That first year was rough. I think I was 4-5, just got worked. We played that 2018 Clemson team. You’re watching a freshman quarterback just like you—Trevor Lawrence—take them to the national championship. There’s always different doubts that creep in. Part of [improving] was figuring out what was important, creating a daily routine, and continuing to grow on that as the six years rolled on.
Six years is a long time in life too, not just football. How do you think you’ve changed as a person since those freshman days at Wake Forest?
One of the things I’m proud of is my leadership ability and how I’ve handled different situations. As a quarterback, you’re always kind of looked at as a leader, but I don’t think everyone is. That takes time and experience. You learn what battles to fight. I think the relationships I’ve been able to build from being around so many different people—being on six different college football teams!—that’s every dynamic and every type of person you can imagine. That’s shaped who I am and what I value as a person.
When I was younger I would get so caught up on little things. You have a bad game or a bad practice and you want to hold on to it. The realization that everyone’s looking at you and feeding off your energy—and also that a mistake is, in the grand scheme of things, just part of the game—you’re not going to win every football game. That’s a tough challenge to learn and process, but those were the main growth for me as a player and a person.
So are you just terrified of getting a real job? Is that why you’ve stayed in college for so long?
That honestly might be it.
How often do you hear Van Wilder jokes?
I’ve heard it, but that’s a little outdated for me.
Your game this weekend is against Wake Forest. What do you think that’ll be like for you?
It’s like playing your brother. My best friend and roommate for five years is their starting right guard. You can go up and down that entire roster. The relationships that I’ve built here, you just multiply it by five. It’ll be challenging, we were joking about pregame warmups and how I might not even go out. I can’t imagine the amount of people I’ll have to talk to! That won’t be very productive for me. It’ll be surreal. Once the foot hits the ball, as we say, that emotion will be gone and I can just go out and play like another game. It’ll be weird not throwing it to the Wake Forest helmets! Hopefully they were black and we wear gold.
You mentioned that 2018 Clemson team. Some of the guys from that team—Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Hunter Renfrow—they’re veterans now! They’re in their fifth year in the NFL! Do you ever think about that?
All the time. You see other people running their race. Trevor Lawrence is a great example. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime, generational talent. To compare yourself to him is kind of dumb. But also, he’s your age! He’s playing your position! All those guys that I went to camps with are in their fourth year or fifth year [in the NFL]. Again, those are the cards I was dealt. Destiny, whatever you want to call it. To end my college career at a place like this, with such a historic program, is something that I never thought would be possible. But I’m forever grateful and will always look back at it like, That was pretty cool.
You have played 58 college football games. Do you have a sleeper choice for favorite one of your career? Maybe one that doesn’t necessarily stick out to the fans but is important to you?
The Duke one this year was one of those. We just kept battling. The odds were stacked against us and we put together a really unbelievable two-minute drive to kind of make it happen in the last seconds. At Wake, it wasn’t a crazy win, but when we clinched the ACC Atlantic Division at Boston College [in 2021]. It was like 18 degrees. I remember looking at each other like, Remember when we were freshmen and we used to say that we’d play in the ACC Championship? When it all hit and you can say, “Holy cow, we really did it”, especially with the teammates from that year and what we went through during COVID, that was a special one for me.
You’ve also seen a very interesting evolution of college football. Can you even compare the pre-COVID, pre-NIL days to now?
It’s completely different. And, I am old, so it makes sense. But the freshmen on this team had to grow up so much faster because of NIL, the money flow, and the business decisions they had to make at 17 years old. That presents a challenge, but also an opportunity for people to really change their lives, create wealth, help their families at home.