August 31, 2018 11:21:17 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Patience is everything.
It can be natural for a coach to see a player's inexperience and think a rigid plan or limited options is the best way to go.
Chase Nicholson prefers a different approach. It comes from years of dealing with quarterbacks and building a trust that leads to a coach and a player eventually thinking the same thing.
Garrett Lewis isn't there yet. In his first season as the starting quarterback for the Starkville Academy quarterback, Lewis is still learning how to throttle back and to bide his time, especially when it comes to throwing the football. Through two games, though, Lewis has displayed all of the qualities Nicholson believed in when he asked him to take over the position following the graduation of Noah Methvin and Ben Owens. Methvin and Owens split time at quarterback last season and played integral roles in leading the Volunteers to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA State title.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Lewis will lead Starkville Academy against Indianola Academy, the school it defeated last year to win the program's seventh state title.
"He is learning patience because he has this, 'Let-me-throw-it mentality,' " Nicholson said. "I like that because he is aggressive and he sees things and he usually is not wrong. Sometimes he just has to wait a few more plays before we do it."
Nicholson said he wants Lewis' approach to evolve from a "let-me-throw-it" mentality to a "let-me-have-the-ball-in-my-hand and what-do-you-want-me-to-do-with-it" way of thinking. Still, Nicholson said Lewis continues to play at a high level, as evidenced by the fact he called the play on what turned into a 61-yard touchdown pass to Nason Heflin. He said Lewis came running over and encouraged him to throw it. There might have been some initial hesitation, but Nicholson changed his thinking and went with Lewis.
"There is a lot of trust we're building every day," Nicholson said. "We can continue to learn each other and build that trust. He knows I trust him, and I know he trusts me."
Lewis trusts Nicholson enough to allow him to crash in his office. On Monday, Nicholson said Lewis wasn't feeling good and needed to rest. He might have received a bottle of Gatorade from his coach during his stay, but he was happy to let him crash before practice. Nicholson said several other Volunteers joked when they saw Lewis that they wished they could go into the head coach's office and sleep.
Such are the perks that come with being quarterback and building trust.
Lewis started to develop that bond in Week 1, when Nicholson said Lewis continued to tell him to stick with "Power, counter" against Lamar School. The approach worked, as Starkville Academy earned a 21-20 victory in the season opener for both teams. Nicholson said Lewis will continue to have the freedom to call more things and the opportunity to catch mistakes. He feels Lewis sees the field really well and has a demeanor that enables him to remain calm, cool, and collected when things are crashing in around him.
"The emotion level is not necessarily there," Nicholson said. "I did see him show some emotion after the touchdown pass. I think it was on the one that called back, but he was excited because he didn't throw a great ball but his wide receiver made a play on it. That excited him. That is fun to see because that is what you want your quarterback to do, to get excited for his teammates, not just himself. He keeps his emotions very low key."
Nicholson said he isn't going to force Lewis to be a louder or a more emotional player because he wants him to be comfortable playing the position. He has used a similar refrain when talking about the prospects for the 2018 team and how this year's squad needs to find its identity and not try to be a carbon copy of the 2017 team.
With Lewis at the helm, the Volunteers appear to have a quarterback who can lead them on that journey. Just remember, if you see him in Nicholson's office taking a nap, don't wake him up because he might be dreaming up another play to take to Nicholson.
"He is steadily improving," Nicholson said. "He is becoming more of a quarterback every day."
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. You can email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at: @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.