JACKSONVILLE – Mike Leach likes a lot about Gardner Minshew.
"He's very driven and passionate about football," the Washington State Head Football Coach said of the quarterback the Jaguars selected in Round 6 of the 2019 NFL Draft. "He's fearless."
Minshew showed that fearlessness throughout his one season at Washington State, a season that transformed his football future – and that eventually led to what could be an opportunity to backup Nick Foles in Jacksonville.
It was a season that began in unlikely, storybook fashion.
"It has been crazy the journey I have been on this past year," Minshew said Saturday shortly after his selection by the Jaguars. "I am so blessed and so fortunate to be where I am now."
Minshew, after playing two seasons at East Carolina, was eligible to be a graduate transfer. His initial plan was to transfer to the University of Alabama, with his primary objective building a resume for a coaching career by spending a season around Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide's coaching staff.
Leach watched Minshew's video from East Carolina, and phoned Minshew with a different opportunity.
"We told him, 'Do you want to go hold a clipboard at Alabama or do you want to lead the nation in passing at Washington State?''' Leach told Jaguars Radio and jaguars.com. "He dropped the clipboard and came to Washington State and led the nation in passing and was conference player of the year."
Minshew (6-feet-1, 225 pounds) was the Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year and finished fifth in the 2018 Heisman Trophy voting, throwing for 4,779 yards and 38 touchdowns. His 367.6 passing yards a game and 468 completions led the FBS, and he was the lone player in the NCAA with six 400-yard passing games and 11 300-yard passing games last season.
"What he does best is he leads the unit," Leach said. "He energizes the whole unit and moves the ball down field."
Minshew this past weekend talked about having learned four different offenses while in college. He not only attended ECU and WSU, Minshew he began his college career at Troy before leading Northwest Mississippi Community College to the 2015 national title.
"I think it probably helps him be adaptable," Leach said. "He has made plenty of moves."
Leach also said Minshew "never takes a negative play."
"There were some that were not his fault, but they were a negative play waiting to happen: 'Oh, my gosh … here's a sack,' or, 'Here's a tackle for loss,''' Leach said. "He would literally carve a way to not give up a negative play. It was really quite impressive.
"What he does really well is respond after a bad play. He's ready to go after the next play, and he's not phased by the previous one no matter how great or how bad it is."
A 2018 season that began for Minshew in storybook fashion ended in the most successful fashion in program history for the Cougars. They finished 11-2 – the most victories in school history and won the Alamo Bowl – and Leach said Minshew's presence was critical to the success.
"He's just a very competitive guy," Leach said. "I think the fact that he was so competitive rubbed off on the rest of our team. I think it made them excited to be there. Knowing that it really means a great deal to the guy beside you I think it helps elevate the enthusiasm and interest of others."