Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Man Who Would Be Star QB

BYU once recruited an all-state quarterback who was 6'4", had gone undefeated his senior year, and was going to receive not an athletic scholarship but a Gordon B. Hinckley scholarship--the most prestigious awarded at BYU. If that combination of athletic success and smarts wasn't enough to make you figuratively drool over his prospects as a BYU quarterback, surely you would after hearing that his father had made it to the NFL as a quarterback.

Jump ahead a few years. The new starting quarterback has a great first game, but plays poorly thereafter and gets benched in the middle of the year. The man who should be next in line, a sophomore with some game-time experience the previous year, shows in live action that he isn't ready to step up. Not only is he not ready to play, but he isn't even able to beat out a redshirt freshman a few months removed from his mission. He gets some playing time in a few games that year and the next, but in his highest-profile appearance it is obvious he doesn't have it--he throws more than twenty passes, with only 20% being completed (along with an interception). It appears that he has been instructed to look downfield as often as he can to try for quick scores since the team is way behind, but he is seldom even close on his throws. During his junior year, he isn't seriously considered in the running to start, even though the player who eventually won the starting job the year before was inconsistent, and another player being considered is fresh off his mission with no college football experience. Due to injuries and lack of experience, the team struggles.

Of course the quarterback in question is the same one who looked fantastic coming out of high school. So what was the issue?

This quarterback maintained his perfect grades in college, graduating summa cum laude. He also was gifted musically, to the point of composing and producing a piano album. He pursued a Rhodes scholarship, and was a national finalist (with two others) for the $21,500 Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship. Getting perfect grades is uncommon in college, and exceedingly rare for the student with the additional demands of sports. Being able to compose and produce one's own album as well is altogether unheard. I think the issue for this student-athlete, who by all accounts was a stellar human being, was one of spreading himself too thin with pursuits outside of football. I can't fault him for wanting to get the best grades possible; there is life after football, and very often life without football regardless of how good the player has become if injury or bad luck gets in the way. But, he was taking a scholarship spot on the team despite his being based on academics rather than athletics. He was one of only a handful of quarterbacks--the most important position--on the team. As such, he should have recognized the importance of, and obligation to, devoting all the attention he could to the success of the football team. That means he needed to become the best quarterback he could reasonably be.

College football only lasts four to five years, and then it's over. Other endeavors can wait. This quarterback's time passed without him becoming the star that I expected, and the team needed, him to be. If another quarterback with similar credentials comes to BYU, I hope he will realize his importance to the team, and direct his energy accordingly.

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