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December 21, 2011
MORE WISCONSIN: BadgerBlitz.com
CARSON, Calif. - If there was any question, even the slightest inkling, that Bart Houston was reconsidering his recruitment because of the new coaching staffs in the Pac-12, the Concord (Calif.) De La Salle pro-style quarterback put them to rest Saturday night.
Moments after De La Salle pummeled previously undefeated Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake, 35-0, in the state Open Division bowl championship at the Home Depot Center Houston stood near the 20-yard line and reinforced his commitment to Wisconsin.
"Oh, hell no, I'm a Badger," Houston said. "There's no way I'm leaving, absolutely not."
At Wisconsin, the three-star Houston found something unique like he has at De La Salle - a kinship with the players and the coaching staff and that was something vitally important when making his decision.
Numerous Pac-12 schools offered as did some other major programs, but after visiting Wisconsin last spring and spending some time with the players, the De La Salle quarterback said he could not turn down something so special.
Even with new coaching staffs at Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State, Houston said he has no interest in looking at any other program or reconsidering playing in the Pac-12 or being closer to home. Wisconsin is where he plans to be next season and that's final.
"The people are such good people and then I went back there and I hung out with the players one night," Houston said.
"The way they cared about things and the way they saw things with the other players, it's exactly what I see with (De La Salle teammates) Mike Barton, with Anthony Williams, with all the kids on the team. I'm not going to be missing a beat. There is a brotherhood there and there is a brotherhood here."
So adamant in his allegiance to the Badgers, Houston said even if offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst left for another job - he has been mentioned for some head coaching opportunities - the three-star said he would stick with his commitment.
Houston, rated No. 12 at pro-style quarterback in the 2012 class by Rivals.com, predicted Chryst won't go anywhere.
"I don't think he's going to leave," Houston said. "He's from there and he has kids in high school so I don't think he's going to leave. They better pay him like $40 mill or something."
One of the captivating things about Houston is how he is almost egoless. He talks with giddiness and excitement about his present at De La Salle and winning the state championship and his future at Wisconsin. Where some might act too big for it all, Houston soaks it in and seems to love his place standing right here under the lights.
He was the same way this summer at the Elite 11 where the 6-foot-4, 201-pound prospect was one of the better, most consistent quarterbacks all week. Houston raved about Wisconsin at that event and continues to talk highly about the Badgers.
In the end, Houston just seems like a quarterback teammates rally around. Being quarterback at a program as prestigious as De La Salle could lead to being a prima donna, but legendary coach Bob Ladouceur certainly would not allow it. And Houston wouldn't even consider acting that way.
He's a blue-collar, Big Ten guy and that's one reason why he believes Wisconsin is such a good fit.
"He's been a rock," Ladouceur said. "He's always the first out and the last off the field and he rallies kids around him and he got receivers out on the off days. He's a tireless worker and when you have kids like that the other ones come along. They don't want to let him down.
"He was a great, great leader and he led by example. He's just a football guy. He's all heart and he loves it."
After De La Salle lost to Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, 30-6, in late September, Houston's heart was probably never tested more. He rebounded with flying colors and for the rest of the season the Spartans clobbered one opponent after another.
De La Salle finished the season 13-1 and No. 18 in the final RivalsHigh 100. (See complete list here)
Houston was aided by arguably the best defense in school history - led by Barton, top 2013 linebacker Michael Hutchings and many others - and together they rode blowout victories all through the rest of the season.
The message from Ladouceur to Houston after the disappointing loss to St. Thomas Aquinas was not that the three-star had to do more, but less. Houston had to relinquish some responsibilities, take some weight off his own shoulders, and the team - together - would be fine.
Eleven wins later where De La Salle outscored its opponents 469-57 and the message was well received. The Spartans are champions once more and Houston was a big reason why.
"I told him he could play better (after the St. Thomas Aquinas loss)," Ladouceur said. "I told him you have to play better. He wasn't too far off. He was pressing too hard. He took too much responsibility onto himself but I don't like playing football like that.
"I don't like putting too much responsibility on one of our players. I never see us having star players. We're going to do it as a team."
Houston took that message to heart. And now he's standing hear smiling and laughing as the De La Salle fans cheer heartily into the night. He is big-time, but one would never know it.