LAWRENCE — The Kansas football coaches are telling the Jayhawks to take off their rear-view mirrors, and Angus Quigley is trying his best to toss his to the side of the road. But Quigley, the oldest player on the KU roster, has seen too much to simply be able to forget the past.
Quigley, a running back who will play a sixth season in the fall, sat out his first two seasons due to injury, which allowed for him to receive an extra year of eligibility and a final chance to contribute. He spent the next two years wondering why he couldn't play his way into a prominent role, despite leading the Jayhawks in yards per carry in 2008. Before last season, former KU coach Mark Mangino asked Quigley to move to linebacker because there wasn't a place for him anymore on the running back depth chart.
Quigley made the move and rarely saw the field. He knew he had the option of a sixth year, but he was not going to pursue it. His career was over.
"If there was a doghouse, I was most definitely in it," Quigley said. "I asked about a doghouse one time, and (Mangino) said there was no doghouse. We won't even talk about that. There had to be a doghouse."
Quigley has impressed first-year coach Turner Gill with his performance at running back this spring. He says he is running the same way he always has. Quigley says he doesn't know why he couldn't satisfy Mangino.
"I've never been a guy to miss class," Quigley said. "I've graduated. I'm pursuing my second degree here. I've never missed tutoring. There were days I got criticized for working too hard. I don't know how you compete with things like that. I don't know. It was weird. I'll just leave it at that."
Mangino often said that Quigley struggled to run at "pad level," which means that the running back is low enough to the ground that he inflicts the pounding instead of taking it. Quigley is 6 feet, 2 inches, so it has always been challenging for him to get under tacklers who are coming at him. Still, he does not think that issue was what kept him off the field.
Quigley said Mangino led him astray when he asked him to move to linebacker.
"He told me there was really no place for a big running back," Quigley said. "As we all know, that's not true, because Toben (Opurum) is bigger than I am."
These are the things that still rattle around in Quigley's head. Maybe he just needs to dump them out before he can fully move on. All Quigley needed to see was the first team meeting with Gill to know that he had to come back for another season.
"The man has a mission statement," Quigley said. "You can tell that it's not just words. He really lives by that. You get a guy who comes in and says there's gonna be no cussing anywhere in the facility. You can't help but respect a man like that. You always want to play out of respect for a man, not fear."
Quigley has enjoyed the emphasis on encouragement at practices thus far. He says he tries to seek teaching from Gill and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell after each play. The X's and O's appear to be working in Quigley's favor as well, now that the Jayhawks are operating in more traditional offensive sets like the I-formation.
"Downhill running," Quigley said. "That's what I like to do. In high school, I never really ran shotgun. We're back to under center. I'm loving it."
Quigley is competing with Opurum, junior Rell Lewis and redshirt freshman Deshaun Sands for the starting job, and he believes it is a fair competition.
Still, he keeps hearing that term: pad level.
"Initially when spring started, his pad level was a little high," Mitchell said. "Now he's starting to get that lower and get a feel for being a running back."
For Quigley, the tone of his coaches' words has made all the difference.
"It's been good," Quigley said. "Things are looking up around here."