Graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II celebrates after the Cougars’ victory against Utah on Saturday at Martin Stadium.

PAIGE CAMPBELL | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

A different shade of crimson

Minshew began playing quarterback in second grade, hopes to prove himself in sole season with Cougars

September 27, 2018

Passing on an opportunity to play for one of the most storied college football programs ever isn’t easy, but Gardner Minshew II did just that in order to wear the crimson and gray.

It all started it March when Minshew had already committed to transferring from East Carolina University to University of Alabama and then received a phone call.

On the other end was WSU Head Coach Mike Leach, and he made a pitch Minshew couldn’t resist.

“Leach called me up and he said ‘Hey you want to come lead the country in passing?’ and I said ‘That sounds pretty cool,’ ” Minshew said.

Who wouldn’t want to play for Leach’s Air Raid offense? It’s like heaven for any quarterback looking to be a prolific passer and throw the ball roughly 50 times a game. But this decision was different.

Minshew was sacrificing a chance to play for a program in Alabama that has claimed 17 national titles and is led by one of the best college football coaches ever in Nick Saban.

Minshew said the main reason he considered the Crimson Tide was because of Saban. The graduate transfer wants to be a coach in the future and figured there was no better person to learn under than a six-time national championship-winning coach.

“That’s like going to Harvard school for coaching,” he said.

In the end though, one thing pushed Minshew to choose the crimson and gray over the Crimson Tide — a chance to compete and play.

In Tuscaloosa, the quarterback competition was already a two-man race between junior Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa before Minshew decided to commit to Alabama.

Minshew knew his chances of seeing the field were slim if he stayed with the Crimson Tide, so when Leach offered him a chance to compete for the Cougars’ starting quarterback job immediately, he couldn’t pass it up.

Once Minshew decided to come to WSU, he knew he would have to overcome a number of obstacles to earn the title of starter he wanted so badly, the first being when he arrived on campus.

It wasn’t until May 5 when Minshew got to Pullman and officially became a part of the team. He had to learn a whole new playback and adjust to a new environment.

Flint, Minshew’s father, said his son’s personality made his move to WSU rather seamless.

“We have a saying in our family, ‘ball is ball,’ whether it’s in Mississippi or North Carolina or Washington,” he said.

However, Minshew was familiar with some of the aspects of the Air Raid before he arrived, so the transition was smoother for him than most.

Minshew also had to battle redshirt juniors Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley for the starting job, something he said he is used to having been in a quarterback competition every year of his collegiate career.

Despite being in a competition, Minshew said Trey became one of his best friends on the team and they helped each other out in any way they could.

But on the field everything is different.

“When you’re on the field you’re not really friends with anybody,” he said. “You’re just out there playing, trying to beat the crap out of whoever you’re playing against.”

Ultimately, Minshew stepped on the field at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming, in the Cougars’ season-opener as the starting quarterback and hasn’t looked back since.

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Minshew says he isn’t afraid of the pressure that comes with playing quarterback. “I love being the guy that has an impact on every play.”

Through four games, Minshew has thrown for the third-most passing yards in the nation and 11 touchdowns.

Minshew will only be with the team for this one season, but he has embraced the challenge of trying to prove himself to the Cougar faithful.

“I love it man,” he said. “It’s been something I’ve been working on for 22 years, something I’ve dreamed of for a long time.”

Flint said his son began to find a love for the game when started playing flag football in the second grade after the family moved to Brandon, Mississippi. After the first practice, Flint said his wife Kim asked him how it went and he responded: ‘Well [Minshew’s] the quarterback and I’m the defensive coordinator.”

Flint said Minshew went to that first practice with no vision of what position he wanted to play, but they stuck him at quarterback and he’s been there ever since.

Despite only being at WSU for one season, Minshew has lofty goals including leading the team to a conference championship and leading the country in passing yards.

Minshew has developed a unique nickname in his short time with the Cougars thanks to offensive quality control coach Drew Hollingshead.

Hollingshead labeled Minshew as “Mississippi Moustache” to recognize the facial hair growing above his mouth and his Mississippi drawl.

Minshew addressed the nickname in a recent postgame press conference and he admitted its better than being compared to a certain character from “Napoleon Dynamite.”

“It’s better than Uncle Rico, I’d say,” he chuckled.

Minshew has also taken a leadership role with the team, which he said he earned by putting in extra time on and off the field.

“The first thing you have to do as a leader is earn respect,” he said. “You earn that through work ethic, you earn that through making plays and through being the guy that people can trust to do the right thing.”

Minshew is used to the spotlight of the quarterback position and the pressure that comes with it.

Flint recalled a time when Minshew was playing goalie during a soccer tournament growing up and the game came down to a shootout. He said Minshew’s team ended up winning. He then asked his son after the game if he was nervous in that situation, and Minshew replied, ‘No, I would’ve been more nervous if anybody else would have been in there.”

Flint said his son is considered a celebrity back home and handled the attention just as well then as he does now. He also said Minshew was able to keep a level head and stay humble despite the frenzy around him.

“We always tried to expose him and show him there’s always someone bigger, there’s always someone better,” Flint said. “So he’s always kept a good perspective about that and not get the big fish in the little pond syndrome.”

Minshew said he embraces the role of being the person everyone looks to when things aren’t going right.

“I love being the guy that has an impact on every play,” he said.

About the Writer
DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen deputy sports editor

Dylan Greene is a journalism and media production major from Stanwood. He started as the football beat reporter in the fall of 2017 and midway through...

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