Unexpected tight end LaQuan McGowan anticipates new role in 2015

Baylor's LaQuan McGowan scored a touchdown after putting on the No. 80 jersey to become an eligible receiver during the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1. Despite the score, Baylor lost the game 42-41. Photo Credit: Roundup File Photo

At 6-foot-7, 410 pounds, tight end LaQuan McGowan doesn’t have a problem standing out in a crowd. The fact that he will now play tight end in one of the most prolific offenses in the country makes him an icon in college football.

After McGowan’s touchdown in the Cotton Bowl seemingly elecvated him to showstopper status, he had sports fans demanding more. Head coach Art Briles obliged the mass – giving them more McGowan.

Despite his rapid rise to fame, the unconventional receiver had no clue his January feat would mean a new permanent role in the offense.

“I didn’t know what to expect the first day [of training camp], I thought I was going to be an offensive lineman … but obviously not,” said McGowan.

There are many college football players of McGowan’s size around the country, but none quite as big that also have to run downfield and catch passes like McGowan. Briles said after taking a more in-depth look at assessing McGowan, the team couldn’t deny his athleticism.

“His skillset [is unique],” said Briles. “There are a lot of big guys … but not many big guys that have light feet, soft hands, and a quick twitch to them.”

The senior from Amarillo, Texas is certainly the biggest receiver in the country and although few teams are following in Briles’ footsteps, McGowan believes he could be a trend-setter.

“They’re experimenting but if this stuff goes well, then a lot of people may be using 300 plus big men to [play tight end],” said McGowan.

Briles also advocates McGowan to be from the future and recognizes Baylor’s role in pioneering a new brand of football.

“I think twenty years from now people may look back and say ‘how did people use LaQuan back in 2015,’” said Briles.

Even though Briles is locked on the colossal tight end’s role for this season, he did admit that it took some time to recognize the talent level that McGowan possesses.

“It took a little bit of time before [we realized what we had], because you compartmentalize these people into what you think they should be and sometimes you get a little tunnel vision,” said Briles.

McGowan impressed teammates in practice with his ability to catch anything thrown his way, long before his unexpected touchdown reception in the Cotton Bowl. Sophomore receiver KD Cannon said watching McGowan is fun after he recalled seeing him catch passes one-handed and behind his back.

The massive tight end’s skills are certainly rare in college football and Baylor strength coach Kaz Kazadi says his showing against Michigan State doesn’t come close to displaying McGowan’s talent level.

“He’s actually an extraordinary athlete,” Kazadi said. “He really is. His only issue is, he’s unique. And if you’re unique, this a great place to be. Because [Briles] is going to find a way to play you.”

Baylor fans can expect about 15 to 20 plays per game from McGowan, Kazadi said. McGowan recognizes his future as a pass catcher in football will be limited to this season though.

“I’m sure I’ll [go back to offensive line in at the professional level,” said McGowan. “[NFL teams] are not going to use me as tight end. They need somebody a lot more skilled at that position, but right now [Briles] is just experimenting.”