BOISE — Usually in the game with a big lead or for an occasional read-option play to mix things up, backup quarterback Grant Hedrick found himself in an unusual spot last Friday in a 41-40 loss at Fresno State.
During a key drive in the second quarter with Boise State trailing, starter Joe Southwick suffered an apparent injury to his right shoulder and went to the bench.
Hedrick was inserted into the game with the Broncos at the Fresno State 29-yard line. But this wasn’t mop-up duty. His team badly needed a touchdown.
“That was kind of the first time that I’ve had to go in and throw the ball in a time that matters,” Hedrick said. “It was great for me. It was a good confidence builder.”
The junior handed the ball off twice to running back Jay Ajayi before faking another hand off on the third play. The play action worked perfectly and Hedrick threw to a wide-open Troy Ware in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
It was Hedrick’s first career passing touchdown in 21 attempts at Boise State since he debuted as a freshman in 2011.
Southwick won the starting quarterback job prior to the 2012 season and Hedrick has served as his backup since. He was 12-for-17 for 116 yards passing in limited duty last season and is 9-for-13 for 69 yards this year.
But Hedrick provides an extra benefit in the running game. He scored his fifth career rushing touchdown on a 50-yard scamper against UT Martin on Sept. 7 and has 152 career rushing yards on 28 attempts, an average of 5.43 yards per carry.
“I think Grant’s a good player, I really do,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “I just wish there were more ways to get him in the game and let him go without disrupting Joe’s rhythm or anything like that because Grant brings something to the table. Grant can throw the ball and he can run, so we’ll keep looking at ways. I think you saw it right there — we have no hesitation to use him.”
Southwick returned to the Fresno State game on the next drive and Hedrick returned to his familiar spot on the bench. A former high school star at Central High in Independence, Ore., with dreams of being the next starting quarterback in a long line of Boise State greats, Hedrick has yet to start a game.
He’s lucky to get in the game for more than a play or two when Southwick’s healthy, a high price to pay for the hours upon hours of work he puts in outside of the required meetings and practice time to prepare for the game that week.
“It’s tough because you go into every game like you’re going to play 90 snaps, 100 snaps, and you might not play a single one,” Hedrick said. “So it’s tough. But you have to do it and that’s my role and I’ve kind of accepted that that’s what I need to do.
“Mentally you just have to be ready every play because you just never know. Joe just got a little banged up. He’s fine, but you have to be ready to give him a little breather, and he was back in there and he played great.”
Hedrick said transferring to another school where he might have a better chance at playing time “hasn’t even crossed my mind a single time. I’ve been committed here from day one and I could never do that to these coaches and my teammates.
“I’m going to stick it out, whether I ever start a game here or not. I’m part of this team and I’ll do whatever I can to help them win.”
Hedrick and redshirt freshman Nick Patti will be the primary competitors for the starting quarterback spot next season after Southwick graduates.
And whether it’s one play, a full series, or perhaps even more, Hedrick has proven to himself — and to his teammates and coaches — that he’s ready for whatever opportunity comes his way.