Perhaps no one knows better the path that Vad Lee will soon walk than the one who just walked it. Tevin Washington’s advice to Lee as he begins his tenure as the starting quarterback at Georgia Tech?
Don’t let up.
“Don’t settle for being the starter at Georgia Tech,” he said Tuesday. “Working on the grand scheme of things, push yourself for the Heisman or whatever that goal may be, pushing yourself to be a first-round, second-round draft pick, whatever you seek for yourself.”
Lee and Washington were teammates for two years, Lee’s redshirt season in 2011 and last season, when Lee backed up Washington. When the Yellow Jackets open preseason camp Thursday, Lee will be pushed by backup Justin Thomas, but the expectation is that Lee will be the starting quarterback when the season begins Aug. 31 against Elon.
Not counting Calvin Booker’s single start in 2008, Lee will be the third starting quarterback for coach Paul Johnson, who is entering his sixth season at Tech. The starter of the Jackets’ most recent 31 games offered his thoughts about what awaits Lee as a first-year starter. Washington remembered a “whole 180 spin” when he became starter in November 2010 after Joshua Nesbitt’s season-ending arm injury.
“Once you’re the starter, you’re the leader, and all 120 of your teammates are looking at you, and the coaches are looking at you,” Washington said. “They want to see you lead, and they want to see you, basically, as being the guy that whatever the situation may be, you’re the guy that they can count on.”
One lesson Washington said he wished he could have learned before becoming the starter was to stay grounded no matter the circumstances. In his first full season as starter, Tech won its first six games before finishing 8-5. Last season, Tech started 2-4, but rebounded to finish 7-7, winning the Sun Bowl in Washington’s final game.
“No matter what (success) or whatever adversity may come, you should always have the same mindset,” Washington said.
For learning Johnson’s spread-option offense, the crucible of Washington’s four starts at the end of his sophomore season and the following spring practice were an invaluable aid toward his first full season as a starter, in 2011.
“When you’ve got live bullets coming at you, it’s a lot different than with scout team,” he said. “In a game situation, you’re going to get a lot more as far as down and distance and situational, one-minute (offense). You get the whole shebang coming at you.”
Despite the importance Washington placed on being the starter in order to learn the option, he was confident Lee will be ready to handle the offense on a full-game basis. Johnson made the decision in Lee’s redshirt season to let him practice with the first- and second-string offenses to gain more option experience rather than run the scout team. Last year, Lee played in parts of 12 games.
“He’s going to get every situation that he can possibly get thrown at in practice, going through option drills and going against (the first-team defense),” Washington said.
Washington said that in practice, when the first-string offense and defense went at each other, because the defense wasn’t preparing to play against option offenses, “they would throw crazy stuff at us.”
Washington remains in metro Atlanta, still training and hoping for a shot at the NFL. He also has used his time to train young quarterbacks, passing along his knowledge to the next generation. He has positive thoughts about the quarterback he has trained alongside for the past two years.
“I feel like he’s been preparing since he came in to be the starter,” Washington said. “I feel like he’s going to have a pretty good year.”