Football Recruiting Report
Monday, May 9, 2016

By Sammy Batten

Juco All-American plugs gap at QB


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By Sammy Batten
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Flint Minshew was a hulking nose tackle during his playing days at NCAA Division III Millsaps College, where he’s a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame.

So when Flint’s son, Gardner, started his football career in the Brandon, MS, recreational league it was assumed the younger Minshew would follow in his father’s footsteps and play defense.

“My dad is a big guy, so everyone thought I’d be a defensive lineman like him,’’ Gardner Minshew said this week. “But my first day of flag football we showed up and by the end of practice I was playing quarterback. I think at that point I was the only guy who could handle a snap and hand it off. I've been a quarterback since that day.''

And a pretty good one at that.

Minshew went on to earn all-state honors at Brandon High School and junior college All-American honors last season at Northwest Mississippi Community College. It was at the latter that East Carolina's new head coach Scottie Montgomery and offensive coordinator Tony Peterson discovered the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder just when they needed a quarterback.

The decision by junior quarterback Kurt Benkert to transfer April 25 left Montgomery and Peterson with just one player on the 2016 roster – transfer Philip Nelson - who had taken a snap in a college game. The move sent the Pirates scrambling to bolster their quarterback depth chart, hopefully with a player who could come in and compete with Nelson next fall.

They found that quarterback in Minshew.

“I had some contact with East Carolina about a month ago, but it wasn't much,'' Minshew said. “Then a week or so ago Coach Peterson hit me up and explained the situation there. He said they needed to make a move quickly. The next Monday he called and offered (a scholarship).

“This past weekend I went on a visit (to Greenville). It all happened pretty quickly because of the situation they have there.''

Minshew signed grant-in-aid papers with ECU last Tuesday and was officially announced as an addition to the recruiting class of 2016 by the school Wednesday. He is scheduled to arrive in Greenville on May 17 to enroll for summer school and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Despite the fact his father played college football, Gardner Minshew didn't have his sights set on a major college career until he reached the eighth grade. His Brandon Middle School squad was facing Presbyterian Christian out of Hattiesburg, and Minshew was so impressive in the game that an opposing coach approached him after the finish.

The coach wound up being former University of Alabama and Baltimore Colts wide receiver, and ex-NFL head coach Ray Perkins.

“Ray Perkins was helping coach their middle school team,'' Minshew said. “After the game he told me I was the best middle school quarterback he'd ever seen. I didn't know quite how big of a deal that was until my Dad told me later. But that stuck with me and encouraged me to believe I had a shot at it.''

Minshew certainly lived up to Perkins' assessment once he reached Brandon High School, where he was a varsity starter for three-and-a-half seasons.

Called upon late in his freshman year to run the Brandon offense, Minshew completed 41 of 69 passes for 473 yards and six touchdowns in his varsity debut. He then sparked the Bulldogs to a 14-3 finish as a sophomore by completing 216 of 388 passes for 3,001 yards and 27 touchdowns.

The big numbers kept coming for Minshew as a junior (186-315 passing for 2,690 yards and 24 touchdowns) and as a senior (243-395 for 3,541 yards and 31 touchdowns). His senior statistics helped Brandon reach the state championship game and earned Minshew first-team all-state honors.

But despite finishing his prep career with 11,222 passing yards and 105 touchdowns, Gardner's college options were limited.

“I signed up to be a walk-on at Troy,'' Minshew said. “I graduated early and went to Troy for a semester, but I just wasn't crazy about it there.

“Northwest (Mississippi) recruited me out of high school and I had a good relationship with their coaches. So I went there last summer and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.''

Minshew quickly earned the starting quarterback job at Northwest Mississippi and enjoyed a stellar freshman season. He led the Rangers to an 11-1 finish and the national junior college championship by completing 223 of 367 passes for 3,288 yards and 28 touchdowns. Minshew capped his junior college career by throwing for 421 yards and five touchdowns in Northwest Mississippi's 66-13 win against Rochester Technical and Community College in the national finals.

East Carolina was a program Minshew had admired from afar, but knew very little about.

“I had seen them on TV and remember watching Shane Carden and how successful those teams were,'' Minshew said. “When they were in Conference USA they used to play Southern Miss all the time. But other than that I didn't know much.

“But when I went to campus and met with the coaches it was a very big selling point to me. I really like and trust coach Montgomery and coach Peterson. And once I started to see how the fans support the program, I realized it was a place I wanted to be. I'm excited to get in and play for fans like that.''

Minshew says he takes a “cerebral approach'' to playing quarterback and considers himself a strong leader. “I've always found a way to win,'' said Minshew, who had a 36-7 record as a starter in high school.

Nelson will begin next fall as East Carolina's starting quarterback, but Minshew hopes to make an impact as well.

“Obviously, Philip has a great resume,'' Minshew said. “He's done some great things and progressed this spring. But I'm expecting it to be an open competition and I'm looking forward to that. We'll push each other and at the end of the day the best guy will be on the field.''

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05/09/2016 03:53 AM