By Jeffrey Swindoll
After senior Bryce Petty picked up an injury in the inaugural game of the football season two weeks ago, sophomore quarterback Seth Russell was next in line to take the snaps for the Bears. The beat of the offense was not disrupted with the change, but Petty and Russell were put in a situation that neither of them was expecting.
It can be tricky between two athletes vying for a first string position, especially for quarterbacks. There can be multiple running backs and receivers, but there is only one quarterback on the field. It would not be the first time two capable quarterbacks played for same team and were forced to compete for playing time. Take Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick from a couple of years ago, for example. Smith had been the quarterback for the 49ers on their run to the NFC Championship the year before he got injured, but was replaced by his teammate Colin Kaepernick from that point on, even after recovering from the injury.
Reporters often asked Smith in the locker room how he felt about Kaepernick and vice versa. This type of conflict is awkward and presents challenges for both parties. Russell and Petty have both shown initiative in making it as smooth of a situation as possible, supporting and encouraging each other with communication.
“[Petty] has been leading the whole team. I’ve just been trying to learn from him,” Russell said, “After the [Northwestern State] game, I told him, ‘This is your team. You know I’m just trying to fill in right now, but when you come back you’ll be ready.’”
Russell said he accepted his opportunity as the starter with humility and understands that Petty had been patient for his starting job. He plans to approach his career in the same way Petty did.
“I told [Petty] I’ll support him, even when he’s gone and in the league and he said he’s going to support me, keeping me level-minded,” Russell said.
Petty has been hungry for this chance to be the starting quarterback of a rising college football team. The injury to start the season threw off the rhythm a little bit, but Petty still has high expectations that he says are bigger than anyone else probably gives him a chance at achieving.
“He is eager to get back out there, and that is the way he is,” head coach Art Briles said. “He is a winner, a fighter and a dang good football player. If there is any way he can get on the field at Buffalo he will be on the field at Buffalo.”
The camaraderie between Russell and Petty was noticeable on the sideline of the Northwestern State game. Petty was supportive and helping Russell learn the ropes after each offensive series.
Both respect the roles each other plays on this Bears team. Their individual success is less important than the team’s success this season.