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Sabrina Schaeffer | The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
UVa quarterback David Watford is listed as a co-No. 1 with Greyson Lambert on the depth chart as preseason practice begins Monday.
Friday, August 2, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — David Watford never revealed the conflicting emotions he was feeling last season.
Not to his Virginia teammates anyway.
Not when he was impersonating the Miami or North Carolina quarterback in practice. Not when he was signaling in plays from the sidelines. Not when the losses piled up — six, then seven, then eight — and he had to stand there in that red shirt and stone face.
Future starting quarterbacks don’t pout.
“I just didn’t want the guys to see me down,” Watford said Friday, after confessing that he spent many nights talking through the frustration with his family. “Even though I didn’t see myself as a leader last year, I just knew if I was going to be in a role of leadership, they can’t see me down.
“They can’t see me swaying back and forth, having high days, having low days. I had to be consistent and steady. I had to train myself, really, to put on the same face every day, even if I didn’t want to be there, even if I knew, dang, I should be playing or I want to play. I’ve got to do what’s best for my team.”
What’s best for the Cavaliers now is for Watford to win the starting job quickly, starting with the first preseason practice on Monday, and transfer all that past disappointment into fuel for a monster 2013 season.
Coach Mike London hasn’t named Watford the starter yet — the redshirt sophomore is listed as a co-No. 1 on the depth chart with redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert — but that’s mostly for show. It’s hard to imagine Watford losing a quick battle, and the battle will be quick.
The coaches say they want this thing settled fast so the starter can get significant practice reps in the new offense installed by coordinator Steve Fairchild.
With Michael Rocco and Philip Sims both transferring this past offseason, Watford is the only returning quarterback with any experience. He anticipates winning the job but won’t take it for granted.
“I have to act like he hasn’t named a starter, even if he does or when he does,” Watford said. “I have to act like it doesn’t matter, because it really doesn’t. I haven’t proven anything on the field yet.”
But off the field, he has. He did it by absorbing a tough decision and turning a setback into a positive.
This time last year, Watford thought he had a shot at winning the job even after Sims transferred in from Alabama and Rocco seemed like the man to beat. Watford’s 10 games as a backup in 2011 weren’t a lot, but they were something. Coupled with his desire and work ethic, perhaps that would be enough.
He was sure he could help until the end of camp, when London sat him down and explained that he wanted the Hampton alum to redshirt.
“One word for last year?” Watford said. “Evolution. It helped me evolve to who I am today, the man that you see right here.”
It’s a man who’s studied and watched and learned — and ultimately gained the trust of those around him. When the UVa players recently voted for their leadership council, a quasi-captainship, Watford got more votes than anyone, despite his relative youth.
“When David says something, guys stop talking and listen to him,” tight end Jake McGee said. “He truly has earned the right to be considered a leader on this football team.”
Watford got his competition fix last year by treating practices as his games. He particularly enjoyed running the spread offenses of UNC and Louisiana Tech as the scout-team quarterback.
He also observed the nuances of game day. How defenses reacted to certain plays. How teammates responded individually when the game turned positively or negatively.
“He’s gained a vast amount of knowledge from having played and having sat,” London said. “A lot of times, through adversity, you learn what type of people or players you are.”
Watford learned he was a fighter and, because of that, a potential standard-bearer. He read books on leadership this summer. He strengthened his body and his relationships.
And now, days before camp begins and the gate to his opportunity swings wide open, he has no problems revealing exactly how he feels.
“I’m just overcome with excitement,” he said. “I’m anxious. I’m ready.
“I can’t wait, man. It’s going to be great.”
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