices, Houston has responding favorably to the added stress put on his shoulder. Although he couldn't do upper body workouts during the early portions of his rehab, Houston spent the summer eliminating the fat from his frame, building leg strength and adding at least 10 pounds of muscle to increase his weight to 225 pounds on his 6-4 frame.

He has also benefited during the season from being included in the team meetings and being trusted to call in quarterback signals during home games; a role he will also have in Tuesday's Rose Bowl against No.8 Stanford.

"If feels great to be a football player again instead of just working on the treadmill," said Houston. "I got to feel like an actual part of the team instead of being a guy that is just sitting there.

"It's been great watching three quarterbacks and how they perform on and off the field as the starter this year. Danny O'Brien has a great football I.Q., Joel Stave is a playmaker and my mentor and Curt Phillips is mentally strong. My intelligence has gone from level one to level 100 because of them."

Being a part of the game plan and knowing the calls will be an added benefit to Houston starting in the spring. Although Wisconsin is expected to have the three quarterbacks who started games this year return to the fold, Houston says playing for a new offensive coordinator next season will "level the playing field" and give him an opportunity to shine in spring practices.

"A lot of guys have either got experience or a lot of reps in this offense when I haven't, so (a new offense) will level out the depth chart and give me a chance," said Houston. "The starting job is always open for a competitor like me. I am going to go in, work my butt off and try to win it."

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