MADISON – Bart Houston has finally been rewarded for his perseverance.
The once highly touted signal caller will make his first start for Wisconsin when the Badgers open the season against No.5 LSU next Saturday at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, getting the nod over redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook.
“I felt that Bart did everything he needed to do to earn the right to get the start,” head coach Paul Chryst said on a video released on Wisconsin football's official Twitter account. “I was also energized by what Alex did. I love the way he grew in fall camp. Both need to continue to keep growing. I wanted to get it done as we begin our preparations for LSU and let everyone know where we were at with it. I’m excited to go forward now.”
Originally recruited by Chryst in 2012 when the head coach was the team’s offensive coordinator, Houston struggled as a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore in former head coach Gary Andersen’s offense but maintained his desire to remain with the program.
When Chryst returned last season and then-starter Joel Stave went down with a head injury, Houston performed well in his first major game action, completing 66.7 percent of his passes (22-for-33) for 232 yards and two touchdowns in a road win over Illinois.
In addition to his powerful arm, Houston’s ability to move into a leadership role was something that helped teammates gravitate to him in the offseason.
“Being the backup guy, Joel had all the guys coming to him to ask him questions,” Houston said at the beginning of camp. “It’s easier for him to get to know the guys. I’m not a very vocal guy, a more lead-by-actions guy, so it came a little harder for me. Now that I’m in the position I am, guys are coming to me and asking me questions that need to be asked. It’s just me answering them instead of the old guy.”
With UW low on scholarship quarterbacks, Hornibrook was Houston's only competition through the two-plus weeks of camp. Having been through four camps with Chryst and the staff after enrolling in January 2015, Hornibrook matched or surpassed Houston in many of the practices that were open to the media.
“One thing I was impressed with was the way Bart and Alex approached camp, and I thought they both got better,” Chryst said. “One of our key goals was to make sure that both were ready to play this season. Not just play but to be able to win with them playing. I felt both did that. As a team they are no different than the group. We still have a long ways to go.”