VALDEZ: Jaguar's Minshew displays virtues of determination


Column: The Power of an Open Mind

It was the fourth quarter, with only 1:32 left. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars were down 24-23 and they had those precious 92 seconds to drive down the field to kick a game-winning field goal. The Denver Broncos had just kicked the ball off for a touchback and out trotted the man of the hour, the mustachioed master himself, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew.

The Jaguars season has already been a combination of extreme lows and highs after just four weeks. They had signed former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and Philadelphia legend Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract over the offseason. 

He excited the team and fanbase, who had just gone through an excruciating 5-11 season with Blake Bortles under center. Foles’s championship resume and clutch reputation were supposed to help bring Jacksonville back into contending status.

This bright and exciting feeling did not last long once the season finally came around. In the first quarter of the Jaguars' first game, Foles took a vicious hit as he threw a long touchdown pass to wide receiver DJ Chark. 

He sustained a broken left clavicle and was placed on injured reserve by the team after the game. An inexperienced Minshew would come in to replace Foles after that hit, promptly leading the team to an 0-2 record.

At this point, Jacksonville's season was looking bleak. It was sitting at 0-2 with a rookie quarterback starting, and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey publicly asking for a trade. Furthermore, it had to prepare to play on a short week, as they would host the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football. 

With the Jaguars' season and team morale in danger of bursting into flames, Minshew and the team stepped up to the plate.

Minshew tossed a 7-yard touchdown to receiver James O'Shaughnessy and a precisely thrown 22-yard score to a tightly covered Chark en route to a 20-7 victory. Fans chanted Minshew’s name every time he stepped onto the field. He would end up joining the NFL Network crew for a post-game interview.

This is when it became clear: The man was a bonafide star in the making. The term “Minshew Mania” picked up steam after this game, as both his appearance and performance took the NFL world by storm. No one, including myself, could get enough of him. Behind the large headband and 1970s-esque mustache lied a man with an inspiring underdog story.

Minshew’s road to his current role as Jaguars starting quarterback was anything but smooth. A three-star recruit out of high school, he committed to play for Troy University in December 2014. 

He would never take a snap as a Troy student. He decided to transfer to Northwest Mississippi Community College (NMCC) after just one semester, where he would lead the team to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championship.

After his successful season at NMCC, he transferred to East Carolina University (ECU) in 2016. Over two seasons, he flew under the national radar as a part-time starter. He compiled solid personal stats with a total of 3,487 passing yards and 24 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, but won only 3 of the 17 games he played in.

After getting his bachelor’s degree at ECU, he transferred to Washington State as a graduate student in the fall of 2018. In his final chance to be on the NFL’s radar, he flourished as the team’s starting quarterback. 

He led them to a school-record 11 wins while passing for 4,776 yards and 38 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. He finished fifth in voting for the Heisman trophy, cementing his status as a pro-level quarterback.

Despite his excellent season, he was not drafted until the sixth round, where the Jaguars selected him 178th overall. You can bet he carried a chip on his shoulder as he trotted on the field against the Broncos, getting ready to try and lead the team to a second consecutive win.

He was never supposed to be in this position. Despite his excellent season at Washington, pro scouts overlooked him as a late-round prospect. He was supposed to be a career backup, who might not even last long in the league. Well, so much for that assumption.

In front of Denver’s horrified fans, Minshew led the team down the field to a game-winning field goal. More importantly, though, Minshew Mania has served as a reminder to all of us to never give up in the face of adversity, or when we are being overlooked. 

With enough resilience and hard work, realizing your dreams is always possible.

 Joshua Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and double-minoring in creative writing and cinema studies. His column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Fridays. 

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