helmet on and his mouth shut, which led the players at Midway High School in Waco, Texas, to wonder who he was and what he was doing on their practice field. He’d pull up in his pickup, walk onto the football field, fire lasers from sideline to sideline and then hop back in his pickup and head back to wherever it was he came from.
The whispers started immediately. The coach was new, so maybe this big dude came along with him. It seemed strange that a 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback with footwork this good and an arm this quick could just appear on campus with nobody knowing anything, but big-time Texas high school football being what it is who knows? The dude they use the term dude a lot in Texas high school football didn’t introduce himself, and the coach treated him as if he’d been there all along. Nobody felt comfortable asking the dude was really good at the mysterious-stranger bit but they wondered among themselves, sometimes allowing a thought to creep in: The Panthers might be pretty damned good in 2016.
A week went by, and then school started. The dude didn’t show up for any classes, but the pickup truck still pulled up at practice time and left immediately afterward. The passes kept hissing through the air. The players were on to it now, though, and any attempt to prolong the secrecy would bridge the gap between the curious and the weird.
He didn’t want anyone to know who he was, just wanted to stay in the background and get some work in,” says the coach, Jeff Hulme. I honored that, but after school started, we had to let everybody know what was going on.”
The dude was Jarrett Stidham, the quarterback who had just left the toxic Baylor program after throwing for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in part-time work as a freshman. His plan before transferring to Auburn in the fall of ’17 was to enroll in a local junior college without a football program, and so he asked Hulme, whom he knew through his high school program, if it would be all right if he got some live practice work to stay sharp.
Come and go as you please,” Hulme told him. If you can’t make it, don’t worry about it.” Day after day, the truck pulled up right before practice and left right after.