It doesn’t have the drama of Major League Baseball, as fan wait for the announcement of who the opening-day starter is going to be when their favorite teams opens the season. But there is something special when a head coach of a major football power decides who is going to take the first snap.
One of the worst kept secrets at the University of Louisville was who was going to be the starter. While no formal announcement ever came until Aug.29, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion who the starting quarterback was going to be.
After a long position battle through spring practice and fall camp, Coach Charlie Strong has finally made the decision to name Will Stein the starting quarterback for Thursday night’s opener against Murray State.
Stein, a junior and the most experienced quarterback the Cardinals have on the roster, faced competition from highly-recruited Teddy Bridgewater, who enrolled early in the spring to get a jumpstart on learning the offense.
Stein, who appeared in two games last season and went 9-for-14 for 72 yards passing and had his first career touchdown pass, stood up to the challenge like he always has throughout his career.
“I’m very excited,” said Stein. “It’s a big responsibility but I am ready for this opportunity.” He went on to say that he has prepared himself as if he was the starter since day one and played with “a chip on my shoulders as if I am the man, no matter if I’m the third string, second string, or first string.”
Ever since his days as the starting quarterback for Trinity High School, Stein has proved that he is a winner and he wants to show that he can continue to win at the University of Louisville.
When asked about what he thinks are his best attributes as a quarterback Stein cited his ability to extend plays with his feet and his football IQ as being key components that make him a great manager of the game.
The one knock on him that seems to always be an issue, is his size. Stein was asked if this causes him to play with a chip on his shoulder. He answered by saying, “Sort of but not really, I’ve always been joked on or looked upon because of my size, but I’ve also looked at all of the other successful quarterbacks that have been my size or a little taller and there are plenty. I’ve seen too many guys who are 6-foot-5 and can throw the ball 80 yards but can’t make a simple read. It’s not all about height, and if I ever make that excuse for myself then I shouldn’t be playing… People make a big deal of it but if you’re throwing touchdowns and completing passes who really cares?”
The dynamics of the quarterback position have changed drastically from last year’s team when the Cardinals had two seniors, and Stein was the youngest in the group as a sophomore.
Stein now knows that he is the player that the younger quarterbacks look to and he has embraced that. Stein said that he feels in control of the group and joked that he feels like he is the “grandfather of the group” and that they look to him for advice. When asked about the other quarterbacks Stein had this to say about his teammates, “Teddy is just a very talented player, he’s got all the upside in the world to be great here. He can throw it, he’s got some speed, and he’s real smart, he’s heady. He’s definitely a guy who we feel comfortable about back there. Dominique is extremely athletic, he can run the ball, he can throw on the run really well. We all complement each other and we all bring something to the table… Like I said I’m a winner, if we’re winning and moving the ball with Dominique or Teddy and they feel comfortable with that then let it keep going, I’m not going to judge the coaches decisions, they know what is best for this team.”
Everything aside, Stein is the starter for this team and seems confident to take the reins and lead the Cards to what is hopefully another season that ends in a bowl game victory, and that begins with Thursday night’s game against Murray State. In response to the game Stein said, “I am very excited, it’s been a long time coming and as a whole team we are very excited to get on the field and play against somebody else.”