Is it the Smokey and the Bandit handle-bar mustache? Is it the cut-off Daisy Duke shorts? Is it the jock-strap wearing pregame workout routine?
What is it about Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew that has the nation so captivated?
If you are a Washington State University alumnus (like me) or just follow college football in the Northwest, you know exactly the meaning of Minshew-mania. The rest of the nation is just getting caught up.
Jacksonville, Florida doesn’t know what hit them, and look out; it’s only going to get better. Trust me.
The Mississippi Mustache came to Pullman, Washington last year as a fifth-year senior graduate transfer and not only led the Cougars to a school record 11-win season, he also led the nation is passing.
Cougar fans latched on to Minshew and he took the program to new heights. He was a one-year wonder in Pullman, and he won’t be soon forgotten around the Palouse.
But many of us thought his days of throwing footballs were over.
As the story goes, he was set to become a backup quarterback at Alabama and then an assistant college coach and only came to Pullman after WSU head coach Mike Leach convinced him he would be a star.
But a funny thing happened. His record-breaking season caught the eye of a few scouts, and along with some stellar workouts and a Senior Bowl appearance, his stock began to rise. Could he actually get drafted?
Jacksonville took him late in the draft and many assumed that was about it. He would go to camp, get cut like most sixth-round QBs do and his coaching career would begin.
No one told Minshew.
He took his mustache to training camp and beat out perceived Jaguar backup Alex McGough. After starter Nick Foles broke his collarbone in week one, here we are. Gardner Minshew = starting NFL quarterback.
Wow. That was fast.
No longer is he just a Northwest phenomenon. The rest of the world is catching on to what Coug fans already know; he can play.
“My plan is to prove that I’m the best I can be for this team every day at practice, every snap I get in a game,” Minshew said.
“Playing football is fun, man, and getting paid to do it is really cool. You know, college was a blast, loved the football, loved the camaraderie. But now you’re playing and getting paid for it. It’s a dream, something I’ve been trying to do as long as I can remember.”
The Jags sit at 1-2 and could/should be 2-1 if not for a failed two-point conversion at the end the Texans game. Through his two-and-a-half games as a starter, Minshew has thrown for 692 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception.
His first home start this past weekend was a rousing success as the Jags beat the Tennessee Titans 20-7. But the schedule gets tougher when they hit the road for two games against the Broncos and Panthers. He’ll have to keep playing well for his mystique to continue to rise. And who knows what will happen when starter Nick Foles gets healthy and is ready to play?
After winning Thursday on national television, Minshew was swarmed by the media, and Foles has to be a bit nervous about his job if things keep going the way they are. How could Jacksonville bench Minshew if he keeps winning and his cult status is at an all-time high?
Jacksonville is desperate for good news. They haven’t had success since Mark Brunell took them to the AFC Championship in 1999.
So, who is this kid?
Some of us already know, and now the rest of the nation is getting a taste.
With Minshew’s number 15 jerseys flying off shelves around the nation and an audience on the edge of their seats, Minshew-mania is real. And boy, is it fun.