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February 6, 2014

Rivals100 QB Stidham takes center stage

MORE: Stidham goes in-depth on Texas Tech

STEPHENVILLE, Texas -- Sometime on Wednesday, Jarrett Stidham went from what would have been a really nice get for any college program to the get of the year. Stidham and the 2015 class are now at the forefront of college football fans' imagination. This Stephenville (Texas) standout, ranked the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com, is one of the faces of the class.

An absent face it seemed.

"I'm going to wring that boy's neck the next time I see him for you," a Stephenville High School employee said.

The SHS official was concerned that Stidham, during a chaotic Monday centered around state high school realignment, had forgotten about his interview with RedRaiderSports.com.

It wasn't like Stidham to no-show. People here know him. And they think highly of him not only as a quarterback but as a person.

He has succeeded Baylor head coach Art Briles, NFLer Kevin Kolb, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and fellow former Rivals100 quarterback Jevan Snead as the next big thing for the Yellow Jackets.

But Stidham wasn't standing this interview up. He was actually in contact the whole time and apologizing repeatedly for the delay.

Stidham spent most of Monday in class, working toward a December graduation. After class, he had to run around Stephenville in order to fill out and file some passport papers for a planned spring break trip.

The whole ordeal set him back about 30 minutes.

He ran down the halls of Stephenville High to his head coach's office for the interview, sat down for an extensive interview, went back home to change and then was out the door again for a team banquet celebrating the Yellow Jackets' run to the 3A Division I semifinals.

It's funny how everything sneaks up on you at once.


This town of 17,2000 has really taken Stidham, a Kentucky native who moved here as a preteen, on as its own.

It's not exactly a place where heads turn when you walk into the room, but if they've never seen you before, Texas hospitality and curiosity takes over.

"Where are you from?"

You say Lubbock. You're here to talk to a local football player that Texas Tech and over a dozen other programs are recruiting.

"Yeah, Tech," one responds back. "The military school in West Texas?"

It's not a military school. But, yes, it's in West Texas. And it's a school looking to top itself by landing its highest-ranked recruit ever. Higher than Jace Amaro. Higher than Michael Crabtree. Higher than any other player in the Rivals.com era.

"You're here for Jarrett Stidham."

Then they give you a smile and ask for insight into what the quarterback is thinking.

"It's kind of funny," Stidham said. "I was picking up a pizza from Papa John's the other day and I said my name, 'Stidham.' The guy is on the phone and he's like, 'Really? Jarrett?' I'm like, 'Oh yeah, that's me.' He's like, 'Man, you had one heck of a season.'

"I don't even know this guy. That's happened to me a couple of times. Just random people will come up to me in Wal-Mart or whatever and be like, 'Man, you had a great season.' Then the million dollar question is, 'Where are you going to go?'"

He doesn't know where he's going to go. He is, however, thinking about it a lot.

[ Stidham Q&A: Texas Tech is "kind of a special place" ]

Stidham's first offer came from Texas Tech. Neal Brown and Tommy Mainord, who were on staff at the time, spearheaded the Red Raiders' efforts. They both joined Mark Stoops' Kentucky during the 2012-13 offseason, offered the quarterback again and are recruiting him to come home to the Bluegrass State.

Tech's offer still stands and ultimately the program's effort to land Stidham has been taken over personally by Kingsbury himself.

Offers in the Big 12 from Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas have also come in, as have invitations from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

"It can get overwhelming, for sure," Stidham said. "After the dead period, from the middle of December to the middle of January, I've had coaches come in the past three weeks. I'm getting out of class two to three times a day, missing work and having to make it up and stuff, it gets overwhelming from that aspect. Guys hit me up on Twitter all the time and trying to message them back, it does get overwhelming.

"But, at the same time, it's really exciting."

Stidham has plenty of options. There are the college football blue-bloods. Teams that have been making noise since the turn of the century. Then teams that have pushed to Top 10 relevancy before and are hoping to make it back again.

Stidham is a consensus top 100 player in the 2015 class. Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 1 player at his position: dual-threat quarterback. He's the most noticeable player on the field because not only can he throw the ball, he can also make big plays with his feet.

