Reid Herring announced recently that he is entering the NCAA’s transfer portal with plans to leave the program for his final season of college eligibility.
It’s a decision that was hardly earth shattering considering that Herring has been beaten out for the East Carolina starting quarterback job by Holton Ahlers in each of the past two seasons and that as a redshirt junior, his chance of ever winning back the position he held briefly early last year stood somewhere between slim and none.
Perhaps with a fresh start and a little luck, Herring might enjoy the kind of success at another school he was never able to achieve at ECU.
If he’s looking for inspiration, he needed only to turn on his TV and watch Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. There leading the offense for the Jags in their 34-27 loss at Bank of America Stadium, was another quarterback — and former teammate — who just two years earlier was in a similar situation to his own.
Gardner Minshew left ECU after two seasons as a part-time starter to become the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner at Washington State in his final year of college eligibility.
He has since gone on to become something of a national cult hero after taking over for injured Jags starter Nick Foles and promptly earning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honors for September. He already has his own collection of “Minshew Mania” t-shirts for sale on the Internet and has done a commercial with “Uncle Rico,” his alleged lookalike from the movie Napoleon Dynamite, for the NFL Network.
So there really is legitimate hope for Herring, even though that’s where the parallels between him and Minshew start and end.
Herring is a talented kid who might have enjoyed a successful career at ECU had he not had the misfortune of arriving in Greenville at the worst possible time.
He was signed by Ruffin McNeill, recruited over by Scottie Montgomery and was already an afterthought by the time another new coach came to town and chose someone else to become the face of the program.
At this stage of the Pirates’ building process, Mike Houston had little choice but to install the younger, more athletic Holton Ahlers as his offensive leader.
That wasn’t the case with Minshew.
He was brought in by Montgomery after winning a junior college national championship to add depth to a position that unexpectedly lacked depth after Kurt Benkert — who also made an NFL roster with the Atlanta Falcons, by the way — transferred to Virginia.
With three years of eligibility remaining, it was assumed that Minshew would redshirt for a year, then have the chance to win the starting job his second season with the program.
But that plan went out the window when starter Philip Nelson got hurt late in 2016, a season in which Minshew now admits he deliberately tried to break his own hand so that he could qualify for a medical redshirt.
A year later, Montgomery brought in injury-prone graduate transfer Thomas Sirk from Duke to play in front of him. Minshew started about half the games in 2017, throwing for 2,140 yards and 16 touchdowns. But with the buzz around the much-heralded Alhers having already begun, he announced that he was leaving the program because of “family issues.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Minshew first agreed to transfer to Alabama to serve as a backup to Tua Taglovailoa, then changed his mind and went to Washington State where he excelled in Mike Leach’s Air Raid Offense and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.
As if there needed to be any more of an indictment as to how miserable the three-year Montgomery era of Pirate football was, Minshews’s success has become just that.
It’s a great story: The kid who couldn’t start for 3-9 ECU goes on to become an NFL starter.
The large contingent of state-wide media that gathered in the small visitors interview room at Bank of American Stadium on Sunday couldn’t wait to eat it up and retell it upon Minshew’s triumphant — except on the scoreboard — return to North Carolina.
The problem is that he either didn’t want to or wasn’t given the chance to talk about it. After two quick game-related questions, he was whisked off the podium and back into the locker room by a team representative.
If Minshew enjoyed having the last laugh, he did it in private while publicly serving as a role model for all those still waiting for their opportunity to show what they can do.
Including, perhaps, the next former Pirate quarterback hoping to share a similar dream.