Freshman QB adjusting to first spring at WVU
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 00:03
West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 signified a cultural shift for the future of the program, one in which the effects are already starting to come to fruition.
The westward expansion for the program has infused the fan base with Texas-sized aspirations about what the reigning Orange Bowl champions can do in its new conference home.
While fans may have to wait a few months to go to Texas, they don’t have to wait at all for a piece of Texas to come to them.
One look at true freshman quarterback Ford Childress is enough to tell that a new breed of recruits is starting to filter onto the West Virginia roster.
Everything from his polite demeanor, incredible arm strength, imposing physical stature and even his field of study (petroleum engineering) are signs that the Texas mind-set is starting to invade the program.
So what was the first thing the Lone Star State native noticed when he visited campus for the first time?
"Not everybody wears cowboy boots here."
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Childress was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN.com and was listed as an ESPNU top-150 player for the class of 2012.
A graduate of The Kinkaid School, a private college prepatory high school in Houston, Childress met head coach Dana Holgorsen in his junior year and began to envision his future in Morgantown.
"The first time I met (Holgorsen) was my junior season," he said. "I started talking to him and (about) West Virginia, and I started getting interested."
One thing about West Virginia that particularly interested Childress was Holgorsen’s offensive scheme – one similar to what he operated on Friday nights in Texas to the dismay of his opponents.
"(It was) the offense they run and how explosive it is, and I think (Holgorsen) is one of the best offensive (minds) in the game right now," he said.
In his senior season, Childress racked up 3,171 yards and 41 touchdowns against only seven interceptions in just 10 games.
He threw for 300 or more yards in six games, including a performance against Dallas St. Mark’s that yielded 447 yards passing and four total touchdowns.
The prep star spurned offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State and Oklahoma, as well as heavy interest from perennial in-state heavyweights Texas, TCU and Texas A&M – his father’s alma mater – to join West Virginia.
At first, many of his friends were puzzled with his choice to attend West Virginia, but after the Mountaineers’ 70-33 drubbing of Clemson in the Orange Bowl, they began to see why he was so comfortable with his decision.
"(My friends) were kind of shocked at first. They thought I was not really thinking this (decision) fully through, but they realized over time that this is a good spot, and it’s a really cool town," he said.
After the Orange Bowl, Childress said his friends all told him they "knew why (he) was going to West Virginia."
For Childress, everything came full circle that night at Sun Life Stadium. What exactly was he thinking when he watched the Mountaineers’ record-setting performance?
"Oh my," he said with awe.
"I don’t know – it was ridiculous. Everything worked out, and I was just really excited," he said.
Childress was determined to get involved at West Virginia early and literally could not wait for the summer.
After consulting with his father Ray, an all-American at Texas A&M and an NFL Pro Bowl linebacker, Childress decided the best choice was to enroll in school early and participate in spring practice.
"My dad and I just talked about it and thought it would be a good idea to get a head start on the offense and just get some schoolwork out of the way and really just mature earlier," he said.
Looking back on his first practice, Childress thinks he has already come a long way, but he is continuing to adjust to the rigorous demands of football at the collegiate level.
"Coming into the first practice, I was kind of nervous and didn’t really know what was going on that much, but I think I’ve adjusted well to the tempo and started to get the offense down," he said.
"It’s a life. Football, it takes up a lot of your time. It’s just tough, adjusting that quick, I guess, but it’s gotten a lot easier."
Resident quarterbacks Geno Smith and Paul Millard started tutoring Childress before spring practice started, and he continues to learn from them on a daily basis.
"They started with me before we could be with the coaches and showed me my footwork and my reads and all that, so I’ve taken a ton off of them," he said.
Smith, who is returning for his third year in the starting quarterback role, has already taught Childress one of the keys to succeeding at the collegiate level – watching film.
"(Smith showed) me how to really watch film, because, I mean, you watch film in high school but it wasn’t that intense," he said.
"He showed me how you actually need to break down each play and what you need to do and how to adjust it going forward."
Smith has been impressed with Childress thus far, but explained he faces the same battle every freshman faces the first time they come to campus.
"Ford is a guy, who, like I said, he understands football, but as all freshmen do, you never know how much work it takes – especially on this level," he said.
"In high school, you’re talented, and you’re just better than the guys across from you, but on this level, it takes a lot more than just talent. You have to work hard in the weight room, off the field in the classroom, as well as in the film room, in order to be good."
Perhaps as difficult as the adjustments are for Childress on the field, the changes for him off the field are just as important.
After two months on campus, Childress is finally starting to get the hang of everyday life as a student.
"It was kind of tough to go from the Engineering Campus to Downtown at first, but I’m starting to get the hang of it," he said.
Childress’ academic background is a strong one, and his time at Kinkaid will help him to succeed as he furthers his education as a petroleum engineering student.
"It’s tough, but my high school was really hard, so I kind of know how to prep and how to work (and) how to get my schoolwork done," he said.
Childress’ career may be just starting, but it’s clear that his future has the potential for stardom – and if he’s lucky, maybe an increase in the popularity of cowboy boots on campus.