Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Strange Odyssey of Kenny G

By Kevin Beane

Before he's consigned to the dustbin of history, I wanted to write a few words about a backup quarterback who has done some amazing things despite perhaps the most inauspicious introduction one can have in major college football.

Ohio State was caught holding the bag a bit in 2009. In that year, Terrelle Pryor had established himself as the Big Quarterback on Campus, which hastened the transfers of two other candidates, Antonio Henton and Rob Schoenhoft. This left the Buckeyes with just two scholarship quarterbacks, and Jim Tressel and his staff decided they did not want a walk-on running the third team in practice.

The problem: when it was time for Ohio State recruiting coordinator John Peterson to go find and offer a scholarship to a quarterback appropriate for a high major, they were all gone.

Meanwhile, in Houston, Kenny Guiton was caught holding the bag a bit. He was a solid quarterback for an elite program (Eisenhower High School) and had put up nice enough numbers his junior year to get offers from BCS programs. Granted, not the Texases, Oklahomas, or USCs of the world, but Rice, Kansas, Northwestern, Iowa State, and Houston. He decided he would make his decision slowly and deliberately.

Then, two things started to work against him: his senior year was not statistically as gaudy as his junior year, and pundits started raising questions about his size: lean and unimposing, even for a dual-threat quarterback.

Rice rescinded their offer. As did Kansas, Northwestern, Iowa State, and Houston. When it was time for Guiton to fish or cut bait, he had two offers remaining: Wyoming, and ... Prairie View A&M, the school you may remember from the nineties when they set an epic losing streak of 80 games.

Guiton was set to accept PVAMU's offer when Peterson flew down to Houston to talk to him. Less than a week later, the number of schools making him an offer had improved to three: Wyoming, Prairie View A&M, and Ohio State. Even hardcore Buckeye fans had to scour the internet to find out anything about this kid.

Four years later, Guiton is a senior and in the Ohio State record books. He connected on the longest play in OSU history on a 90-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith, and against Florida A&M he threw for 6 touchdowns, a school record for a game (he accomplished it in one half).

Yes, Guiton, a senior now, is still a backup, and so he will remain unless Braxton Miller gets injured (again). But in his second-string capacity, he's got 15 touchdowns against 4 interceptions, and a quarterback rating deep in the hundreds. Perhaps more impressively, before the season started he was voted to team captaincy by his peers (8 are chosen by team vote, Guiton was third).

Assuming Braxton Miller stays healthy, will we hear from Guiton again? Probably not. There are rare occasions when a college backup makes it in the NFL (Matt Cassel is one, and Billy Joe Hobert and Mark Brunell switched off a lot at Washington in the early '90s), but such an exception thus far seems reserved for "pro-style" quarterbacks.

But this kid, with one foot on the field at Prairie View A&M, has gone on to set records at one of the most storied programs in college football, and that makes me happy. So let's not forget about him just yet.

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