'Mississippi Mustache' relishes spotlight as WSU QB
PULLMAN - On a quiet Monday in Pullman, Gardner Minshew sat there in a crimson pull-over, a backwards hat, and camouflage cargo pants.
But the truth is, the Cougars quarterback can’t hide – not during the season he’s having.
Minshew is the most prolific quarterback in the country. He’s thrown for 4,325 yards and 36 touchdowns, guiding the Cougars to a 10-1 record heading into Friday’s Apple Cup.
But, more than his statistics, it’s his appearance that’s turned this mustachioed quarterback into a craze across the country.
“Yeah it’s crazy. Seeing some of the signs and stuff people have,” said Minshew. “It’s unbelievable. But you know I think it’s just showing the connection these fans have to the program to the success that we’re having, and more than anything it’s just making things a lot of fun.”
Washington State has won 13-straight games at Martin Stadium, and the eighth-ranked Cougars are favored in the Apple Cup for the first time since 2006.
Minshew, who joined the Washington State football program in the offseason, recognized that he’s never played in an Apple Cup, but says his teammates have stressed how desperate they are for redemption.
Washington State’s last win over their western rivals came in 2012, a 31-28 overtime win in Pullman.
“I’m pretty sure the past three years, Washington has been the team that’s been in our way to get to the Pac 12 championship,” said Hunter Dale, WSU defensive back. “And it kind of gets aggravating after a while that you can’t get past that one team.”
Prior to Washington State, Minshew spent time at Troy University, Northwest Community College, and East Carolina.
He said it was a phone call during the offseason from Head Coach Mike Leach that convinced him to come to Pullman.
“He asked if I wanted to come lead the country in passing and that got me fired up,” said Minshew.
Leach recalled the phone call saying he was impressed with the 22-year-old's football knowledge and excitement to join the program.
“Yeah, it was a pretty quick phone call. He’d read my book, so he knew quite a bit about my background and my philosophy, so that surprised me as well,” Leach told reporters on Monday.
But Leach’s gamble paid off. Minshew has led the Cougars to seven straight wins.
“I’ve been booed off the field. I’ve been picked up after the Oregon game. And I’m the same guy through it all. You know, so you can’t let it get you too low or too high you have to try and enjoy it all,” said Minshew.
On Monday, Minshew was named as one of three finalists of the Davey O’Brien Award, honoring the nation’s top quarterback.
“My background on my phone, since I committed, it says win the Pac-12, be All-Conference, and get drafted. In that order,” Minshew said.
It’s one and done for The ‘Mississippi Mustache.’ He's from Brandon, Mississippi. Minshew will leave Pullman after the season ends. But the season Washington State fans have enjoyed with their folk-like hero will be one to remember.
Minshew certainly will.
“I guess I’ve been here for about 6 months now – but I feel like I’m a Coug for life.”