COLUMN: Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne plays on
I remember hearing the hype when Tulsa senior quarterback G.J. Kinne transferred from Texas to the University of Tulsa in 2008. At a private school as small as TU, any news is bound to make waves, but Kinne’s arrival was something of a tsunami.
Maybe everything is bigger from Texas.
Most of us students only knew a little bit about him, but that was enough for the student body to begin speculation on who he was and what he might mean for TU’s football team.
But I wasn’t buying in.
Since the not-too-far-gone days of former Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith, TU has held reputation for producing quarterbacks capable of putting up video-game-like passing statistics and willing the Golden Hurricane to double-digit wins per season. And don’t kid yourself into thinking running the high-octane offense TU has become known for is an easily accomplished feat.
The offense frequently features shotgun sets with wide receivers running enough crossing patterns to make a quilt.
Playing quarterback at Tulsa is tantamount to climbing a steep mountain face without a harness — each move you make is an opportunity to fail. But those who can play that position in Tulsa’s offense will appear to be superhuman.
Smith was able to do it. David Johnson after him made running the offense look almost facile.
And in a field of three quarterbacks — one of which had seen significant game time — some kid who hadn’t seen playing time in more than a year was supposed to simply pick up where two fifth-year seniors had left off?
Yeah, not likely.
I remember the first time I actually laid eyes on Kinne in class. He looked cocky, brash and otherwise full of himself.
He had the heir of a kid who was used to seeing his name in lights on Friday nights. From my observation, playing on Saturday afternoons had proven to be something different entirely, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.
Kinne seemed to be enjoying his newfound status as the big-time Texas Longhorn transfer. But as a cynic, I couldn’t wait for him to find out what playing quarterback at Tulsa was all about come spring football.
But I’ll be damned if he didn’t come out the frontrunner for the job like he’d been playing in the offense all along. But what is spring football really but beating up on the same guys you see every day in a defense you know almost as well as you know a sibling?
Heading into the 2009 season, former TU coach Todd Graham had yet to name a starter, and I was directed to a story in the Tulsa World about an incident that took place at Kinne’s high school in 2005.
His father was shot.
Kinne was told the bullet his father took to the stomach was fatal, and he would not see him alive again. But after being driven to the hospital by local police, Kinne found his father alive — barely.
Kinne’s father, Gary Joe, spent more than 100 days in the hospital before he fully regained his health and lived to see his son named TU’s starting quarterback and eventually the Conference USA offensive player of the year in 2010.
But it wasn’t until I read that story I understood what makes Kinne cocky and brash.
At 17 years old, he’d nearly seen the worst life had to offer. He essentially experienced having his father taken from him.
After all of that, playing quarterback at TU isn’t just easy — it’s downright whimsical.
RJ Young is a second-year professional writing graduate student. Young was a Tulsa student from 2007-10 and earned bachelor’s degrees in exercise science and English. You can follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young.