Hornibrook takes center stage at Wisconsin

Dan Malloy

Malvern alumnus earned the starting QB job at Wisconsin, and the Badgers are rolling.

Not many high school quarterbacks get a chance to start in college, let alone lead a top football powerhouse as a redshirt freshman. But Alex Hornibrook ’15 has that exact opportunity.

Alex Hornibrook is the starting quarterback for the University of Wisconsin Badgers football team, ranked #11 in the nation as of the Week 9 AP rankings. However, it was not an easy road for him to gain the starting job.

Hornibrook redshirted his freshman year at Wisconsin. After former starter, Joel Stave, graduated last year, the door was open for Hornibrook. In his way was a fifth-year senior Bart Houston. Bart beat Hornibrook out initially after an intense quarterback competition in the offseason. Houston started the first three games, but in Week 3 against Georgia State, Hornibrook got his shot.

“I got in against Georgia State in the second half and then I got the start the week after,” Hornibrook said.

That first start came against a tough opponent: Michigan State, ranked top ten in the nation. But Hornibrook was ready. He led Wisconsin to a 30-6 win, propelling them into the top-ten rankings. Hornibrook said that he is excited about the opportunity to quarterback a top team in just his first few starts.  

“It’s a pretty cool deal,” Hornibrook said. “When you are playing, you aren’t really thinking about it but to have this opportunity is pretty special.”

Life at Wisconsin is going well for him so far, but he was not always a Badger. As reported previously by the Blackfriar Chronicle, Hornibrook was initially committed to the University of Pittsburgh during his junior year but switched to go to the University of Wisconsin during January of his senior year.

“I saw it as a better opportunity for me,” he said.

Hornibrook still keeps in close contact with his former coaches at Malvern, like Head Football Coach Aaron Brady who was hired Hornibrook’s senior year.

“I would say we talk once a month, you know, just to check in,” Brady said. “I talk to all my players, definitely before the season, just to stay in touch with them.”

Quarterbacks coach Sam Mora met Hornibrook during his junior year at Malvern. He works out with Hornibrook every offseason at Malvern Prep. They work on a lot of “tracking” drills, meaning to track down a receiver from across the field.

“The biggest thing I like working on with Alex is when the play breaks down, the ability to extend plays because he is a really good athlete,” Mora said. “There is just certain ways you should extend and use your entire system when you make throws.”

Over the years of knowing Alex, Mora said the biggest strength Alex has is between his ears.

“He never gets too high or too low,” Mora said. “He is kind of a cool dude, he doesn’t get in his own head at all.”

Brady said that Hornibrook is similar to his former quarterback at Gonzaga, Kevin Hogan.

“He had the same kind of personality,” Brady said. “He wasn’t a loud guy, but when he had to be loud, he was loud. When he needed to take charge he took charge, but he wasn’t a natural loud guy off the field. He was more quiet and reserved.”

Brady always knew that Hornibrook would have success coming from his Malvern background.

“He’s a very hard worker, he cares about the details, and he cares about the other people around him,” Brady said. “I think that’s one thing that Malvern builds in our community is, you know, to be selfless and to care about the people around you.”

As both a Distinguished Honors student and a standout athlete while at Malvern, Brady said that all Malvern students can learn from him.

“He did it in all facets of his life,” Brady said. “You know, he was a really good student, diligent, he was a sponge in the classroom and worked hard. He obviously did the same thing in the football arena, he studied a lot of film, worked at his craft all the time.”

Along with his Malvern background, Mora credited Brady’s arrival as a factor in Hornibrook making it on the college level.

“I think Coach Brady coming in his senior year and switching from running the wing T actually got him to throw the ball around a little bit,” Mora said. “He had good coaching growing up.”

Hornibrook said that his family has always supported him in whatever he does.

“They’ve been real supportive,” Hornibrook said. “My parents have always supported me in sports, playing baseball, basketball, football when I was younger. When I decided to play football my sophomore year of high school, they had my back and have always supported me.”

Along with his parents, Alex’s brother Jake Hornibrook ’19 always tries to keep in touch with him  and go to his games. He is amazed at his brother’s success.

“It’s pretty awesome seeing my brother playing out there,” Hornibrook said. “It’s crazy to think about that he’s playing against some of the best teams in the country.”  

 The Hornibrook family as a whole has had their share of athletic success. Alex’s father played football for Temple University, Jake Hornibrook plays for the Malvern varsity football team, and Jake and Alex’s uncle, Ben Davis, played in the MLB for seven years. However, Mora said that they have done a good job of keeping the pressure off of Hornibrook during his rise in football.

“I think that they are a football family,” Mora said. “I think they’ve done a good job with him not pressuring him too much but telling him to play football.”

Hornibrook hopes to lead his team to the ultimate goal in college football, the College Football Playoff. However, he wants to focus on each game at a time.

“That is something that we can’t really control,” Hornibrook said. “Winning the games that we are playing and hopefully we are putting ourselves in a good enough spot at the end of the season.”

Brady said that although college football is tough, he thinks that Hornibrook can handle it.

“You know, it’s a full time job, there’s high expectations, and it’s competitive,” Brady said. “You go from being the big guy on campus to college where everyone is recruited to be there. You have to compete everyday.”

In terms of future goals for his career in college football and the NFL, Hornibrook is more focused on letting the journey take him as far as it goes.

“I’m not looking too far ahead,” Hornibrook said. “I’m just preparing week by week and trying to do the best I can.”