Reesing takes KU to new heights
As his coach beckoned him to the sidelines, Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing was expecting to learn something about his throwing delivery or how he was calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.
But when Mark Mangino signaled that he wanted to talk about something, Reesing definitely wasn't prepared for what he heard next from his coach.
"He got me off to the side and asked, 'Todd what are we going to do about this market?'" Reesing said, chuckling at the memory. "So instead of wondering which running plays to call for the next game, me and him were sitting there talking about the financial district and how it was going to affect our lives."
It's not surprising that Mangino shares his financial concerns with Reesing, a budding scholar-athlete who is working toward a double major in economics and finance and would like to study abroad after he graduates. But before he gets there, he will finish what undoubtedly is the greatest career for a quarterback in Kansas school history.
Reesing has already set virtually every KU passing record. He's taken the Jayhawks to within a game of the Big 12 championship game in 2007, their first BCS bowl victory and the first back-to-back bowl trips in the 119-season history of the program.
But because of the strength of the Big 12 and its top-heavy collection of quarterbacks, Reesing gets overlooked at times in a conference dotted with Heisman finalists like Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford.
It's been that way throughout Reesing's career. His college production is a testament to his persistence; he convinced Mangino to offer him a scholarship after barely being recruited coming out of high school.
Few other big schools were interested in the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Reesing then, thinking he was too small to play at the FBS level. That disinterest came despite a storied senior season at Lake Travis High School in Austin, where he threw for 3,340 yards and accounted for 49 touchdowns.
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"I've had to fight naysayers my entire life," said Reesing, who was ranked by ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. as the 86th-best quarterback prospect in the nation and only the 13th-best quarterback in Texas in his recruiting class. "It's something you wish would stop, but for some reason there's always something I've had to prove what I could do."
If the teams couldn't be convinced by his play on the field, Reesing and his family decided to take a more direct route.
Through a family friend, Reesing forged a relationship with then-Kansas recruiting coordinator Tim Beck and got him a highlight tape. Beck was impressed and showed Mangino, who was intrigued enough to let Reesing know he would like to visit with him.
That was all Reesing needed. He traveled to the Jayhawks' training facility in Lawrence and won Mangino over in a memorable sales pitch that still has the coach raving several years later.
"He really had this swagger about him," Mangino said. "When he shook my hand, he looked me right in the eye. He was full of energy. He was intelligent. He could speak on subjects other than just football. And he had a bounce in his step."
Not only could Reesing influence people; he also could play a little football, too, as Mangino soon learned after watching his tape in detail.
"The coaches came down to my office to ask me what I thought of him because I'd already watched the tape," Mangino said. "And I can almost quote, I said, 'He's small. He's really small. But I like him. And if we can get him, let's get him.' He exuded confidence, and he was just like a stick of dynamite."
After getting his chance, Reesing has made the most of it. He showed flashes as a freshman, leading a comeback victory over Colorado late that season. After winning the starting job as a sophomore, he directed the Jayhawks' Cinderella season in 2007 that finished with a school-record 12-1 mark.
His second season as a starter was even better, at least from a statistical sense. Reesing finished last year ranked in the top 10 nationally in passing yards (3,888), completions per game (25.3), total offense (4,112 yards) and passing yards per game (299.1) as he led the Jayhawks to a victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.
But as much as his statistics, opponents rave about his leadership and playmaking abilities.
"He just never quits," Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "I think we've only sacked him once in three years. He's a tough guy who likes to run around and just make things happen. It's pretty frustrating him because he never gives up on a play."
Reesing's return -- one of only two full-time quarterback starters in the North Division -- is one of the primary reasons Kansas has emerged as a fashionable preseason choice to contend for its first trip to the Big 12 title game.
"I've shown I can play a little football here and there -- we all have," Reesing said. "Now it's about earning and building on that respect for our program."
Taking the Jayhawks to the title game would cap Reesing's college career with a flourish.
"I feel like I've still got a lot to do around here. There are still some things we've had as goals that we've fallen short on," Reesing said. "I've played my role, I guess you can say, and everything I've accomplished was because of the players around me. But hopefully, we can keep it going and make this last one a year to remember."
Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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