Baby Badger: Bart Houston

Bart Houston
6’4″, 201 pounds
De La Salle High School
Concord, Calif.

— 4 Stars, No. 8 QB
247 Sports — 4 Stars, No. 6 QB
Rivals — 3 Stars, No. 11 QB
ESPN — 4 Stars, No. 14 QB

The Wisconsin Badgers made a lot of headlines recently with the addition of Russell Wilson, but another big-name quarterback made the decision to play in Madison a couple months before the former North Carolina State signal caller. In early May, De La Salle High School junior quarterback Bart Houston announced he will be a Badger in 2012.

The commitment was a major boost to Wisconsin’s early recruiting efforts, especially after losing out on Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett and not having a scholarship quarterback in the 2011 class. Houston will likely be one of the highest rated quarterback recruits to ever play for the Badgers. He’s ranked anywhere from No. 6 to No. 14 among quarterbacks by the recruiting sites and his offer list includes Iowa, UCLA, Washington, Arizona and Colorado. Nearly 20 schools had shown recruiting interest in Houston before he chose Wisconsin.

“It’s a program that is team first and individual second,” Houston told “That’s how it is at De La Salle and that’s what I saw at Wisconsin. That was their philsophy, the way they held themselves, the way they talked about the season. I looked at the academics and the pro-style offense and I really liked that.”

Houston, who said strong academics and the opportunity to play early were factors, indicated his final decision came down to Wisconsin and Big-Ten rival Iowa.

The superlatives for Houston’s game are not hard to find. Recruiting experts believe he has ideal size, a strong arm, great accuracy, gritty toughness, superb decision-making skills and a great understanding of the game. In addition, he’s said to have outstanding character and is a respected leader on the team. He is a good student, who is expected to major in chemical engineering at Wisconsin, and he has earned the Eagle Scout honor.

The statistics look pretty good too. Houston, who took over at quarterback during his sophomore season, is undefeated as a starter. His team has won 25 straight games on their way to two straight California Interscholastic Federation State Open Division titles with him under center.  As a sophomore, Houston completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,257 yards, 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He threw 20 touchdowns last year with only four interceptions and added 11 rushing touchdowns. Houston had a 66.7 completion percentage and 1,922 yards passing as a junior. De La Salle finished the 2010 season with a 48-8 beatdown of the nation’s No. 4 team, Servite. In 2011, Houston and De La Salle will attempt to do something no California school has ever done before — win a third straight CIF State Open Division title. De La Salle, which is one of the most respected high school football programs in the nation, lists NFL players Maurice Jones-Drew, Amani Toomer, D.J. Williams and more among its graduates.

As for comparable players, Houston says his game mirrors some players very familiar to Wisconsin sports fans.

“Well, this is a throwback, but I try to model myself after Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr, so kind of a throwback there,” Houston told Blue Devil Nation. “But current ones, I’d have to say Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.”

He also has some family football lineage. His dad played quarterback at St. Mary’s college and his grandfather coached De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur at San Ramon Valley-Danville in California.

The advice of those mentors has apparently helped Houston grow quickly into a leader. Ladoucer says he has some impressive maturity for a young man.

“He’s not your typical, modern-day high school quarterback, who has a tendency to think the world revolves around him,” Ladouceur told the Wisconsin State Journal. “He’s not that way. He’s a true team player.

“If he threw the ball one time and we won the game, he wouldn’t care. If he threw it 30 times and we lost, he would care a lot.”

That team-first attitude from the quarterback position plays perfectly into Paul Chryst’s offensive philosophy, a fact not lost on Ladouceur, who has ties dating back to the Wisconsin offensive coordinator’s time at Oregon State.

“I think he’s an awesome guy; he’s perfect for Bart,” Ladouceur said of Chryst. “They’re going to get along famously. I have nothing but the highest respect for Paul and (former Oregon State coach) Mike (Riley) when they were together. I thought they ran a class football program. They are two of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Chryst has developed many lesser regarded quarterbacks into very productive players at Wisconsin. Houston will be Chryst’s first shot at molding a highly rated quarterback into the Wisconsin system.

“I know Paul will work with him and give him every opportunity to do well,” Ladouceur said. “He’s the perfect temperament for Bart. You don’t need to get on Bart. He gets on himself enough.”

While all Badger fans are excited to bring Houston into the fold, some are concerned expectations will be too high for what will likely be the most anticipated arrival of a freshman quarterback in school history. Aside from that pressure, some see his footwork, point of release and tendency to lock in on the first throwing option as some areas in which Houston will have to improve. But with the young quarterback’s history, maturity and athleticism, he certainly appears to be worthy of the hype and up to the challenges he’ll face after arriving on campus.

With Houston and three other four-star recruits verbally committed already, the Badgers have the beginning of one of the most promising recruiting classes in the history of the program. Houston’s early choice should also help in recruiting wide receivers and tight ends. In fact, Houston is rumored to be making pitches for Wisconsin already to fellow recruits. So, one of the best high school quarterbacks in the country has committed early to play in Madison and is pushing the Badger brand to other recruits? It’s truly a great time to be a Wisconsin Badgers fan!

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Tags: Baby Badger Bart Houston California De La Salle Quarterback

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