Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.
It’s a hell of a thing to follow an act that brings the house down. The audience is already at its crescendo having poured their adoration and happiness onto the person that came before you. What’s left for you, the person whose skills may match or even surpass that act? Who knows, but you go onto the stage anyway, hoping the crowd can still appreciate and cheer for what you have to offer.
Suffice to say, no pressure Anthony Gordon.
Gardner Minshew II spent all of 2018 whipping Washington State Cougars fans into a frenzy, carrying a team voted to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12 North division to a school record 11 wins, all while sporting facial hair that reached Burt Reynolds levels of iconic in short order. He did it with incredible throws, superb scrambles, and some, uh, swagger in front of the Ol’ Ball Coach.
I try to stay away from hyperbole as best I can and beg pardon if it’s a bit prisoner of the moment but: Washington State had never seen anything like Gardner Minshew. He has forged his own legacy in the annals of WSU football history, sparsely populated though they may be compared to other programs. He spent less than a year in Pullman, yet it’s not a stretch to say that legacy will last for an awful lot longer than that.
Replacing him was sure to be no easy task. Another graduate transfer quarterback, Eastern Washington’s Gage Gubrud transferred 75 miles south this past winter, hoping to be the second-straight college football style mercenary to take the reigns of Mike Leach’s high powered offense. Most of us assumed (yours truly included!) it was Gubrud’s job to lose; that a transfer to WSU came with a tacit guarantee of the starting spot.
Anthony Gordon, as it turns out, heard of no such guarantee.
It turned out to be a genuine quarterback battle throughout fall camp. Leach took one relatively extraordinary step a couple of weeks ago, saying Gordon would be the starter if they played that day and then the even more extraordinary step of naming him the starter last weekend. Read into both those statements what you will but it likely speaks to Leach’s extraordinary confidence in his redshirt senior signal caller. Gordon spent fall camp outperforming a quarterback who’d previously had a prolific season with a stable of wide receivers nowhere near the talent level of the one available to him now. That he did so with the pressure of his final season barring down on him likely speaks to his poise throughout fall camp.
Now he’s just got to do it for real a season after Gardner Minshew finished fifth in the Heisman voting. No big deal, right?
It’s trite to even say but I hope Gordon is not looking backwards and thinking that’s what’s expected of him in 2019. He has virtually no in-game experience at this level, something Minshew had in spades (albeit with a much less impressive statistical line), let alone the fun Wazzu and college fans in general had with all of Minshew’s eccentricities. It would be nigh on impossible for Gordon to live up to everything last year’s signal caller was.
So, the best thing for Gordon to do is to be himself. Lead this offense how he best sees fit, speak with the media however he is comfortable, grab as much or as little attention of the national spotlight should it come to Washington State again as he chooses. This is, after all, his own legacy and no one else’s.
We said it of Minshew before last season and we’ll say it of Gordon: be yourself, Anthony. Everything else will fall into place.
Faithless to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anthony Gordon, the most important person against New Mexico State.