LAWRENCE — After two starts, Kansas quarterback Quinn Mecham can at least feel confident in his chances of being a card-carrying member of the Chuck Long Quarterback Club.
To this point, the most prominent members are Long himself and Oklahoma quarterbacks Josh Heupel and Jason White, who are all Heisman Trophy finalists (White actually won the Heisman in 2003). Speaking after Mecham led Kansas to an amazing 52-45 comeback victory over Colorado last weekend, Long said nothing superlative of Mecham's talent, but Mecham has distinguished himself in a less superficial way.
"He was as unflappable and poised as any quarterback I've coached," Long said. "Especially after two interceptions. They were just physical errors, underthrowing the football. All his reads were perfect. He's played within himself. He's managed the game as well as any guy I've been around. Unflappable."
KU coach Turner Gill, a pretty good college quarterback in his own right, has praised Mecham's poise, too, and the Jayhawks are now looking at their third starting quarterback of the season. Just like Kale Pick and Jordan Webb before him, Mecham has earned the job fair and square in Gill's eyes. Mecham can only hope that things go better for him now that he's the guy.
It doesn't sound as if he'll spend too much time worrying about it, though. Mecham has set himself apart by staying quiet and taking in as much as he can each week.
"Quinn doesn't feel like he needs to be another big personality in the huddle," KU right tackle Brad Thorson said. "His focus is definitely on doing the right thing and making sure he's putting the ball where it's supposed to go. He's a really steady personality. It's good to count on a guy like that."
Mecham, more than Pick and Webb, has truly come out of nowhere. He threw for almost 3,000 yards as a sophomore at Snow (Utah) Junior College and signed with Kansas to give the Jayhawks another option in case Pick and Webb weren't ready. Gill decided that Pick and Webb were ready, which meant that Mecham was targeted as a likely redshirt player.
It appeared that Mecham would benefit from the extra year. He came to school needing to get stronger, so Long told him to put in the effort in the weight room. Mecham, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, arrived at 200 pounds. He is now 210.
"He dedicated himself from winter on," Long said. "All of a sudden, he's throwing with a stronger arm."
When Webb and Pick went down to injuries in the Texas A&M game, Gill was told by the doctors that it was unlikely either would be ready for the next game against Iowa State. So Gill had to burn Mecham's redshirt. Luckily for KU, Mecham had put in the time to prepare himself for that moment.
"I've always said this to a quarterback," Long said. "If you work hard enough and have great passion for this position, it will pay off for you someday, somehow."
Against Colorado, it paid off for Mecham and Kansas. He completed all of his passes in the second half and calmly steered the Jayhawks to an unbelievable win. Now, the quietest guy in the room has the faith of his teammates and coaches going forward.
"I've appreciated watching the way he's worked," Thorson said. "Knowing how much more practice we've all had and seeing him come out and compete, it demonstrates to all of us how much more we can put in to prepare."