When you think of Wisconsin, you think of Wisconsin football. When football players think of Wisconsin, they think of a history of excellence that has been achieved by those who came before them, and a set of behaviors that are expected from all players.
For quarterback Alex Hornibrook, being a Badger means being a hard-worker, especially if you want to see your name on the screen in Camp Randall. For a school that has produced many great quarterbacks, being a hard-worker is definitely a skill that you need to get noticed in this football town.
“[Being a Badger means] being a part of a tradition of hard-working,blue collar guys,” Hornibrook said. “They’re all guys that nothing is given to them, they’re just working for it.”
Being a hard-worker is a necessity if you want to be a Badger, and Hornibrook’s statement was backed up by his teammate Chris Orr. Orr said that if you don’t want to work when you play for this team, it will be noticed, and you will stick out like a sore thumb.
“Everybody here is a hard worker,” Orr said. “And it’s going to stand out here if you’re lazy. That’s the biggest characteristic you need to have.”
Orr, who hails from the great state of Texas, also knows that being a Badger is a truly unique opportunity. While the Badgers might be the only Division 1 football team in the state, back in Orr’s home state there are a grand total 18 Division I schools, all of whom fight for fan ship with one another.
Orr was surprised at not only the number of people that he has rooting for him now that he is a Badger, but just how far the Badger community stretches across the country. Orr remembers getting congratulatory remarks for Wisconsin fans in Texas after he signed his notice of intent.
With so many fans supporting him, Orr knows that it is up to him and his team to ensure that fans have something to cheer for. One of the things that Orr is always thinking about is ensuring that fans have a team that they can be proud of, whether they are in Madison or elsewhere in the country.
“We’re the only DI football program in the state,” Orr said. “Everybody is rooting for the Badgers. It’s crazy because everybody is watching you and you don’t want to let them down.”
So, along with being a hard-worker, a new Badger must also be dedicated to their fans, and guarantee that Wisconsinites always have a good football team to support. There can’t be much more to being a Badger, can there?
According to one of the newest Badgers Jonathan Taylor, there are still three things missing from this list that truly define a Wisconsin player and separate them from the rest. Even though he is still in his first year with Wisconsin, Taylor stated that you have to be three things if you want to go to UW — smart, tough and dependable.
“They want guys that are smart and about their studies,” Taylor said. “They want guys to be tough, we’re a tough football team and we want to be one of the most physical teams in the country. Everyone wants to be dependable that shows how high your character is that someone can trust you day in and day out.”
All of these characteristics are a good starting point, but there is something that has still been missing until now. When you join Wisconsin football, you’re joining a band of brothers, who agree to have your back through thick and thin as long as you do the same for them.
Take it from Joe Ferguson, who has been playing with his family for four years. Ferguson, the grandson of Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and the brother of Jake Ferguson, said that his family grew when he came to Wisconsin in more ways than he could have ever imagined.
While Ferguson is playing with his brother this year, and has his grandfather to go and talk to whenever he wants, he also has a slough of other players that he can call family. To him, Wisconsin is the ultimate support system that teaches you valuable life lessons, helping you grow both as a player and as a person.
“Playing for Wisconsin feels like you’re playing for something bigger than yourself,” Ferguson said. “It is a life experience where pretty much any life lesson you can learn you have the ability to learn it here.
Along with gaining new family members, Wisconsin has also helped Ferguson to strengthen his relationships with his family members off the field. With three members of the Ferguson/Alvarez family at UW, they are finding that football is a good way to strengthen the bond amongst all of them.
“It’s different,” Ferguson said. “It feels like [his brother Jake] has just become one of my teammates now, and my teammates have become like my brothers. Obviously I’ve known Jake [and Alvarez] my whole life, but having my grandpa and my brother here makes those relationships even stronger.”
So, to recap, in order to be a Wisconsin football player you have to be: hard-working, dedicated, smart, confident, tough, a good brother, dependable, family-oriented and so much more. All in all, in order to wear a Wisconsin jersey, you have to be the best of the best, the highest caliber of player and man that you can be.
Anyone who has ever played for the Badgers can stand proudly, knowing that by calling themselves a Badger they are telling the world that they are some of the best men out there, and have created a legacy that will never die.