Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football: Hornibrook takes unusual route to Madison, shines early in spring ball

Jason Chan

Never in a million years did Alex Hornibrook picture himself at University of Wisconsin.

Over the course of a week in December 2014, though, Hornibrook’s life took a dramatic turn – leading him to the Wisconsin football team.

It started when Gary Andersen jettisoned from Madison to Oregon State, vacating the head coaching position at Wisconsin. Now-head coach Paul Chryst took that job two weeks later, bringing with him a three-star quaterback recruit: Alex Hornibrook.


Hornibook had been committed to Chryst and his Pittsburgh team for years, but when Chryst knew he was going to take the job at Wisconsin, he called Hornibrook to encourage him to follow along.

One of Chryst’s requirements was that Hornibrook had to visit campus before making his final decision. Now, he looks into the vacant yet vast expanses of the bleachers at Camp Randall Stadium on an April day that’s a tad too cold for a teenager with East Coast roots, and tries to put his journey becoming a Badger into words.

“Coming out to see the school was a big part of it,” Hornibrook said. “After I was here on the visit I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

Hornibrook said he fell in love with the campus and felt particularly attracted to the academics Wisconsin has to offer (he intends on majoring within the business school).

Hornibrook comes from an athletic family. His dad, Jeff, played defensive end at Temple from 1983-86 and his uncle, Ben Davis, was the No. 2 overall pick in the MLB draft in 1995.

Coming out of high school, Hornibrook received a three-star recruiting ranking from sites like Scout, 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals. The West Chester, Pennsylvania native had a record setting senior season, throwing for 2,156 yards and 26 touchdowns. He finished as the all-time leader in those categories at his high school, Malverne Prep, with 3,356 passing yards and 36 touchdowns.

Hornibrook knew he’d have his work cut out for him to compete for playing time on a team with a stacked depth chart and an established starter in fifth-year senior Joel Stave, including a slew of backups like Bart Houston and D.J. Gillins waiting in the wings.

So, like his fellow freshman quarterback Austin Kaftenzis, Hornibrook decided to enroll early and headed to Madison in January to participate in spring football practices.

He’s taken every opportunity and made the most of it, earning increased repetitions with every workout.

“I’m just trying to be the best that I can be,” Hornibrook said.

“The coaches always talk about making the most of my repetitions and earning more, and that’s what I’ve been doing so far.”

The coach that brought him to Camp Randall has been impressed.

“About repepitions, I think he’s earned the right for some,” Chryst said. “I think he’s done a nice job learning the ‘what’ to do.

“He’s earned the right for some opportunities, and when he gets them, I think he’s done some good things with them.”

In team repetitions at the conclusion of practice on Sunday, Hornibrook earned one series, going 5-for-5 for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Chryst compared Hornibrook to Stave in the sense that both enrolled early to learn the offense, which can be a daunting task, Stave said. They’re both also traditional, pro-style pocket passers. But Stave has also seen promise in the young, lefty gunslinger.

“I think, most importantly, he’s just done a good job learning the offense,” Stave said. “If you’re confident in what you know, it leads to a lot more confident play.”

That confidence stems from a driven work ethic. Hornibrook said his goal is to be the best he can be, and to be the best he knows he has to put in the hours – something Chryst said he’s seen continually throughout his relationship with him. He remembered meeting with Hornibrook at camps while he was the head coach at Pitt, where he first noticed the quarterback’s approach.

“He’s a worker. I think he’s a bit of a gym-rat,” Chryst said. “Those qualities I like. As you watch him in competition, he competes, but he plays within himself.”

That’s not to say Hornibrook is unaware of the competition. In the age of social media, he knew about the hype in Madison surrounding the arrival of Kaftenzis. Hornibrook sees that as an opportunity to fly under the radar, something he enjoys.

“I kind of liked coming in unnoticed,” Hornibrook said. “I don’t mind if that hype doesn’t surround me, it gives me a better chance to focus and do my job.”

After a few solid practices though, the focus has shifted to this once-unknown, big lefty from Pennsylvania. Who would’ve thought?

Definitely not Alex Hornibrook.

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