Sam Huard is a hope-giver.
That’s the phrase Kennedy Catholic head coach Sheldon Cross used when asked how his team — and its star quarterback — successfully maneuvered a fall without football.
“We were very optimistic,” Cross said in a phone interview. “We were very positive. We were hope-givers. He was a hope-giver, giving hope to people. There’s never been anything like it.”
That last part is literally true — considering that, on Saturday, Sam passed Shadle Park’s Brett Rypien to become the most prolific passer in the history of the state. Entering the game against 2-0 Kentwood at Highline Memorial Stadium in Burien, Huard needed 333 yards to successfully supplant Rypien — a Boise-State-Bronco-turned-Denver-Bronco who set the record in 2014.
In a 60-17 victory, Huard completed 40 of 56 passes and threw for 514 yards with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions — hurdling Rypien before halftime.
There’s never been anything like it, or him.
Which is saying something, considering his name.
“Records don’t mean something until they actually mean something,” said Sam’s father, former Washington and NFL quarterback Damon Huard, who was decked out in a red Lancers hat and sweatshirt. “This one’s pretty cool. There’s no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is that these kids got to go out here and compete and play the game they love. A couple games this spring is better than none.”
For Sam, a couple is all he’ll get. After it was over, the five-star Husky signee confirmed he’ll move in at UW on Sunday and enroll for the spring quarter on Monday — which will allow him to participate in practices next month. He leaves Kennedy Catholic with 13,214 passing yards and 153 touchdowns in an incomparable high school career.
And, though Huard was a four-year starter, his connection with Cross extends even further.
“The first time I met him he was dropping back and doing a three-step drop, and he was just a little kid. He doesn’t even remember that,” said Cross, who was a groomsman in the wedding of Luke Huard, Sam’s uncle. “You could just tell that he was really into playing quarterback. That was his deal.”
It was his deal in 2017, when Sam beat out a junior and sophomore for the starting job in his freshman season. It was his deal on Sept. 2 of the same year, when — coincidentally — he won inside Husky Stadium in his first career start. It was his deal when he committed to the Huskies in 2018, and when he signed with the program barely two years later.
At Kennedy Catholic, Huard used his game to make his own name.
“People just don’t even understand how much he sacrifices,” Cross said. “He’s not eating out at McDonald’s. He’s eating these meals that are already prepared. He’s really that way. He acts like Russell Wilson right now, and he’s in high school.
“I remember his freshman year he was dead serious, and he wanted me to know this. He says to me, ‘Coach, just so you know, I’m not one of those guys who’s ever going to party. You don’t have to worry about that. This is really important to me.’ It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever had a player tell me. I was like, ‘Yeah, buddy. I wasn’t worried about that with you.’ That’s exactly who he is.”
And, because of who he is, the expectations are enormous — and a quarterback competition at Washington awaits.
Still, don’t expect Huard to be fazed by the hopes and dreams of the Husky fan base.
“There’s never been a day, even if he introduced himself as a little kid, that someone didn’t say something about Husky football to him,” Cross said. “I think he’s been over that for years — that whole talk. What I equate it to is what it would be like for Peyton Manning to be in Louisiana playing for Newman High School and hearing about being Archie Manning’s son. ‘You’re supposed to be this guy.’ But (Manning) just worked really hard, and that’s what he expected himself to do.
“I’ll tell you this, and I think it needs to be said: there’s not a guy that cares more about the Huskies and wants to do right by the Husky fans and lead them to national championships more. It’s important to him. He just wants to do right by them. It’s not like he feels those expectations from them. He has higher expectations to do good for them.”
But first, Huard had unfinished business. He was the first one off the bus at 11:45 a.m., high-fiving teammates with his right hand while holding pads in his left. Roughly two hours later, he set the state passing record with a check-down to wide receiver Leland Ward, who scampered up field for a 12-yard gain.
One play later, Cross took a slightly tardy timeout and the team left the sideline to swarm Huard in celebration.
“When I got it, it was definitely a great moment — hugging coach Cross, hugging all my teammates,” Sam said. “Because it’s not just an individual record. It’s such a reflection of our entire team — every offensive lineman that’s played in this system, every receiver, coach Cross with the Air Raid system, dialing it up every single week and pushing us to grow as people and as players. It’s such a great reflection of our entire program and our entire school.”
Unfortunately, the entire school couldn’t be there to see it. With only select guests allowed inside the stadium, fans lined up along the fence — some standing on truck beds in the parking lot to peer onto the field.
But Damon Huard, for one, wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“It was so fun to watch,” Damon Huard said. “I’m going to miss the brotherhood. I’m going to miss the connection. Coach Cross is a saint, for what he’s done for my son and so many of these boys, teaching them the game of football but more importantly how to do it right and be a great person. It’s been an unbelievable experience for Sam.
“I’m going to miss wearing the red, white and blue. But I’m excited to just wear the stuff in my closet, that purple and gold. So it’s time for the next chapter. But what an amazing journey it’s been, and it’s great to have some real closure.”
Standing on the field, with eye-black smudged on his cheeks, Sam admitted that “I think it’ll definitely be a big transition (to UW). But I’m super comfortable. I’ve lived here my whole life, just right across the bridge. I have so many people supporting me along the way.
“To move in, get settled in, get started on my classes this week and then spring ball next week, I’m really taking what I’ve learned here these last four years. Playing these past couple games and getting into the flow of it again is definitely going to help me get ready to go.”
In the same weekend, one chapter ended, and another began.
Now, it’s time for Huard to give some hope to Husky football fans.