JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gardner Minshew saw the news of the the cancellations in two of college football’s most prominent conferences on Tuesday and cringed.
Those college seniors could have been him.
The Jaguars second-year quarterback needed every bit of his college playing career to parlay that into a job in the NFL and Tuesday’s decisions by the Big Ten and Pac-12 hit home.
On Tuesday, those conferences announced the cancellation of the fall sports season and potentially moving sports to the spring as questions about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic swirl. For players like Ohio State’s Justin Fields, his NFL draft stock shouldn’t suffer with the loss of a season. But for a player like Minshew was in college, missing out on a final season could be the difference between a career in pro football and a career in another line of work.
Minshew said that his heart goes out to the players, especially the upperclassmen, whose college careers may have come to an end. Minshew knows that without a sterling final season in college at Washington State, he would probably be doing something else right now.
“I reached out to a couple guys and I’m probably going to reach out to a couple more to see how they’re doing. I know the amount of work that they put in. I know how bad this sucks, especially for those older guys that don’t know what the future holds right now, don’t know if they’re going to have their senior year at all, don’t know if they get the year back or what,” Minshew said Wednesday.
“So really, just feeling for those guys. Hope they come to resolution sooner rather than later. I just told them to keep their head up and if there’s anything I can help them with, I’d love to help.”
His final season in college came as a grad transfer student at Washington State in 2018 and Minshew was dominant in coach Mike Leach’s offense.
Minshew led the country in passing yards per game and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting. And Minshew, now entrenched as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback, was still a fringe NFL draft prospect. The Jaguars drafted him in the sixth round in 2019.
Had that season been wiped out, where would Minshew be now? Probably not in the NFL.
“It was huge for me. Without that year at Washington State I wouldn’t have been drafted. I probably would have gone undrafted,” he said. “So, it was truly a blessing I couldn’t have imagined having if I wouldn’t have had that. Don’t know, my life would have been way different. Definitely fortunate, blessed, whatever you want to call it, but I’m extremely grateful for where I am and I hate it, makes me hate it that much more for those guys that are in that situation this year.”
Minshew’s story is well known.
He went to Northwest Mississippi Junior College after high school at Brandon (Miss.) and then on to East Carolina. Minshew put up solid numbers at East Carolina but left there with one year of eligibility remaining and joined Leach at Washington State. His season there was dominant.
This year’s training camp is unusual for reasons beyond the pandemic for Minshew. He’s going into his second season with a team and he’s the unquestioned starter this time around, something Minshew said hasn’t happened since his senior season of high school.
“There’s a group of guys on this team, a group of leaders, that have a very real opportunity to change the culture here, to develop a winning culture and I think it’s already started,” Minshew said. “The guys are very excited to get on the field, whether it’s even just for practice right now. So, I’m glad to be here, super grateful for the opportunity and hoping to make the most of it.”