INDIANAPOLIS — Eight former Wisconsin Badgers are among the more than 300 players that are going through the biggest job interview of their lives this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. And while they are focused on what’s at stake over the next few days, the news from back home, that senior quarterback Alex Hornibrook was transferring, didn’t go unnoticed.
“I definitely was (surprised) just because I haven’t been around. I wasn’t sure what the situation was,” said guard Michael Deiter, who has been training for the combine in California since Wisconsin’s bowl game. “So I was definitely a little bit surprised to hop on Twitter and see that.”
Hornibrook informed coach Paul Chryst Wednesday morning of his intention to leave Madison after graduating in the spring. He’ll have one year of eligibility remaining and plans to use it at another university. The decision comes after Hornibrook struggled with a concussion and inconsistent play in 2018. Still, the thought, at least for former teammates like fullback Alec Ingold, was that the Pennsylvania native would get healthy, stick it out and compete with junior Jack Coan, true freshman Graham Mertz and others for the starting job in the spring.
“He’s been rehabbing like crazy. He’s been in the training room. He’s been in the workouts and he wanted to get back,” said Ingold, who is close with Hornibrook. “I thought that was his thing, that he was going to come and attack this thing.”
Instead, more than a month-and-a-half into winter workouts, and roughly three weeks from the start of spring practice, Hornibrook is gone and there isn’t a concrete reason for his departure.
“I know that Alex had been battling with the head injuries,” tackle David Edwards said when asked if he knew why Hornibrook was moving on. “I don’t know if that [was the] reason he left. You’d have to ask him.”
That’s unlikely with Hornibrook being the private person he is, and it leaves some to speculate what else could cause the guy with the third-most touchdowns in school history to pack up his bags and leave. One reporter asked Dieter if he thought Hornibrook had lost the locker room or if it was just the fans that had lost faith.
“When I was there, I never thought he did,” Deiter said. “I know I was always with him. The (offensive line) was always with him. The fanbase is whatever, but the locker room definitely didn’t (sour on) him.”
Speaking earlier in the afternoon, Ingold had Hornibrook’s back when it came to all the criticism from outside of the program.
“I don’t really get it. The locker room probably doesn’t get it,” Ingold said. “But that’s the fanbase and that’s what people see on TV. That’s their opinions and they’re entitled to that. I think if you ask anyone in that locker room they’re going to be wishing the best for that kid because he’s a great dude.”
It remains to be seen where Hornibrook ends up, but Ingold does believe a fresh start will benefit him.
“He’s a competitor. He’s just an elite mindset type of guy,” Ingold said. “Being able to get in somewhere where he can just play football and not worry about any narratives predetermined on his playing ability is going to be good for him.”
None of the four Badgers that spoke on Thursday had communicated with Hornibrook since the news broke, though Edwards said he intended to do so soon, while Deiter and Ingold were expecting to see him when they returned to Madison next week.