The age-old adage goes — “dreams don’t work unless you do.” For many people, chasing their dreams, much less achieving them, is near impossible.
For redshirt sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers, playing for the Texas Longhorns has been a dream come true. Yet, the journey to manning the offense in burnt orange ahead of the College Football Playoff semifinals matchup in the Sugar Bowl against the Washington Huskies on Monday has been a winding road despite the clear initial intent of it all.
The journey started 200 miles or so North of Austin at Southlake Carroll High School, the Texas high school football powerhouse that counts quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Greg McElroy as alums. Ewers gained notoriety not just in the football-crazy state but across the country for his off-platform throws from his trademark low arm slot and his remarkable arm strength. The signature blonde mullet only added to the lore.
After completing 291-of-402 passes for 4,003 yards with 45 touchdowns and just three interceptions, along with 568 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 83 carries (6.8 ypc) as a sophomore while leading the Dragons to a 13-1 record, Ewers became the second quarterback to ever achieve a perfect recruiting ranking.
Longhorn legend Vince Young.
So when Ewers committed to the Longhorns in August of 2020 in a decision that was as unexpected as it was monumental, it felt as though all the pieces were falling into place. Ewers would take the short trek from the Metroplex to Austin to follow in the footsteps of Young and resurrect the Texas football program to the national glory the Longhorn faithful feels it deserves.
However, much to the surprise of many, the resurrection efforts of Ewers on the Forty Acres actually took a detour through Columbus, Ohio. Just six weeks after committing to Texas, Ewers reopened his recruitment. Less than a month later, he pledged to play for Ohio State, a brutal blow to the recruiting efforts of former Texas head coach Tom Herman, who had just retooled his coaching staff after an 8-5 season that failed to capitalize on the promise of the 2019 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia and the increasingly infamous “We’re back” pronouncement from quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
In 2020, as a junior, Ewers missed six games with injury, but rushed back to lead Southlake Carroll to the 6A state championship game, where he played against current Longhorns teammates Michael Taaffe and Ethan Burke, with Taaffe notably snagging a highlight interception from Ewers.
The state championship game ultimately ended up as the last for Ewers as a high schooler when he re-classified from the 2022 class to the 2021 class to enroll at Ohio State. In two varsity seasons, the nation’s consensus No. 1 prospect amassed 6,445 yards passing, 73 passing touchdowns and just eight interceptions on 450-of-643 attempts (.700), along with 701 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns on 115 carries (6.1 ypc).
The journey from North Texas to Central Ohio was a tough one for Ewers. Although ranked as the highest-rated recruit in a decade, Ewers had less than two seasons of varsity football under his belt and was joining an extremely crowded and cutthroat quarterback room.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
With the departure of Justin Fields, multiple players were gunning to replace the star passer, including the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class, CJ Stroud, and four-star Jack Miller, the two quarterbacks who backed up Fields the previous season. The 2023 starter, Kyle McCord, was also in that immensely talented quarterback room.
A competitive situation turned hostile when the Ohio State coaching staff failed to alert Stroud or the other quarterbacks about Ewers’ reclassification and enrollment. So when Ewers arrived during fall camp, Stroud “did not like it” and felt “disrespected,” an ugly start to the Ohio State career of the generational prospect.
The 18-year-old Ewers hardly saw the field in Columbus that season, taking two snaps the entire year as Stroud earned the starting role and manned the Buckeyes to an 11-2 record and an appearance in the Rose Bowl after College Football Playoffs hopes were dashed in the Big House.
Four months after arriving on campus in Ohio, Ewers entered the transfer portal, following through on his originally intentions and committing to the Longhorns for a second time. While his high school teammates were still playing in their senior campaign, Ewers geared up for his second college and a return home to Texas.
“It’s always been my dream to be a Longhorn,” Ewers wrote the following spring in the Players’ Tribune.
“Every Saturday for as long as I can remember, my family would be glued to the TV watching Texas play. Just the other day my mom was telling me about when I was two years old, and we watched Vince Young and the 2005 team win the Rose Bowl together. (Apparently, I had kid-size Longhorn gear and everything.) Stuff like that just reminds me how, at my core, it’s always been Texas.
“And now, 16 years and a transfer later, I’m getting a chance to create my own legacy with the Longhorns. Surreal, right?”
Heralded as a return of the golden-armed — and golden-haired — prodigy, the arrival of Ewers on the Forty Acres was filled with lofty expectations. The Longhorns had won just five games the previous season, the first under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, and had two different quarterbacks play in at least eight games as Casey Thompson battled injuries and inconsistencies.
“We’ve done a lot of scheme implementation and a lot of things that may have been an issue for him in the spring are better now. We’ve got to take to the grass in fall camp, but he wants to be coached hard, he’s putting in the work, and you can see it, because his play is improving,” Sarkisian said in August.
After a strong spring and preseason camp, Ewers was named the starting quarterback for the Longhorns with the 19 year old taking the reins of a program begging for a star and a return to national prominence.
On a massive national stage in Week 2 against No. 1 Alabama in Austin, the type of game Ewers grew up dreaming about playing in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the redshirt freshman quarterback started red hot, flashing his immense upside with a 46-yard dime to wide receiver Xavier Worthy on a go route down to the goal line.
