Football

Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew has gone from unheralded backup to QB leader

After his first practice as a starter Wednesday, Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew got caught off guard.

Newly signed quarterback Josh Dobbs and practice squad quarterback Chase Litton bombarded him with questions he couldn't answer like what is the team's procedure for road travel during the season.

"I was like, 'Dang, I've been here longer than anybody,' that's kind of crazy," Minshew said after Wednesday's practice. "They're asking me questions, I'm like, 'Golly.' But no, it's awesome. And great guys, young guys. We have a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to challenging each other, helping each other and winning games together."

In four days, Minshew has gone from unheralded rookie backup to starting quarterback, replacing injured Nick Foles, who was put on injured reserve Monday after suffering a broken left collarbone in Sunday's 40-26 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since Sunday, Minshew's phone has been flooded from family and friends wanting to congratulate or wish him success. He's emerging as a fan favorite in Jacksonville because of his mustache, the bandana that he wears and his amazing record-breaking performance against the Chiefs.

Minshew, who didn't led the Jaguars on a touchdown drive in three preseason starts, completed 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns against Chiefs after replacing Foles. Minshew's 88% completion rate was the highest by a quarterback making his NFL debut in league history. He completed his first 13 pass attempts, which is the longest consecutive completion streak for a quarterback to start his career over the past 40 seasons, according to the NFL.

Now, he's preparing for the next challenge.

A road matchup against the AFC South rival Houston Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

"Obviously not to take away from Gardner's performance (last week) – it was impressive," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. "I think when anyone looks at it, I think the challenge is, 'Hey, listen, we have to repeat this. Where are we going to go?' There are some people who will question whether he can keep it up. Do you think he can do that again? I think that's the challenge, but the one thing I do know about the kid is that he will work his butt off this week, and he will do everything he possibly can, which you appreciate."

The moment never appears too big for the 23-year-old Minshew, a Flowood, Miss., native. He stays driven and has never forgotten about the obstacles he had to overcome.

He was the high school quarterback with NFL dreams, but didn't receive any college scholarship offers so he enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

He turned out to be good enough to be signed by East Carolina and graduated before playing last season at Washington State as a graduate student. He went on to finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting after leading the nation in passing (367.6 yards per game) for the Cougars.

Marrone and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo rave about Minshew's ability to decipher information quickly and execute precisely on the field what's been instructed in the meeting room.

The NFL administers the Wonderlic test, designed to measure an individuals' general cognitive ability, to draft prospects. Minshew made the second-highest score among the 2019 draft class behind former North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley, a rookie with the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I was hoping for a 50 on that one, so I was pretty disappointed on that," Minshew said. "I thought I made a 50, then it came back and I realized I was below. There was one guy that beat me, so that was disappointing."

He's 6-foot-1, but looks to be no taller than 5-foot-10. He doesn't have a strong arm, but he has shown he can air it out when needed. He's tough like Blake Bortles, but appears to have more of the desired ability to be consistent.

And nothing appears to shake him.

"I'm extremely grateful to be where I'm at," Minshew said. "I feel very blessed to have some great people around me and that's evident in the good times and I'm fortunate it's evident in the bad times as well, so it wasn't too out of the norm."

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