MOBILE, Ala. – Gardner Minshew and Trace McSorley just can’t escape each other.
The Washington State and Penn State quarterbacks represent one-fourth of the signal-callers hoping to enhance their NFL Draft profiles this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
But college football’s premier all-star game isn’t their first run-in. Or second. And it probably won’t be their last.
While it isn’t uncommon for NFL prospects to bump into another a few times between the months of January and April, attending many of the same functions and events – this week’s Senior Bowl, the Scouting Combine and NFL Draft among them – Minshew and McSorley might need two hands to count the amount of times they’ve crossed paths by the time their pro contracts are signed.
It was at a quarterback-specific summit last summer that the WSU and PSU passers met for the first time. Both attended the Manning Passing Academy, along with 37 other college QBs who served as camp counselors for four days in Thibodeaux, Louisiana.
Seven of the eight QBs in attendance this week at the Senior Bowl – everyone but West Virginia’s Will Grier – gathered at the prestigious Manning camp, but Minshew and McSorley probably got the closest. They were assigned to the same dorm room at Nicholls State and spent the week as bunkmates.
“He’s a great dude,” McSorley said of Minshew Thursday after his North team wrapped up its final practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “…We’d kind of cut loose, hang out. Great dude and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him.”
After meeting at the MPA, Minshew and McSorley went on to lead great seasons in Pullman and State College. Minshew, the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year, led the Cougars to 11-2 while the Nittany Lions finished 9-4 behind a 2,530-yard passing, 798-yard rushing season from McSorley.
Both were in the running for many of the country’s major QB awards and McSorley was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm trophy that was eventually won by Minshew.
Just days after their seasons ended, Minshew and McSorley reunited in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Both have been working with QB trainer Ken Mastrole, along with three other quarterbacks: Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State), Jordan Ta’amu (Ole Miss) and TJ Linta (Wagner).
“So, I’ve spent a lot of time with him,” McSorley said of Minshew. “… He dedicates himself to the game. You understand when you get in a room and start sitting with him, knowing his understanding of football, why he was able to do what he did this year.”
McSorley became a household name a couple years before Minshew did, winning All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore in 2016, then following it up with all-league seasons in 2017 and ’18. Minshew’s rise to national prominence, on the other hand, happened in an instant.
It doesn’t matter at this point. Now both quarterbacks are in a similar position – entering the next phase of their careers battling the same stereotype.
WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) laughs with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, left, and wide receivers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur during a Senior Bowl practice session on Thursday, January 24, 2019, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Minshew and McSorley have the production and wins to rival every QB in Mobile this week, but pro scouts often like to focus on numbers not related to either during the pre-Draft process. And both players are on the diminutive side of the things when measured and weighed.
“I guess so, but I can tell you right now both of us don’t really look at it like that,” McSorley said. “We’re just out there playing ball. I think personality we’re pretty similar, we get along well. I think there’s more similarities there. For each of us, we don’t really look at the height as any kind of setback or anything that is negative on either of us.”
They won’t be splitting soon. After the Senior Bowl, Minshew and McSorley will return to Florida to continue pre-Draft preparations, and it’s expected both will receive invites to the Scouting Combine, held Feb. 26-March 4 in Indianapolis.
McSorley couldn’t dial up any memorable Minshew stories from their short time as roommates, simply describing the WSU QB as “just another one of the guys.”
“He’s always looking for a good time,” he said. “Even being down here (in Mobile), he’s joking with guys, he’s loose, got a great personality so he’s just kind of all the time out there having fun.”
The Penn State signal-caller said he followed WSU’s season from afar. McSorley knew a clean-shaven version of Minshew – they met before the Cougar QB decided to grow out the mustache that eventually grabbed national attention.
“I followed what that they were doing on the field, but then the mustache growing into a story of its own,” McSorley said. “It was awesome to see how he embraced it and how he just bought into it and let it go.”
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