With the completion, Ewers was 9-of-12 passing for 134 yards, a dream-like start for a quarterback who imagined situations like that throwing the football in the backyard with his father.
And then, in an instant, it went sideways. On the next play, Texas botched a blocking assignment, allowing star Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner to come free into the backfield and drive Ewers into the turf on his left shoulder, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Ewers missed the next three games with an SC sprain in his non-throwing shoulder.
When Ewers returned against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, he somehow continued the momentum from the first quarter of the Alabama game, completing 21-of-31 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns in the 49-0 demolition of the Sooners.
Ewers had arrived.
A rare QB prospect, Texas 2024 QB Quinn Ewers effortlessly destroyed Oklahoma on Saturday.
All Ewers needs to be in the Stroud/Caleb/Bryce class of QB is reps. He can make every throw in the playbook and is no worse than the Devy QB4 IMO
Here are Ewers’ 18 Best plays vs. OU: pic.twitter.com/g8r4JuLyaA
— Eric Froton (@CFFroton) October 12, 2022
Or so it seemed in those heady moments — freshman inconsistencies and a lack of receiving threats caught up with the young quarterback, who threw three interceptions in a road loss to Oklahoma State before cratering in a high-profile 17-10 loss to TCU in Austin in which he only completed 43.6 percent of his passes and threw an interception.
Sarkisian responded by turning to the ground game, calling only 37 passes for Ewers over the following two games before opt outs at running back forced Texas back to the air in a 27-20 loss to Washington in the Alamo Bowl.
Ewers had achieved his dream — he was the starting quarterback for the Longhorns. But he also knew that he needed to dedicate himself to reaching his ultimate goals.
During the offseason, Ewers’ transformed his body and mind after a conversation with Sarkisian.
“I knew I had to change and be more of a vocal leader, but we sat down and had a great conversation about what I needed to become. I put my full trust in him and what he thinks, and I just try to be that same person every single day,” Ewers said.
The change was as much physical as mental. Ewers dropped 20 pounds by adopting a strict eating regime.
“I’m more focused on eating what the university provides now. Higher doses of protein, less carbs, more vegetables, just healthier stuff.”
Much to the dismay of many, he also cut the mullet — instead opting for a more sleek look.
Ewers also became more mature after facing failure for the first time in his football career and responding to it poorly at times.
“I think the adversity more than anything was just my in own head. I’ve never really been through a situation like that where I wasn’t playing how I wanted to — I was pretty successful in high school, didn’t lose a whole lot of games — and then coming to Texas, we have really passionate fans and I let it catch up to myself and went down some rabbit holes I probably shouldn’t have been looking at on social media and stuff like that, and ultimately got in my own head,” Ewers reflected at Big 12 Media Days this year.
Mentally, Ewers revamped his understanding of the offense and played a bigger role in the locker room.
“We’ve seen him really dialing in and understanding schematically what we’re trying to do offensively change,” said Sarkisian. “We’ve seen him from a morale standpoint, speaking up in team meetings, speaking up on the field from a work ethic standpoint, and I think he’s earned the respect of his teammates throughout this time and throughout this process.”
With a rematch against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa in Week 2, Ewers picked up where he left off the season before with a 24-of-38 passing performance for 349 yards and three touchdowns in the season’s biggest win.
Another shoulder injury for Ewers sustained against Houston, this time to his throwing shoulder, threatened to derail the dream season for Texas, but backup Maalik Murphy played well enough to throttle BYU at home and sneak past Kansas State in a thrilling overtime victory.
When Ewers returned, he threw three interceptions in the final four games, matching his total in the first seven games. He also led the Longhorns to tough road victories in Fort Worth and Ames and then to blowout victories over the Red Raiders in Austin and the Cowboys in Arlington to win the Big 12 title and earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
His dreams were becoming reality.
“It’s unreal,” Ewers said after the the CFP announcement. “I mean, I get goosebumps every time I even think about it. Just truly honored to be a part of a team that works this hard and I know that we’re gonna come to play.”
The hard work has undoubtedly paid off for Ewers. This season, he’s led Texas to the playoffs and put together a strong individual campaign, completing 248-of-351 passes (70.6 percent) for 3,161 yard and 21 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He’s also added five rushing touchdowns, flashing the running ability he used to show off at Southlake Carroll.
Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer knows that his Huskies will face a different Ewers than the heaver, less mature redshirt freshman they beat last year in San Antonio.
“I think the thing you see is that he’s had continual growth from a year ago. That’s not just Quinn, but also just the rest of the team, along with his skill group, are in sync. You can see they’re executing at an extremely high level. I think his command of the offense has continued to improve from a year ago,” DeBoer said after his team arrived in New Orleans on Tuesday.
“And so we’re expecting a much-different football team than we saw, which was a very good football team, even a year ago. And so he’s protected. He understands, I think, just from a football sense, it’s another year into your career. And so I’ve been very impressed. He can deliver the ball, put it wherever he wants. We know we’ll have our hands full trying to slow Quinn and the offense down.”
And while the fate of Ewers beyond this season remains unknown, one thing remains clear — his journey to stardom was destined to happen and it was destined to happen in burnt orange and white at Texas. It just took a winding journey to get there. To get here.
Now all that’s left is for Ewers to cement his place in Texas history next to Vince Young, the legendary quarterback with whom his fate has long been intertwined.
Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK
Source : SBNation