QB Country
QB Country: Quarterback Training & Development

QB Country Blog: What makes an (SEC) championship quarterback?

By David Morris, QB Country Founder

When you grow up playing football in the South — in SEC country — there are few things bigger than the SEC Championship game. As a young athlete, you quickly learn the magnitude of the Southeastern Conference. Football down here is part of life. Every boy dreams about going into the Georgia Dome (or now, Mercedes Benz Stadium) to play in the SEC Championship for the school he grew up rooting for. Growing up in Mobile, the dream was to play for Alabama. When I got to Ole Miss, the dream was to bring the hardware back to Oxford.

Of course, if you win the SEC Championship you have a good chance of winning the National Championship and that’s the ultimate goal. But the SEC Championship is a different kind of bragging rights. There’s nothing quite like football in the South – the rivalries, the traditions, the culture of it all. If you win the SEC, you’re the kings of football country. That’s what’s on the line for Georgia and Alabama on Saturday. Every young football player in the Southeast will be watching with excitement and wonder. Dreams will take root.

To have a championship team, you’ve got to have a championship quarterback and both teams have one. Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm are two of the best and have been consistently since their first start. And both are coming in hot. Tua is having a season for the ages and is more efficient than any quarterback in college football history. Jake isn’t far behind. Among SEC QBs, they’re 1-2 in completion percentage, 1-2 in yards per attempt, 1-2 in passing efficiency and 1-2 in fewest sacks taken. Tua has a national championship under his belt. Jake’s got an SEC title. One was the SEC Freshman of the Year and the other the MVP of the National Championship. These are guys who have been there and are ready for the moment.

I often get asked, what makes a championship QB? What makes you ready for that moment?

I think more than anything else, it’s a rare kind of leadership and personal balance. Dynamic leadership. Mature balance. Leadership can come in many forms. Personalities are different, but leaders have common traits – confidence, charisma, work ethic and perseverance are at the top of the list. Championship quarterbacks seem to know it’s about taking the long view, not instant gratification. They tend to be guys who aren’t spoiled; they’re hard-nosed guys who earn it and in turn have their teams’ full respect. Some are gifted communicators and others command your attention because they work in a manner that’s relentless. Their steadiness is contagious.

When I think about our QB Country guys who have won SEC titles, it makes for an interesting comparison. Jake Coker (Alabama, 2015) won his team over with his competitiveness and toughness – his fight. His mentality was “I’ll fight with you and for you.” For AJ McCarron (Alabama, 2012), it was about unmatched consistency. He was so steady, and at his steadiest when the lights were brightest. He was an undisputed competitor, a two-time national champion. Jake Fromm (2017) is kind of a combination of the two – tough, intelligent, competitive and you know he’s going to perform in big moments. McCarron and Fromm are more vocal guys. Coker had a quiet fire. Different, but all very effective.

More often than not, the team that wins the SEC Championship has had some kind of gut check. That’s been true for the QB, too.

In both 2014 and 2015, Alabama lost early in the season to Ole Miss. They bounced back both years and ended winning the SEC title. Last year Georgia got beat pretty good by Auburn in the regular season and came back to beat them when it mattered most. Whether the pattern holds this season remains to be seen; Alabama has looked almost untouchable and really hasn’t had a scare. Georgia took a lopsided loss to LSU in week seven and has been rolling ever since.

Fans and critics call for quarterback changes after just one loss. The heat’s hotter in the SEC and especially when a championship is on the line. You go down with an injury or have a bad half, there’s a five-star recruit waiting in the wings to take your spot. Coker came back from a benching early in his championship season. Fromm replaced an injured starter who never saw the field again. Tua famously earned his shot in the second half of last year’s national title game, replacing SEC Player of the Year Jalen Hurts.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that most SEC champions have overcome some kind of adversity. Getting through a season unscathed in the toughest conference in college football is a rare feat. There’s nothing like the grind of the SEC. If you want to win, you have to be extraordinarily resilient. You have to have mental toughness to weather the storm.  

It also helps to have others around you who understand the unique challenges of the SEC — to help you prepare for the ups and downs and help remind you that this is just a game.

Last spring, I had Jake Fromm in town for workouts and we had time after a long morning session to get a round of golf in with Emerson Fromm (Jake’s dad) and Jake Coker. It was a hot, sticky May morning and we all went over to a nearby course. Jake and Jake didn’t know each other all that well, but they were fans of each other from a distance.

The thing you notice when you get two guys together like that is the competitiveness. Whether it’s on a football field or a golf course, both of these guys hate to lose. And both of them can hit a drive pretty darn far. Jake Coker could win a long ball contest and Fromm can smash it, too. It was fun to watch them; one shot goes 350 yards down the fairway, the next goes 360. And you could see how much fun they were having. (I was just trying to keep it on the course).

All of a sudden, the rain starts coming down and we dashed underneath the roof of a shed. It was one of those spring rains where it’s going sideways. And it didn’t stop. We were under that roof for 45 minutes just talking and sharing stories and there was an easy bond between the two Jakes. Here were two guys from rival programs who had taken different paths, but had won SEC titles and been to national championship games. Rare, special stuff. But it was their other interests — golf, hunting and fishing that took center stage. It was obvious these two guys had great balance. Balance beyond their years. And this wasn’t the first time these two had played in the rain.

Guys like Tua and Jake understand better than anyone that you don’t make Saturday bigger than any other game or do anything other than your job. They’re playing for an SEC title, but nothing changes in their preparation. Nothing changes with their mindset. They’ve already figured out what it takes to be a champion. The dream isn’t fulfilled in one moment. The wisdom is to realize you’re living the dream.