For Jeff Lindquist, he's experienced a little of both his first 2 years with the Huskies. But this week, recently being named the starting QB for Washington, time feels like it's at a standstill for the Redshirt Sophomore. Everything he knew about College Football and his experience at Washington up to this point goes out the window. Practices, meetings, dealing with the media, even the meals he's eating everyday are unlike anything he's ever experienced. Every minute of every day feels like an hour, every day like a week. Most people assume time feels like it's flying by for him, and I would have been one of those people, had I not been put in the exact same position Jeff is standing now.
On October 6th, 2001 I was a back-up QB for the University of Washington behind Cody Pickett. In a game against the USC Trojans Cody got injured in the 2nd Quarter and I came in off the bench. I played well enough for us to get the win. I also got named the starter for the following week versus the UCLA Bruins down in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. I had no idea what to expect, and thought I'd just go about everything the same way as I had all season and I'd be fine.
How nave I was. Everything was different. And looking back on it now, the thing that stands out to me the most is how long that entire week felt. As much as I tried to treat everything the same as I had, nothing was. Practice had a different intensity and purpose to it. Meetings were more urgent, details mattered more. I went from being a guy half the media couldn't even pick out of a line-up the week before, to a guy everyone wanted exclusive interviews with. The feeling on campus was different and I felt more eyes on me than ever before.
I remember going to a dinner at The Ram Restaurant on a Wednesday night. When I was being walked to my table, I saw everyone starring my way. I caught myself looking over my shoulder thinking that somebody important must be right behind me, until I realized that at that moment I was the important person. That can play tricks on your mind. It's hard not to get caught up in that moment. You find yourself wanting to enjoy all of it, to soak it up. You know you've worked harder than anyone to get to that point, and this is what you've always dreamed of.
Every time your mind wanders that direction, a rush comes over you and reality sets in. In just a few days you're going to be on the football field in front of tens of thousands of people and you're either going to get the job done or you're not. And that's the reality facing Jeff Lindquist this week. That thought is always in the back of his mind. He tries to block it out, to focus on other things. But it never quite goes away. He wishes he could fast forward time and get to the game. But he can't. The kickoff time is listed for everyone to see. But in frustration, he knows he has to wait. In the meantime, he has to deal with all kinds of distractions that previously were not an issue and it's not all in a negative way. Husky football is a huge thing in this state, and the QB position is the biggest. All week he's been running into people, fans, wanting an autograph or picture and Jeff is such a nice, polite young man, he'll accommodate them all. He'll constantly run into people wishing him well, or congratulating him. On one hand it's a huge honor and something he's envisioned since he was a kid and on the other hand, it's taxing. There's no off button. Everybody wants a piece of him, especially the people that have known him or been close to him. They all feel like they've been a part of this journey with him, thru the good and the bad times. Now that he's got his moment in the sun, they feel entitled to a few rays of it.
As the middle of the week approaches, Jeff will be getting to a point where all he wants is quiet and isolation. He won't want to be in public more than he has to. He might even eventually put his phone on silent or even turn it off at night. Even watching TV by himself there will be reminders of what's in his near future. Commercials for the start of college football season, promotions for tickets to a future Husky game, or even if he just sticks a DVD in his Blue Ray to try and relax, there's that voice in the back of his head. It's asking if he's done everything he can to be ready for the game. Has he looked at enough film, does he know the game plan inside and out, has he hydrated himself enough. No matter how hard he tries to take his mind off of the game, all that it keeps coming back to is just that. At a certain point you give up trying to fight it and let your mind wander off.
You're thinking about what it's going to be like. From the weather, to the feel of the playing surface. How are things actually going to play out? You close your eyes and try to think positive thoughts. You envision yourself avoiding the rush and scrambling out of the pocket, finding an open receiver 25 yards down field in the end zone for a TD. You envision how you'll celebrate, and how you'll look at the entire crowd in the stands and the people watching at home. But just as you're getting a smile on your face, the negative thoughts come rushing in. What happens if my 1st throw of the day gets intercepted? What if I tuck the ball away and run down field and get hit and fumble? Will we win, will we lose? Will I play well, will I not? All of these thoughts, good and bad, are what's constantly going through his head all week.
For Jeff Lindquist, he's exactly where he wants to be. He's the starting QB at the University of Washington. He grew up a fan of the Huskies his whole life, dreaming of being in the position he is today. He's fallen asleep at night seeing himself leading Washington to a big win as there signal caller. For Jeff this week, he's still closing his eyes at night seeing and hoping for those same things. The difference is, now it's a reality for him. And unlike those nights as a kid where he got great sleep, this week he won't. Although it's been the longest week of Jeff's young life, and time feels like it's moving at a snail's pace, it's actually the one thing he can take solace in. No matter how slow it feels like it's going, time continues to march forward. And eventually, that moment of truth will arrive. Jeff Lindquist will be standing on that field, behind center, in a University of Washington helmet and uniform. And at that point, only time will tell whether or not Chris Petersen and his staff made the right decision. Only time will be able to tell if Jeff was ready for this start or not. Whether he wins or loses, plays well or not, this is a time and experience he will remember for the rest of his life. And for Husky Nation, they are hoping that it's a time to celebrate a win and the start to a new era with both Chris Peterson and Jeff Lindquist at the helm.
Taylor Barton is a former University of Washington quarterback and is currently a college football analyst for ROOT Sports and is also the Director of the Barton Football Academy.