What makes Stidham special, though, is his thought process. There may be a five-yard running lane opening up, but a receiver is opening up for a 20-yard gain through the air. Stidham opts for the selfless play. The colleges just happen to notice anyway.

For Stephenville, he's definitely a game changer. For one university, he might also become a program changer.

"I've actually been thinking about that a lot lately," Stidham said. "I think it would be extremely cool to basically go into a place and turn it around. For instance, Johnny Manziel. A&M has always been good, but last year Johnny had his Heisman year and A&M basically flipped and went from being pretty good to being one of the best teams in the country.

"I'm not saying I want to be like Johnny Manziel, I want to be my own player and do my own thing, but I think it would be something extremely special to be able to go in somewhere and kind of flip it. Flip the whole culture of the program. I don't want anything to be handed to me. I want to work my butt off to get to that point and turn it completely around."

What sets any school apart for someone who passed for 30 touchdowns and 2,687 yards to five interceptions and added another 10 touchdowns and 975 yards on 143 runs in his first year as a varsity starter?

"First off, academics," Stidham said. "Yes, you're there to play football, but you're there to get a degree. That's first and foremost. That's a big thing for me. I'm not sure what I'm going to major in, but I've been thinking about engineering. I may look into a really good engineering school. I know there are some good ones in the state.

"Going from there, there's a long list of stuff. How good is the coach? The quarterback coach? The head coach? I want a coach that is there for the players and not there just to get a paycheck. I think it means a whole lot more to the actual players to play for someone like that than someone just there to get paid. I want a good offense. Someone that will spread it around and throw the ball vertically. And playing fast. We do our hurry-up offense here and that's when we really click. That's the way I like to play."

Have you ever met a quarterback that researches and studies the defenses of his various college suitors?

Stidham does.

"I may be different than other recruits," he said. "I don't necessarily just focus on the offense. I look at the defense and how they're progressing because you might be able to score 55 points a game, but if you're giving up 60 it does you no good. So I look at how the defense are progressing, what they did the previous year and what they've got coming in. It's a team effort."

This player is different.


Briles took the Stephenville coaching job in 1988. The school had not been to the playoffs since 1952. The Yellow Jackets have won five state championships since. Four with Briles and one in 2012; Stidham played receiver on that team.

"There's a lot of tradition here and coaches preach to us that here tradition never graduates," Stidham said. "In the weight room, in our locker room, it's been the same for I don't know how many years. Coach Briles laid a foundation of all of it and he's the one that kind of set everything up to be great. It's an honor to be from Stephenville and especially to play here. Coach Briles and Coach Morris, they're making millions now. Some of the best coaches around.

"Quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb is playing in the league. They've had Jevan Snead and countless other great quarterbacks. I mean some good ones. Some that hold the Texas state high school records. It's an honor to play here and to leave my own mark on it, so to say. As long as I try to do my own thing and leave my mark, it's pretty special."

There's not much to explain Stidham's football skills on the genetic level. His dad and his older brother preferred basketball growing up.

Yet the Stephenville product stands out.

[ Stidham Q&A: "I'll go ahead and say it. They're high. Real high." ]

"Watching film really helps me," Stidham said. "Seeing how the linebackers play, how the defensive ends shift or how the defensive backs rotate. That helps me a lot. Once I get into a game, it takes me a few plays to get used to what they're doing and kind of have a feel for what will help to be successful. But from play to play I'll see little things here and there and I'll remember it. Then the next time we run a play like that and I see they're in the same coverage or blitz package, I kind of just think, 'OK. That's going to work.'"

He hates to throw the ball away. Every play matters.

"If no one is open I'll tuck it and run," the quarterback said. "I try not to throw it out of bounds. I know it's safe for a quarterback to do that, but I hate doing it, honestly. I like to make a play and progress the ball down the field."

Stidham is meticulous, thinks things through, has a championship pedigree and is someone who wants to add something to a program rather than inherit something that is already.

He has a great story already, and the potential is there for it to get even better.

"At the beginning of this thing, I didn't think I'd have 19 offers," Stidham said. "I had no clue. I didn't think it was possible for just a small town kid like me to have that many. But it's been exciting. Really exciting."

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