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2019 NFL draft: Introducing Gardner Minshew, The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year

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Valero Alamo Bowl - Iowa State v Washington State Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

We’re still unsure how the quarterback class will shake out in the 2019 NFL draft. Things got a little murkier when Justin Herbert announced that he’d be returning to Oregon instead of declaring for the draft.

One name worth monitoring going forward is Gardner Minshew, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Minshew transferred to Washington State in the fall of 2018 and lead Mike Leach’s team to a school-record-tying 10 wins in 2018. Now he’s hoping to further cement his draft status with a strong performance at next month’s Senior Bowl.

Minshew recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his lone season at Washington State, how operating as the leader in coach Leach’s system gives him a competitive advantage over the other quarterbacks in this class, and which throws he’d most like to have back.

JM: Where were you when you found about your Senior Bowl invite and what was your initial reaction like?

GM: Here’s what happened. I was actually in the shower (laughs). Coach [Steve] Spurrier Jr. called me and of course I answer his call. He asked me if I had received any mail from the Senior Bowl. I was like no? He’s like, “well, you’re invited.” That’s how I found out (laughs). I thought it was awesome. That’s basically how the conversation went. I went back to my shower and found the letter in the mail later that day.

JM: What’s the lasting impression you’re hoping to leave on the general managers and scouts in attendance?

GM: At the game? I want to show them that I’m capable of leading a team. That’s the kinda guy I am. They can count on me every game. I plan on going out there and proving that on every play and during every quarter. I’m gonna give it my all. I hope they realize I’m the kinda guy who puts the team before himself.

JM: Which traits of yours would you say improved the most from last year to this year?

GM: I would just point to my confidence. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I’ve really become more of a leader over the past year. I have confidence in my ability and I trust the guys around me to go out there and make plays. I play the game with a little bit of reckless abandon.

JM: What was the transition like for you this year coming to Washington State?

GM: It was a lot of fun. I came here on pretty short notice. I got to know everybody quickly and we developed a relationship rather quickly. We had to build trust in one another. I had great teammates and a coaching staff that was able to get me up to speed on everything. They made it pretty easy on me.

JM: How would you describe coach Leach’s offensive system?

GM: It’s all about space. We look to attack space and attack what the defense gives us. We spread the ball around to a bunch of different people. We’re always talking about balance, and balance isn’t a run-pass thing, it’s about getting the ball to all the guys on your offense. That’s something I think we do well. It’s all about taking what the defense gives you.

JM: How did playing in this offense help get you ready for the next level?

GM: One of the biggest things is that this system puts a lot of the decision making on the shoulders of the quarterback. A lot of the time, you get a few plays to choose from pre-snap and it’s my job to put the team in the best position. At other schools, you see a lot of quarterbacks who get a play call and look over to the sideline for guidance on what to do with the ball. That’s not realistic. You can’t play quarterback like that at the next level. In this offense, you’re making decisions, you’re making different reads. Essentially, we throw the ball 50-60 times a game. I rather take the guy that’s throwing it rather than handing it off 50 times a game. I don’t understand why that’s such a big deal. How does that get you ready for the pro’s? Anybody can hand the ball off.

JM: You’re not wrong about that. I love how blunt that answer was. Which responsibilities did you have at the line of scrimmage?

GM: My job was to put the offense in the best situation possible. It’s not always about trying to find the perfect play, but rather finding the play with the best value based on what the defense gives you. It’s just about putting our offense in a good situation and giving us a chance to succeed.

JM: How did coach Leach help you improve your game this year?

GM: He put so much trust in me. It really helped raise the level of my confidence. I never had to worry about making a mistake. I was encouraged to attack the defense and to get after them. That’s been a lot of fun for me.

JM: He seems to go viral every other day with a different clip or quote. Is he really the character that people think he is?

GM: Yeah, that’s who he is. It’s like that every day (laughs). People always ask me for Leach stories and I swear to God I can tell a new story every day. It’s sorta the norm. You get used to it after a while.

JM: Is there one throw you’d like to have back? I know that’s a tough question but can you recall one or two in particular?

GM: Man, that’s tough. I don’t really dwell on anything like that. It’s all about putting a bad play behind you and rebounding from it. I’d have to point towards something that happened in the USC or Washington games since those are the only two we lost all year. All the other ones don’t really matter because we won those games. You can pick something out from the games against USC or Washington.

JM: If you could play with one NFL receiver, who would you choose and why?

GM: I’d have to go with Julio Jones. He’s kind of the perfect receiver. He’s a big guy and he plays that way in the air, but he runs like a little guy. He’s just a freak of nature. He has crazy range. He can really go up and get it. He’s always making something happen after the catch. He’d be a lot of fun to play with.

JM: I think a lot of people would agree with you on that. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Gardner. You’ve been a great sport. What can fans expect from Gardner Minshew going forward?

GM: They can expect the same thing they’ve been getting from me. I’m gonna show up to work every day and try to improve those around me. I’m gonna be a leader for my teammates and continue to play the game with a lot of passion. I’m excited about what’s ahead. I’m gonna lay it all out there.