Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew's wild journey leads to starting NFL quarterback

When the Jaguars signed quarterback Nick Foles to a four-year contract in March, no one expected Gardner Minshew to be the team’s starter in Week 2.

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But that’s the reality in Jacksonville right now, after Foles broke his left clavicle in the first quarter Sunday against the Chiefs. He underwent surgery Monday and was placed on IR, leaving him unable to return until Week 11 at the earliest.

“I do expect him to come back,” Jags head coach Doug Marrone told reporters. “He’ll probably rest up for a while; I know that he wants to be heavily involved with the quarterback room and helping Gardner.”

That means Minshew, a rookie out of Washington State (selected by the Jags in the sixth round in April’s draft), will get a chance to start sooner than anyone expected. In relief of Foles on Sunday, Minshew played surprisingly well, completing 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.

The solid play isn’t surprising to Jacksonville, though. The team apparently saw something in Minshew right away, leading it to cut Cody Kessler, last year’s backup, in May. Minshew received all the second-string reps in training camp, and a large load in the preseason games.

He experienced success in college, but not really until his final season. He signed with Troy University out of high school in Brandon, Miss., but left after a semester for Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he won a junior college national championship. That led him to East Carolina, where he was never able to win the starting QB job outright.

But after graduating from ECU, Minshew had an offer to be a backup at Alabama, the best program in the country. Instead, he accepted an offer from Washington State head coach Mike Leach, who asked him if he wanted to lead the country in passing by playing for the Cougars. And that’s what he did — Minshew led the FBS in pass completions (433), pass attempts (613) and passing yards per game (367.6), while ending up second in passing yards (4,477) and in the top five in touchdowns (38). He won PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors, and his PAC-12 single-season record for passing yards broke the mark set by Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick by the L.A. Rams in 2016.

Those trials in college, Minshew says, shaped him for the better.

“The crazy thing to think about is that it was the hardest times of the journey that made me who I am today,” he wrote in a piece for AthletesForGod.com. “Those struggles taught me to find joy in my sufferings, because as Romans 5:3-5 says, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance builds character, and through character comes hope.”

Minshew mentioned his tough time at ECU, when the team went 3-9 in 2016 and 2017, and he questioned where his football career was headed.

“It was around that time one of my old high school principals sent me the verse Galatians 6:9, which says, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ Getting that verse at that time was just a Godsend, and the timing could not have been any better. I was feeling down on myself, and to see that, it was just a reminder to keep plugging and keep doing what you’re supposed to do, because at the right time God is going to reward your work,” Minshew wrote.

“I never really tried to guess what God’s plan for me was, or even if I was playing for the right school,” he wrote. “I just thought wherever He puts me, I’m just going to do the best I can. I believe that He blesses the effort I put in, and if I got an opportunity, I would make the most of it.”

The piece was written before the NFL Draft in April, but that mindset is what has gotten him to where is now — the Jaguars’ starting quarterback for Week 2.

“I don’t know if I’ll become an NFL starter or not,” Minshew wrote in April, “but all I know is I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Jacksonville travels to Houston for its game at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

“It’s amazing what can happen when you surrender to God’s plan,” Minshew said, adding, “God’s taken me too far to ever doubt that He’s looking out for me. My motto these days is ‘too blessed to be stressed’ and I’m just enjoying every step of this journey.”

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