Kevin Sumlin, the unlikely QB guru

Kevin Sumlin

Beginning Aug. 3, we're counting down the days until the college football season starts with a look at the 25 most interesting people in the sport.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Johnny Manziel is in Aggieland no more. Life after Johnny Football beckons for Texas A&M.

While much of the college football world is focused on who is not in College Station, A&M fans are concerned more with who will be atop the quarterback depth chart now that one of the most dynamic players in the sport's history is gone.

Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill? Those are the options; the answer will be known within the next week. The winner earns the right to start at South Carolina on Aug. 28.

This isn't new for Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. He traveled the preseason quarterback competition path twice before as a head coach, and both times, the winner became a record-setting passer who changed his school's history forever. Look deeper into Sumlin's history and it becomes evident that he has a knack for being in the presence of elite college quarterbacks, including Drew Bledsoe at Washington State, Drew Brees at Purdue, Jason White and Sam Bradford at Oklahoma, and Case Keenum at Houston.

"This guy has had the darndest luck with quarterbacks," joked retired Purdue coach Joe Tiller, who both coached Sumlin and coached with him. "He's been at the right place at the right time."

And while it's worth noting that this choice will yield the first Sumlin quarterback recruit to start a season opener in his head-coaching career, at what point is it not coincidence?

First job, first overall pick

Sumlin's relationship with Tiller proved key as he sought his first coaching job. After graduating from Purdue and working as an insurance underwriter, Sumlin had the itch to coach. He called several coaches he knew, including Tiller, looking for work as a graduate assistant.

Tiller, who was Sumlin's defensive coordinator at Purdue in the mid-1980s, was the offensive coordinator under Mike Price at Washington State in 1989. Tiller touted Sumlin's intellect, and Price saved Sumlin from life behind a desk. It was there in Pullman, Washington, that Price and Tiller charted a new path for the former linebacker, putting Sumlin on the offensive staff and making him the junior varsity head coach.

Price was among the early adopters of the one-back offense, which was growing in popularity in the late 1980s. Price and Tiller were ahead of the curve, and they informed Sumlin that he'd better be, too. Not only that, Washington State is where Sumlin found his first star pupil at quarterback.

"We had a guy named Drew Bledsoe who was pretty good," Sumlin said. "[Price and Tiller] brought me in the room ... and basically they said 'If you want to coach in the college ranks, if you learn what we're doing here and you learn the principles of this offense, you'll always have a job.' And at least up to this point, that's turned out to be correct."

Another brush with greatness

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...