Forget the fatigued images of smash mouth football played by lock-jawed linebackers and burly offensive lineman ramming each other while wearing leather helmet caps. True toughness on the gridiron is coming from a skinny white quarterback in today's modern passing age.
West Virginia signal-caller Clint Trickett has thrown 15 touchdowns to only five interceptions this season, leading a Mountaineers squad to a somewhat surprising 5-2 record.
But while Trickett threw for three touchdowns in a 41-27 upset win against No. 4 Baylor last week, it's his ability to deal with adversity that makes him a real throwback type of player.
That's the true reason why the 186-pound senior upstart embodies the real type of toughness college athletes should seek.
It's a little known fact, but Trickett actually was once slated to be the replacement for Florida State star EJ Manuel.
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Yes, in his first start replacing the longtime, then-injured Seminoles starter, Trickett threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson. But a certain freshman named Jameis Winston won the starting gig in 2013, forcing the Tallahassee native to transfer up north to West Virginia.
Trickett didn't make any excuses though. In his first season learning a new playbook, the new passer took over for seven starts with middling results: 1,605 yards, seven touchdowns, seven interceptions.
This year, the former three-star recruit was given a chance to shine and was named the starter for his senior season. That opportunity was all he needed to exceed others' expectations, with competitive performances against No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma before his breakout win against Baylor.
What shows Trickett's mental fortitude though is how he handled the news he received shortly after beating the top-billed Bears.
"You've got to cherish more time that you have with him. I want him to live forever. I love my dad."
It was moments after the surprise win, the biggest of his career, that Trickett was told startling news. His mother, Tara, informed him that his dad had just had a heart attack.
"It's an emotional event," Trickett said as he recounted the sudden news. He was able to talk to his hospital-bound father over the phone. "Once I talked to him, things calmed down and everything was good. He was back to his normal self."
His dad, Rick Trickett, is the offensive line coach for the Florida State Seminoles.
"It opens your eyes, anytime that happens," Clint Trickett said. "You've got to cherish more time that you have with him. I want him to live forever. I love my dad."
That's not to say Clint Trickett got through his game against Baylor without suffering an ailment of his own.
The quarterback had a stomach bug and received an IV during halftime, despite throwing for 322 yards on 23-of-35 passes in the game, including two scores in the final quarter to put the contest away for good.
So much lip service is given to the toughness of old-timers' football, but the play of Trickett through transfers, pain and sickness among family reminds us of true strength in sport.
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