Gardner Minshew has quickly made a name for himself in the NFL.
Minshew, the Jacksonville Jaguars, mustached rookie quarterback, selected in the sixth round of the draft, has been thrust into a starting role to fill in for the injured Nick Foles. On Thursday, he picked up his first win, throwing for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns to help the Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans, 20-7.
However, Minshew's NFL moment almost never came because he wanted to go into coaching.
Minshew's college career began at Northwest Mississippi Community College. After leading the team to the junior college national championship, he transferred to East Carolina University. Minshew spent two seasons at East Carolina, where he split time with another quarterback. He decided to play at Alabama in 2018 in hopes of getting a coaching job under Nick Saban.
"That's like going to Harvard school for coaching," he told AL.com in 2018.
According to Minshew, Saban said he would eventually bring Minshew onto his staff as a graduate assistant.
However, Washington State head coach Mike Leach called Minshew and made him an enticing offer: "Do you want to come lead the country in passing?"
Minshew accepted Leach's offer. He told AL.com that it was tough to turn down Alabama, but he wanted to take advantage of the window to continue playing football, rather than coaching it.
"I have so much respect for that staff. I do want to get into coaching eventually, and it's like going to Harvard school for coaching. So yeah, that was tough to turn down … My goal since I've been a kid is to play in the NFL. That's what I've got to do. I've got to chase that dream. And the coaching, it will be there."
Minshew did indeed put together a productive season in Leach's Air Raid offense, throwing for over 4,700 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions while completing 70% of his passes. The Jags selected him with the 178th overall pick.
After Thursday's game, Minshew seemed to acknowledge his winding journey, saying he's trying to make the most of the opportunity.
"A lot of people never thought I would get this opportunity, so now that I do have it, I make the most of it," Minshew said. "I'm super grateful for it, but I know through everything I've learned in my career, with the situation I'm in, I know I may only get one, so you gotta make the most of it."