D1 Waco's Jarrett Stidham and the Ultimate Voluntary Workout

By D1 Gear

D1 Waco's Jarrett Stidham and the Ultimate Voluntary Workout

By Daniel Uthman, USA TODAY Sports

WACO, Texas — In the football ecosystem, there are few relationships more adversarial than that of quarterback and defensive back.

Jarrett Stidham feels this. He’s felt it since he was 5 or 6 years old — a decade and a half of fall seasons playing quarterback for a football team, save for two years: His sophomore year of high school, and this one.

That’s why his Thursday mornings this fall have been so important to him. Thursday mornings are spent at D1Sports, a steel-trussed and turf-lined athletic training facility five miles from Baylor University’s Simpson Center, where Stidham worked out the last time he was a quarterback for a football team.

On Thursday mornings he runs through speed and agility drills identical to the ones he endured as a Baylor quarterback from January 2015 through June 2016. And equally important, he does them alongside two defensive backs — one a future Baylor Bear and the other entering the semi-pro ranks. They provide Stidham with something he needs and craves: competition.

“I’ll talk (expletive) to them. I’m straight up like, ‘You don’t know what you’re about to get,’ ” Stidham says over dinner on a recent weeknight.

Stidham’s trainer Leonard Burks admits he was surprised at first by the 6-3, 210-pound Stidham’s quickness, but his competitiveness was evident from the beginning. He saw it when Stidham would call out his workout partners for not placing their feet behind the line at the start. He saw it when Stidham, upon finding out the facility staff had a fantasy football league, asked to join.

“There’s times when he’s beating the DBs in the drill and then letting them know that he’s beating them,” Burks says. “They know when Jarrett wins, because he’ll let them know.”

He lets his roommates, former Bears tight end Lee Bristow and current Bears offensive lineman Tanner Thrift, know when he beats them in a video game or gets back to their house first when they’ve been out somewhere. One night he challenged his girlfriend Kennedy Brown, a tough competitor herself from her role on the Baylor women’s soccer team, to see who could eat their dinner fastest. “We’ve tried some stuff, man,” he says. “I just gotta compete somehow. I just miss it, you know?”

Stidham notes that Nov. 21, the Monday before Thanksgiving, was the first anniversary of his last snap in an actual football game. In the year since, the coach who recruited Stidham to Baylor, Art Briles, was fired for his handling of sexual assaults perpetrated by some of his players. And Stidham, citing growing uncertainty about the Bears football team’s future, decided to transfer before his sophomore season.

But rather than enroll in a school with a prominent FBS team this fall, the former four-star recruit who once seemed assured of extending Baylor's line of record-setting passers opted to complete an associate’s degree at nearby McLennan Community College. Finishing the 16 credits he needed did two things for Stidham: It made him a value commodity in college football, a highly sought after, recruitable free agent for any FBS team, and it allowed him to enroll in his next school in January, thus giving him a full spring and summer of meetings and practice before playing immediately in fall 2017.

Stidham says he knew that as a result of his self-imposed football hiatus, he would feel a constant need to feed his competitive streak. He also knew something else gleaned from his years of quarterbacking. For his plan to be successful, he had to surround himself with a supportive team.

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