Flowood, Mississippi is home to 7,823 people. It’s the hometown of a Mississippi State Senator, a Medal of Honor recipient, and a soon-to-be NFL quarterback.
No, it’s not the hometown of Heisman finalist Dwayne Haskins nor is the hometown of Duke QB Daniel Jones, another top-rated quarterback in this year’s draft.
No. Flowood is home to Washington State QB Gardner Minshew.
Minshew’s story to position himself as a potential NFL Draft pick is about as unique as they come. It’s been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, beginning with his high school days.
Despite throwing for 3,541 yards and 31 touchdowns in his senior year, leading his team to the South 6A Championship, and shattering passing records along the way, Minshew did not receive a single athletic scholarship offer.
In fact, he was rated as just a 3-star prospect, considered the 70th-ranked pro-style QB in the nation.
After his senior season in the fall of 2014, Minshew committed to Troy University, enrolling for the spring semester after graduating high school early.
Coming in on an academic scholarship, Minshew thought he found the perfect situation. However, his stay at Troy lasted just a single semester. Then he transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College, a JUCO boasting over 14 NFL alumni.
It was there that Gardner Minshew made a name for himself. He came right in and led the team all the way to the NJCAA National Football Championship.
They dominated on junior college football’s biggest stage, winning 66-13 over the #2 ranked team in the nation. Minshew completed 23 of 30 pass attempts for 421 yards and 5 touchdowns.
After showcasing his talent at the JUCO level, he transferred again. This time to East Carolina University, his third school in as many years.
But despite his list of accolades, there were no guarantees.
During the 2016 season, Gardner Minshew was primarily the Pirates’ backup quarterback. He played in just seven games, two of those as a starter. Then, in 2017, his second season at ECU, he split time with Duke University transfer Thomas Sirk.
In December of 2017, he graduated with his bachelor’s degree. His undergrad career was over, but he still had a year of eligibility left.
So Minshew committed to the University of Alabama, and since he’d be considered a graduate transfer, Minshew would be eligible to play right away. He made his decision and was all set to join the Crimson Tide.
That is until Washington State head coach Mike Leach got in his ear.
Leach uttered a simple, yet honest phrase:
Mike Leach’s recruiting pitch to Gardner Minshew: “You wanna be a backup at Alabama or you wanna lead the nation in passing?”pic.twitter.com/blHiIejdE9
— Comeback SZN (@ComebackSZNshow) November 18, 2018
The sales pitch worked, and Minshew settled on the final landing spot in his college career — Pullman, Washington.
No one realized it at the time, but Minshew was about to take the college football world by storm.
Minshew entered a Washington State locker room still reeling from an unspeakable tragedy. Their quarterback, Tyler Hilinski, committed suicide in January of 2018.
In a poignant piece for SB Nation’s Coug Center, journalist Jeff Nusser did his best to find words to describe the unimaginable situation.
“This was their friend who died, and the football season was coming no matter how sad they were. And the guy who was supposed to be leading them through the preparation was the guy who was gone.”