MADISON, Wis. — Some players are born leaders, and some are made. Others suddenly find themselves the boss on their T-ball team and just kind of roll with it, then and forever.
Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel is a combination of the three. Mostly the latter.
“I was a passionate guy even back then,” Biegel said during a sit-down with Landof10.com earlier this week.
The linebacker’s passion didn’t end with his slugger days in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. It’s one on a lengthy list of qualities that have rendered “Biegel” and “leader” inseparable in conversations among teammates and coaches.
“A year ago coming in, he was teaching me everything,” said T.J. Watt, a fellow linebacker at Wisconsin. “A year later, he still takes time to teach me little nuances that will make me better.”
Biegel hasn’t always been the obvious choice for top-dog on the Badgers defense. He spent most of his career a year behind vocal players like Joe Schobert and Michael Caputo.
He had a voice, but theirs were louder.
Now in his senior season, when he has something to say, everyone listens. It’s the type of attention he has worked his whole life to command.
“My father and my grandfather were both football coaches, and they instilled in me early how to be a positive leader,” Biegel said. “To be able to earn the respect of my teammates this year is something I’ve dreamed about.”
Wisconsin has a tradition of leadership on both sides of the ball. A few years ago, Chris Borland had Montee Ball and Joe Schobert had Melvin Gordon.
So far, Biegel just has confidence.
“I’ve always been a leader,” he said. “And I’ve always been a people person. I’ve enjoyed interacting with guys, I’ve enjoyed being on teams. I like being around a group of young men who are unselfish players.”
On offense, the quarterback is typically the leader of the group, but as fall camp opens in Madison, there’s still a wide-open QB race going on. Coach Paul Chryst is testing Bart Houston, a fifth-year senior, and Alex Hornibrook, a redshirt freshman, at the helm.
Houston has experience on his side with 15 career appearances compared to Hornibrook’s zero, but Chryst continues to reiterate the spot will be won in fall camp.
“I think that it doesn’t just happen,” Chryst said. “Guys actively work to make those transitions. But nothing just happens. It’s people making it happen. I appreciate it when they do that. That’s a fun part of each year. We struggled through that last year.”
Houston was also on the field during media day, at least physically. But when asked when it hit him that the team could be his to lead, his mind went elsewhere.
To San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. Back to Dec. 30, 2015, specifically.
Houston paused before answering and looked up at the scoreboard like he could still see it.
“When the clock hit double zeroes against USC,” he said, referring to Wisconsin’s Holiday Bowl victory over the Trojans. “It was like, let’s celebrate, that’s good, but now it’s my chance. I am put into this leadership spot if I like it or not.
“I do like it,” he added with a laugh.
Biegel will faithfully follow whichever teammate starts under center. By Wisconsin standards, he knows that guy will have earned it the hard way. That’s the only credential he needs to see.
“That’s what we have at Wisconsin,” Biegel said. “We got guys who aren’t the flashiest, four-star recruits. We got guys who are sometimes the underdogs, walk-on guys who come out and work every single day. That’s what it’s all about.”