PULLMAN — Children peeked around nearby adults, or if that didn’t work, they hopped in the air, waiting for the first look at Gardner Minshew donning crimson once more.
When the Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback emerged two hours before kickoff, people of all ages held their phones high, capturing his advance across Cougville to take his seat — on a folding chair, next to the Coaches’ Trophy, which, like Minshew, paid Pullman a visit on Saturday.
By then the photo line had been building for two hours and was wrapped two full lengths across the practice field. A few fans donned Jaguars jerseys. Others sported a mustache, the signature feature of the former Cougars quarterback.
“They took me in on such short notice and really made it feel like home to me,” Minshew told the assembled media, pressed in upon by fans. “I feel like I owe it to them to be here and see everybody.”
Minshew’s trip was a brief one. After the Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans on Thursday — Minshew’s first victory as an NFL starting quarterback — he made his way to Pullman on Saturday morning and will head back south on Sunday.
He wore a crimson Cougars baseball jersey, jean shorts raggedly cut off mid-thigh as well as a black headband and aviator sunglasses. Fans from the line took their turn taking a photo with him and the touring American Football Coaches Association Coaches’ Trophy, presented each year to the team that finishes first in the Amway Coaches’ Poll. Then, Minshew helped raise the flag at Martin Stadium before the Cougars and Bruins kicked off.
One of two former Cougars quarterbacks atop NFL depth charts — Luke Falk, Minshew’s predecessor, is expected to make his first NFL start Sunday for the New York Jets — Minshew also praised the play of senior Anthony Gordon, his successor as WSU quarterback.
“Gordo’s ballin’ man; I’m so happy for him,” Minshew said. “So happy for the team and how they’re doing. I expect big things from them going forward.”
He repeatedly mentioned the support people gave him during his short stint in Pullman and the support he continues to receive from the Palouse. He referred to himself as “a stray dog” who came to town without a home.
“The way they adopted me from the first game on, it was special, and the season we had together, there’s nothing like it,” he said, referring to the Cougars’ only 11-win campaign in program history. “The most fun season I’ve had in football ever.”
Minshew was named the Jaguars backup quarterback during training camp and was thrust into playing time in Jacksonville’s first game, when Nick Foles broke his left clavicle. Foles is on injured reserve and could return for Week 11, at the earliest.
“One of the best people I’ve ever been around,” Minshew said of Foles. “He’s supported me every step of the way.”
In three games so far, Minshew has completed 65 of 88 pass attempts, the third-best completion percentage (73.9) in the league.
“It’s awesome being back here,” he said. “Any time I can get back, I’m gonna get back.”
Saturday was a busy night for awards and trophies at Martin Stadium.
During the first quarter of the football game between Washington State and UCLA, Dennis Erickson, the former Washington State and Idaho football coach and 2019 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, was honored during an on-field presentation.
Erickson is one of four WSU coaches inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with William Dietz, Forest Evashevski and Orin “Babe” Hollingbery.
After starting his head coaching career at Idaho (1982-85), Erickson coached the Cougars in 1987 and 1988, when he was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year and the team won nine games for the first time since 1930. Erickson subsequently won two national titles at the University of Miami, in 1989 and 1991.
Shortly after Erickson’s appearance on the field, Sharon Leach accepted the 2018 AFCA National Coach of the Year award on behalf of Mike, her husband.
Finally, in the second quarter, the American Football Coaches Association Coaches’ Trophy made an appearance, with former WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew at its side. That trophy, a Waterford Crystal football, is given to the team that finishes the year ranked No. 1 in the Coaches’ Poll. It was on the fifth stop of its nationwide tour.