Jake Locker- NFL, Isaiah Stanback- NFL, Cody Pickett- NFL, Marques Tuiososopo- NFL, Brock Huard- NFL, Damon Huard- NFL, Mark Brunell- NFL, Billy Joe Hobart- NFL, Eric Bjornsen- NFL, Cary Conklin- NFL, Chris Chandler- NFL, Hugh Millen- NFL, Steve Pelluer- NFL, Tom Flick- NFL. Warren Moon- NFL.
That is a mighty long list of Husky quarterback greats who have played in the NFL. Every single starting quarterback who did not start due to injury (sorry Ronnie Fouch) has played in the NFL since 1975 except Casey Paus who started in 2004 (which shows that Rick Neuheisel didn’t know quarterbacks as well as he thought he did). It’s 15 of the last 16.
The Huskies have a reason to make a strong claim toward the mantle of “Quarterback U”. And yet when Jake Locker was taken 8th in the NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, big question marks were left behind at Montlake. Who would win the QB battle between Keith Price and Nick Montana? Assuming Keith Price won that battle, would he be any good?
In 2010, we saw two brief glimpses of what Price could do as a redshirt freshman. In the USC game, he came in for one play when Locker suffered a brief injury and immediately threw for a touchdown. Then, with Locker totally banged up and the vaunted Oregon Ducks defense ready to prey on him, Sark decided to rest Locker and threw Price into the cauldron of Auzten Stadium. Price held up admirably well going 14-28 with a TD pass and no interceptions.
So, he came into this season with promise, but uncertainty among the fans. We all held our collective breathe, but were relieved with the knowledge that at least he had Chris Polk to carry much of the load and two senior wide recievers in Jermaine Kearse and Devon Aguilar to catch his passes.
But, what Keith Price did this year went above and beyond the expectations of anyone. Despite numerous dings and bangs to his knees, he only threw for a season-record 33 touchdown passes, 3063 yards, and had a 66.9% completion percentage. Remember how Sark had a goal of 60% for Jake Locker that Jake was unable to achieve?
In just one season (plus one game his freshman year), Keith Price has already moved into a tie for 4th place with Sonny Sixkiller with 35 TD passes. He needs just 19 more next year to pass Cody Pickett and Jake Locker as the all-time leader in Husky history.
His 3,227 career passing yards are already 1/3rd of the way to Cody Pickett’s all-time mark of 9,946 yards. So, if Price could replicate this season two more times, he could have that mark. This season was the 2nd greatest in total passing yards behind Cody Pickett’s 4,458 yards in 2002.
But, what impresses me more than just statistics, is his will to win. Against Baylor you saw that on full display. His vision down field is outstanding. When under pressure, he doesn’t just toss it out of bounds or try and force a dangerous pass into double coverage. He calmly keeps looking down field for his options. When his knees were gimpy, sometimes there was nothing much he could do but absorb the sack. But, in the Alamo Bowl, having his full mobility we saw a different Keith Price.
Using his ability to see downfield, he easy strode in for his first rushing TD when he saw the seas part on the offensive line. On his second rushing TD, the presence of mind to pump-fake the Baylor defender into the air, after he had already crossed the line of scrimmage, and then dive up and over the last defender into the end zone was remarkable.
But, it was that third rushing TD that did it for me. Most QBs rushing toward the end zone, seeing two defenders collapsing on them would just tuck their head and go down at the two yard line. But, Price had the presence of mind to reach out for the pilon, realizing his knees were not yet down, and will his team to six points.
Keith Price accounted for 7 touchdowns in this game. He threw for 438 yards. He is doing things we have not seen a Husky QB do in quite some time. In fact, I am not sure there is another single game effort that can surpass what we saw in the Alamo Bowl by a Husky QB other than maybe the famous 300-200 game by Tui.
The thought of what a healthy Keith Price could do next year as a junior makes me drool. Sure, he has lost some experience around him in the form of Kearse, Aguilar, and Polk all leaving. He’ll have James Johnson, Kasen Williams, and a 5th-year senior in Cody Bruns to throw to next year, plus maybe a reciever or two we currently do not have on our radar that could surprise some folks. He’ll have an experienced tight end in Austin Sefarian-Jenkins to throw to. He’ll have Bishop Sankey and Jesse Callier, and maybe Deonte Cooper to try and take the mantle of Chris Polk as the next great Husky running back. He’ll have 4 of the 5 starting offensive linemen back to protect him.
This team is primed for greatness and if Keith Price can stay healthy, he is well on his way to being the greatest Husky QB to ever where purple. I am even sure the dreaded word “Heisman hopeful” will be attached to his back next year by ESPN who finally seemed to discover him the other night.
The key question is, as Keith Price continues to break records next year, whether we will be blessed to have him two more years or if the NFL will come calling early. He’s a bit small for a QB at that level, so he may not rank very high on the mock draft boards. But, what professional team doesn’t want a winner with his vision and patience?
Already the greatest Husky QB ever? That’s a tall statement and maybe a bit premature. But, perhaps we are just witnessing greatness in the making and in a few years he will be added to that aforementioned list of Husky greats…perhaps right at the very top.