MADISON, Wis. (NBC 26) -- When the Wisconsin Badgers next take the field, it looks like it will be Kimberly alumnus Danny Vanden Boom's time to shine.
Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz and his backup, Chase Wolf, have reportedly been confirmed as positive with COVID-19. That means those two players have to miss at least 21 days of practice and games, according to the Big Ten's protocol.
With senior QB Jack Coan still sidelined with a foot injury, the starting duties will fall on the shoulders of the fourth-stringer, Vanden Boom, who is currently the Badgers' only healthy quarterback.
Longtime Kimberly head coach Steve Jones said there is "certainly" a buzz among the Papermakers program this week.
"He's a really, really easy guy to root for," Jones said. "He's somebody that we're really proud of at Kimberly as far as a school district, as far as a community. I think we're all really excited for the possibility of him getting this shot and this opportunity come Saturday."
In his two and a half year run as Kimberly's starter, Vanden Boom never lost a game. He was responsible for nearly half of the Papermakers' wins during their state record 70 game winning streak that spanned from 2013 to 2018.
Vanden Boom was the Papermakers' full-time starter in his junior and senior years in 2015 and 2016, but as a sophomore, he did play a relief role similar to the one he's likely to play with the Badgers this year.
"He came in (as a sophomore) and replaced a senior who ended up getting injured," Jones said. "Obviously it's not the exact situation that we're talking about right now but he came in as a sophomore under a really senior-laden team, a really good football team in the midst of a little bit of a winning streak and he came in and played really, really well.
After a prolific high school career, Vanden Boom had interest from some smaller Division I schools, but ultimately walked on at Wisconsin for two reasons.
"He's a smart kid and obviously the Wisconsin academics," Jones said. "And the competitiveness. He maybe could have gone to a smaller school and had an easier time becoming the starting quarterback but he's not afraid of competition."
Four years in, Vanden Boom has thrown one pass in his college career: a three-yard touchdown in 2018.
"One of my weaknesses would be probably my feet, trying to speed things up and be in rhythm," the Badgers' junior quarterback said earlier this month when asked to describe his game. "And them maybe arm strength would be another weakness.
"On the other side I would say my strengths are my football IQ, making sure the ball goes to the right place. And then just being accurate. And trying to be on time and deliver the ball accurately."
Jones more or less agrees, but said the arm strength might not be as bad as Vanden Boom has made it out to be.
"You know I think his arm strength is pretty good too," Jones said. "Maybe he's being a little bit humble about that. But I've seen him over break throwing the ball and he's got some zip to them. So I wouldn't sell himself too short on the arm strength part either."
Jones said he has been in touch with Vanden Boom throughout the week, and said the quarterback is in a "great spot."
Wisconsin is scheduled to play Nebraska on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Lincoln, Neb.