TMG Newsmaker of the Week: Gardner Minshew

Mark Blaudschun

In another season, and probably in a different conference, his story would already be the stuff of legend--as it is now in his home state of Mississippi.

But then again, who would have ever predicted that Gardner Minshew, the country boy from the deep south would wind up on the other side of the college football world--in Pullman, Washington, playing in a conference and at a school where even the most spectacular of stories sometimes take their time to filter through the system.

Barely heard of Gardner Minshew?

Well, let's catch up real quick. Minshew is a 6-foot-2 inch 220 pound graduate transfer who arrived at Washington State this spring looking for a job as the starting QB, a job which tragically opened in Pullman when projected WSU starter Tyler Hilinski committed suicide in January.

WSU coach Mike Leach and the Cougars had to move forward, so he networked some of his coaching buddies, including passing offense guru Hal Mumme. Leach had been Mumme's offensive coordinator at Kentucky and then implemented his style at Texas Tech and at WSU.

Mumme told Leach he indeed had a local kid who might just be what Leach needed. But more importantly, it was what Gardner Minshew had wanted for as long as he could remember.

Minshew had been a Mississippi phenom for more than a decade, dating back to his days in junior high school when after playing a game, former Alabama player and head coach Ray Perkins, who was easing his way back into his home state culture, watched Minshew play a game in Hattiesburg, Ms and declared that Minshew was the best junior high QB he had ever seen.

Minshew was pretty good in high school as well, throwing 105 TD passes for 11,222 yards as the QB at Brandon High School. From that point, Minshew became a traveling QB as well. He didn't get a lot of attention from the major schools, but did have JC power Northwest Mississippi Community College chasing him. Minshew wanted to go higher and took an offer at Troy University. But six months into his stay at Troy, Minshew found himself buried too deep on the depth chart and went back to Northwest Mississippi, which offered no promises

It didn't matter, 12 games, 3,228 yards and 28 TD passes later, Northwest Mississippi had a national championship and Minshew was off to East Carolina, where in 17 games he had almost 3,500 more yards and 24 TD passes.

After picking up his degree at ECU last winter and with a year of eligibility remaining, Minshew went shopping again. Alabama talked to him and offered him a spot, but the Tide depth chart was loaded with Heisman Trophy candidates and national championship caliber QBs in Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts.

Enter Leach, who was coaching at Texas Tech a decade ago when Minshew was growing up as an avid Texas Tech fan because of the way they attacked on offense with their passing game.

When Price called Minshew, he asked a simple question. "Do you want to come out here and lead the country in passing?''

It wasn't a trick question. Minshew accepted on the spot and the rest, as they say is the stuff of legends and maybe Heisman's, if not for the presence of Tua at Alabama.

Consider the numbers that Minshew has put up in leading the Cougars, who were picked fifth in the Pac-12 West in pre-season polls to a 7-1 record.

26 TD passes and only 6 interceptions,

3,183 passing yards for an average of (FBS leading) 397.8 passing yards per game.

In WSU's latest triumph, a 41-38 victory over Stanford, all Minshew do was throw for 438 yards and 3 TD passes, including 19 straight completions at the start of the second half.

In the Cougars' game-winning drive with the score tied at 38-38, it was Minshew's 42 yard completion to Jamire Calvin, which set up Blake Mazza's 42-yard winning field goal.

In the super cyber quick information world, lots of people now know Minshew's name, including Heisman Trophy voters and NFL scouts. Challenges and more recognition await.

For all of that, Gardner Minshew is TMG's Newsmaker of the Week.

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Mark Blaudschun

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