The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0) announced as of Thursday that a total of 16 players and staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a pause of all activities and the cancellation of their scheduled game for Saturday against Nebraska (0-1).
Two of the positive players are reportedly quarterbacks — Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Sunday that redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz had tested positive for COVID-19. A second positive test for Mertz was reported by CBS’s Dennis Dodd on Tuesday. Potrykus later reported that backup quarterback Chase Wolf had also tested positive on Tuesday.
Per Big Ten protocol, Mertz and Wolf are required to sit out a minimum of 21 days, which includes the next scheduled games against Purdue. They will also undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Even if they are COVID-negative after 21 days, they are not allowed to play until they receive cardiac clearance. Should Mertz pass the echocardiogram, he would be eligible to play prior to Wisconsin’s game against No. 13 Michigan on Nov. 14.
With first-string quarterback Jack Coan out indefinitely due to foot surgery and second and third-string quarterbacks Mertz and Wolf, respectively, also out due to COVID-19, Wisconsin is left with the man fourth on the depth chart: Danny Vanden Boom.
Vanden Boom, a redshirt junior out of Kimberly, Wis., hasn’t seen much action during his time as a Badger — while he did see the field during the 2018 season against Illinois and Rutgers, his only completed pass the entire season was a three-yard touchdown pass against New Mexico State. He did not play at all during the 2019 season.
Prior to his time as a Badger, Vanden Boom was Gatorade Wisconsin Player of the Year and first-team All-State. The three-star recruit led his high school to back-to-back Division 1 state championships under a 28-0 record. During his senior season, he completed 146 of 218 passes for 2,366 yards and 31 touchdowns, with only five interceptions.
Danny’s dad, Matt Vanden Boom, is a Badger football alum. The former defensive back earned first-team All American status in 1981 and first-team Big Ten in 1981 and 1982 before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1983.
Vanden Boom understood early on that he was never supposed to be QB1 for this Wisconsin team.
"I just kind of fit in after [Mertz and Wolf]," Vanden Boom said on a Zoom call earlier this October. "Again, my focus is: Prepare like I'm going to be able to play on Saturday, I got to be ready to go, really value mental reps, learn from other guys both on the field, in the film room. And then when I do get a chance, go out there and maximize my reps on the field as well."
Assuming no further games are cancelled, Danny Vanden Boom will most likely be the man in the pocket for the Badgers until Mertz and Wolf are cleared to play.