(Photo courtesy of Washington State Athletics)

As excited as I was to head out to Pullman, I understand the context of why there was an opening at the quarterback position.

In January of 2018, Tyler Hilinski - the starting quarterback at WSU - passed away. It shocked everybody across the college football landscape, but I could only imagine the emotions of what it must have been like for the WSU players and the Pullman community.

It really wasn't until I arrived on campus that I understood the weight of what had happened. I knew I couldn't replace Tyler - nobody could - so I decided to just be as respectful of the situation as I could. I stayed quiet at first, and just tried to focus on my lifting and winning the conditioning sprints. But as the days started to turn into weeks, I knew it was time.

I went up to Peyton Pelluer, who was a sixth-year player and team captain on the defense, and asked if I could say something to the team. He didn't just give me the green light...he thought it was necessary.

"Hey, you've got to."

I started to slowly become more comfortable with a leadership role after that day, and by the time fall camp had arrived, I felt comfortable to push my teammates to be great. When it came time for us to state our goals for the season, everybody said they wanted to win the Pac-12.

Except for me.

I said I wanted to go undefeated. I don’t want to let good enough get in the way of greatness, so why not shoot for an undefeated season?

That dream came to an end in Week 4 when we lost to 39-36 to USC at the Coliseum. We had a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes when our kicker Blake Mazza missed a field goal, but we didn't let that divide us. We never made a big deal about it, and just said something like "you're good bro, just get the next one." And sure enough, when it came time for Blake to pull us through, he nailed the kick.

That was the way it was with our whole team...as soon as anybody made a mistake, we just knew they would get it the next time. So when we trailed Stanford 28-14 late in the first half, we never panicked. To doubt yourself is to doubt the abilities God gave you...and He gave me the abilities for a reason.

We tied the game early in the fourth quarter and actually pulled ahead 38-31 when I found my teammate Renard Bell in the end zone with just 4:28 to play. Stanford drove down the field to tie the game at 38-38, but they made one big mistake...they gave Coach Leach 1:25 to work with.

We drove down the field and got to the 25-yard line where Blake came in with just 23 seconds to go. And just like we all knew he would, he drilled it.

 
 

The whole season was like that. We never panicked when Oregon scored 20 straight points on us, and we never let our loss in the Apple Cup to UW define our season. We picked ourselves right back up and beat Iowa State 28-26 in the Alamo Bowl for an 11-win season - the first in Washington State history.

Now I’ve turned my focus to the NFL Draft. I know that a lot of money is riding on how my draft stock rises or falls, but I'm not even concerned with what's about to happen. God's taken me too far to ever doubt that He's looking out for me. My motto these days is "too blessed to be stressed" and I'm just enjoying every step of this journey.

The crazy thing to think about is that it was the hardest times of the journey that made me who I am today. Those struggles taught me to find joy in my sufferings, because as Romans 5: 3-5 says, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance builds character, and through character comes hope.

When I was in high school I was the 165th ranked quarterback in my class, and these days I'm realizing that dreams really do come true.

I don't know if I'll become an NFL starter or not, but all I know is I'm going to give it my best shot. Because who knows? There might just be another championship ring sitting on my bed one day.

Gardner Minshew #16

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(Photo courtesy of Washington State Athletics)

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