MCGILL: Wells ready to represent Marshall as program's next QB

Updated 3 weeks ago Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
MCGILL: Wells ready to represent Marshall as program's next QB

By Chuck McGill

HerdZone.com

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the twilight of Grant Wells' college recruitment, long after the in-state product had given a verbal commitment to the Marshall football program, other coaches made their interest in the all-state quarterback known. They sent messages to Wells, who signed with the Herd in December of 2018, asking if they could get involved with the QB at the last minute.

In a word, according to Wells' father, the answer was simple: No.

"When Doc Holliday offered him a scholarship, he fell in love with Marshall," Grant Wells' father, David, told HerdZone.com this week. "Doc believed in him so early and Marshall really, really, really wanted him.

"Some college recruiters will tell you whatever they want to tell you, but they never pull the trigger. The last week of his recruitment, it was crazy. They all came out of the woodwork. Grant told them it was too late."

Now, fewer than two years later, Grant Wells is set to make his first collegiate start as a redshirt freshman. Wells, who stands 6 feet, 2 inches and 210 pounds, earned the starting nod for Marshall's 2020 season opener against Eastern Kentucky this Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. An ESPN nationally televised audience – and limited reduced home crowd – will watch Wells' debut at 1 p.m.

This serves as an introduction to Wells, who was an all-state quarterback and punter in high school, also starred as a baseball player, and brings a competitive fire to everything he does, from golf to hunting to fishing.

"I'm stoked," Wells said before adding, "I've been watching Marshall football for as long as I can remember. This certainly means a little bit more that I can finally play on the team, and that I can finally represent Marshall to the entire country. That really adds to the excitement of going out and playing and representing Marshall."

Wells will assume the high-profile seat of Marshall quarterback, with predecessors such as Michael Payton (College Football Hall of Fame), Chad Pennington (NFL), Byron Leftwich (NFL) and Rakeem Cato (MU's all-time leading passer). It is a journey that started for Wells when he was 6 years old, playing "D" team flag football and showing flashes of the quarterback he would become.

"He's had a football in his hand ever since he could walk," David Wells said. "He started off playing as soon as he could. He was so smart with the game. We came up with a system with wristbands for plays. He was so into it and thought he was big stuff when we were doing that. He loved the game and he loved the strategy."

Wells' dedication to the sport put him on Marshall's radar early in his high school career. Former Herd assistant coach Todd Goebbel first made the visit to Wells' high school to express interest, and being the first college football program in line caught the young signal caller's attention.

"It blew him away," David Wells said. "It started him thinking, at that very moment, about Marshall and him loving it. I'll have to hand it to Marshall. They were on him so early and believed in him and they saw the talent in him and that really resonated with him."

Current Marshall offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey was hired by Holliday on Jan. 31, 2018, and Cramsey, who is also in his third season as the Herd's QB coach, took over Wells' recruitment. When Wells came to Marshall's camp, he saw the potential.

"It was a no-brainer watching him," Cramsey said. "He was so mechanically sound. He was the same person you watch practice now. He had a really strong arm for a young guy in high school at that point. He's a very mild-mannered, level-headed kid. It didn't seem like much got to him."

That is how Wells approached the battle for the vacant quarterback job since preseason camp opened in July. Wells is among five quarterbacks listed on the roster, but none have attempted a collegiate pass. Meanwhile, a pair of tight ends – Xavier Gaines and Garet Morrell – have each attempted passes at Marshall. Wells is a freshman, but he needed to stand up and lead an offense with the reigning Conference USA Most Valuable Player, Brenden Knox, at running back and an offensive line group with the second most combined career starts of any line among FBS teams.

"He's got it all," Cramsey said. "His physical skill set, he has got the arm strength. No question, there's not a throw he cannot make. He's fast enough to do everything in the quarterback run game. He has a quick enough release and has quick enough feet to do everything in the RPO game. He's smart enough to do everything we ask him to do.

"He has a lot more of the 'it' factor – the competitive edge – than sometimes comes out of him when you look at him. He's mild-mannered; doesn't have a lot to say. But he has some serious fire in him."

That, Wells' parents say, has always been who he is. He has an older brother, Andrew, who he could compete with growing up. And that competitive nature permeates his life. When he golfs with teammates, Wells shifts his mindset in the final few holes and goes for the win. When he hunts or fishes, he has to have everything that will help him perform the best. During the shutdown earlier this year, Wells took up cooking, and spent time going to the grocery store and studying recipes to make complete meals for his family.

"When he gets into something, he goes all out," David Wells said.

That should be a comforting sentence for Herd fans, who have high expectations for quarterbacks here. No one will have higher expectations than Wells himself.

"I've coached him and all of his friends," David Wells said. "I've coached for many years. It's the absolute drive and competitiveness this kid has. He's so competitive. He wants to be the best."

Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and an eight-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to HerdZone.com's Word on the Herd, McGill is the editor of Thundering Herd Illustrated, Marshall's official athletics publication. Follow him on Twitter (@chuckmcgill) and Instagram (wordontheherd).

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