Here we are. The long awaited start of the college football season is officially among us. This Saturday teams will lace up their cleats, put on the pads and tread out onto the field in front of thousands of exuberant fans. Admittedly, fans of certain teams may be more excited for the tailgating with pre-game barbeque and beer than the game itself. KU is a spot-on example of one of these teams, and with only 5 wins in their last 31 games and 150/1 odds of winning the Big XII, it is easy to understand why.
Every year it seems like the same sad story for KU football. Fans have eventually learned to just enjoy the atmosphere of the game, rather than the end result. But however made-up your mind may be about this year’s team, there is one reason to start paying attention to the game, and that is quarterback Dayne Crist.
“There’s nothing he can’t handle,” Kansas quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus said.
And that may not be too far from the truth. Crist is not the typical redshirt freshman or true freshman quarterback that enters onto the field with no experience other than his high school glory days. At nearly 23, Crist is a graduate from Notre Dame, entering into his fifth and final year of eligibility. With that being said, his experience is almost intangible in the world of college football.
In 2008 Crist joined ranks with the Fighting Irish, under head coach Charlie Weis, as the third best quarterback recruit according to Rivals.com. In 2009 he got his first minutes on the gridiron, serving as backup quarterback to Jimmy Claussen, but suffered a torn ACL to finish out his sophomore season. The start of the following year brought better luck for Crist, as he was named starting quarterback and completed 59.2 percent of his passes, passing for 2,033 yards with 15 touchdowns, before yet again falling victim to injury with a ruptured left patella tendon.
Despite two straight seasons of early dismissal due to injury, new Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly named Crist the starter to kick off the 2011 season, but called the race between Crist and backup Tommy Rees “very close.” During halftime of the home opener against the University of South Florida Crist was pulled, and Rees went in to start the second half. Rees never looked back as he continued to start for the remainder of the 2011 season.
After a very mediocre college football career plagued with injury and watching game after game from the sidelines, many athletes would hang up their helmet and move forward in life with an all-expense-paid diploma in hand. Crist, however, will follow in the footsteps of the 2011 Badgers quarterback Russel Wilson, who also took advantage of the NCAA fifth-year graduate transfer exemption, which states: If a player graduates from his first school with eligibility remaining, he can transfer to a new school and play right away if he enrolls in a graduate program that isn’t offered at his first school.
Last year Wilson went out with a bang and led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl; he will now start for the Seattle Seahawks. Crist met with Wilson and it seemed Wisconsin would be his new destination, but after Weis was called to Kansas, the pieces began to fall in place.
“I had to tell him [Crist], out of loyalty to him and his family, that there were things that I couldn’t offer him that Wisconsin could,” Weis said. “At the end of the day, he wanted what I wanted.”
Only time will tell if Kansas can bounce back from its disastrous past few seasons and if Crist, who has not fared so well himself, will be the one to do it. But if he can, it truly will be one heck of a tale to tell.
“This could be a wonderful story,” Weis said. “And I’d like to be writing it, and not for me, but for him.”