Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

December 8, 2013

Former Jacket Coward reflects on freshman season with MSU

CLEBURNE — Former Cleburne standout quarterback Quade Coward wrapped up his first season of playing football at the collegiate level for the Midwestern State University Mustangs.

The former Yellow Jacket, who was voted the District 8-4A and All-Johnson County MVP his senior season in 2012, started the season as a redshirt freshman, but an injury to the Mustangs’ No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart forced Coward to burn his redshirt and get some limited playing experience.

“Initially, I was going to be redshirted, but I was the third string quarterback and that allowed me to travel to away games,” Coward said. “During our game against McMurry [on Oct. 12], our No. 2 quarterback went down, so they pulled my redshirt and let me play in the case that I would ever have to come in if our starter went down.”

While Coward spent half of the season as a redshirt freshman, he said he wasn’t discouraged by having to give up that redshirt assignment, losing an extra year of eligibility.

“Some people might have been upset about burning their redshirt, bu tit’s hard sitting on the sidelines every game and putting in the same work as your teammates who are out there on the field. It felt like once I finally got the chance to play, everything just erupted at one; all the mental preparation and even a little anxiousness from standing on the sidelines. And once you go in, you don’t want to come out. There is absolutely nothing better than scoring in front of that MSU crowd because the games I played in at home were always packed.”

Coward played a limited role over the Mustangs’ final five games of the season. He ended his freshman campaign with 25 carries for 142 rushing yards and two touchdowns while he completed 7-of-14 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

In his first experience of collegiate action, Coward had a career-high 80 rushing yards and scored his first touchdown at the college level.

Over the course of the final five games, Coward saw spot duty, usually when the Mustangs had a big lead, but he also got some playing time in close and competitive games.

MSU started the season 7-1, including a seven-game winning streak, before losing its final two games to Eastern New Mexico and West Texas A&M. The two-game losing streak resulted in the Mustangs’ first year without postseason play since 2008, despite a 7-3 final record.

Coward said there are several differences from being a collegiate student-athlete to a high school student-athlete.

“The competition just within the team is a complete difference in itself,” Coward said. “You play teams in high school that have some pretty decent players, but when you get to college everybody on the field was ‘that guy’ at their school.

“On the field, the game comes at you at a faster pace. You have to just slow every thing down — breath and slow your heart rate down a little bit, which is something Coach Ross Taylor shared with me — and just enjoy the moment. I’d say the toughest thing off the field is making yourself study and managing your time. The course work isn’t that much harder, but that’s only if you study and really try to succeed.”

While Coward has experienced the highest degrees of success on the football field, he has also been a standout student, not only in high school, but in college as well.

“The main difference from high school is the amount of time put into the sport and also your classes,” Coward said. “Every day was a cycle — class, practice, study — but I enjoyed every second of it. I’m getting the opportunity to do something I love and get a great education. This coming fall I’ll already be a junior in the classroom so I’m thinking about possibly extending my bachelor degree into a Master of Exercise physiology.”

While Coward saw limited playing time in his half-season as a freshman, he will have the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job during the course of the offseason and preseason for next year.

“The job is open for this spring and it will be each year,” he said. “There’s a guy that will be a senior and then a quarterback that came in with me this year that was redshirted. They’re both great athletes so it will be exciting to get to compete with them. And we’re a pretty tight-nit group of guys so that makes it much more worth while.

“On the field, there is a ton of talent returning and a lot that came in with me so I’m eager to see what the future holds for us. Everyone here works hard so it will pay off in the end.”

Even after the season, Coward said the work and training doesn’t slow down.

“Right now we’re lifting weights and getting ready to max out on the main lifts, but during the spring we’ll be lifting four days a week and running two, then we also have two weeks of 5:30 a.m. workouts,” he said. “And all of that is before we even get into spring football.”

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