Former Stephenville High School quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been missing something in Alabama since leaving Texas to play quarterback for Auburn.
“No breakfast tacos,” Stidham told the Empire-Tribune after last Saturday’s 42-27 victory over Texas A&M in College Station. “Any time I go home, I’ve gotta have breakfast tacos.”
Stidham said he also misses the barbecue, good old Texas country music — and of course his girlfriend, who is a soccer player at Baylor.
Stidham has a lot going for him as the starting quarterback for Auburn — the 10th-ranked football team in the nation. He has receivers who catch the darts he throws, an offensive line that protects him from mammoth beasts and a defense that has yet to give up more than 27 points in a game.
When Stidham returned to Texas for last Saturday’s game in College Station, lots of friends and family members were there to see him play for the first time since he left Baylor, where he played in 10 games and started three for the Bears as a freshman, throwing for 1,265 yards and 10 touchdown passes. After transferring to McLennan Community College last year, Stidham joined Auburn and became the starter for the Tigers.
“I had a ton of family members come to see the game,” said Stidham, who has thrown for 1,996 yards and 11 TD passes in his nine games so far with Auburn. “Two of my best friends came, and some friends I met at Baylor. It was really cool. Any time I get to go home and see people I love it’s pretty special.”
The Tigers had an open date the week before the A&M matchup, and he was able to see his girlfriend play soccer that weekend.
SEC TITLE CONTENDER
Auburn improved to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Southeastern Conference’s West Standings with the win over the Aggies. The victory bumped the Tigers up four notches in the College Football Playoff rankings, from 14th the previous week.
Now the Tigers have a chance shake up the college football world in the next three weeks on their home field, taking on the top two teams in the current playoff rankings. It starts with Saturday's matchup against No. 1 Georgia (9-0). After a non-conference game against Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday, the Tigers will take on No. 2 Alabama (9-0).
“Obviously, our goal from day 1 is to win the SEC championship. We have a very good opportunity in front of us,” Stidham said, before noting that the Tigers have to stay “grounded” and focus on each game. “We have to stay locked in on this. It’s definitely exciting. We have a lot of talent and good coaches and we’ve played in some big games. We’re not looking ahead.”
In only his first season with Auburn, the former Baylor quarterback is gaining national attention as the SEC leader in completion percentage (66.8). He threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns against A&M, completing 20 of 27 passes with no interceptions.
Stidham, now a sophomore in terms of football eligibility, was among the players named on the 2017 preseason watch list for the 81st annual Maxwell Award, which has been awarded to the nation’s College Football Player of the Year since 1937. Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton won the Maxwell Award in 2010, and has been playing for the Carolina Panthers since they chose him with the No. 1 pick in the college draft in 2011.
A ‘VERY SMART’ PLAYER
Stidham was a 2015 Stephenville High School graduate, after two years as the starting quarterback for the Jackets. He played wide receiver as a sophomore, when former coach Joseph Gillespie led the Jackets to a Class 3A state championship.
“He was a very smart football player, and a great leader, even when he played wide receiver. He is a great guy,” said current SHS head football coach Greg Winder, who had been an assistant coach under Gillespie.
As a five-star recruit he went to Baylor for his freshman year of college. That was after being recruited by Art Briles, who of course was Stephenville’s head coach from 1988-1999. That was the final season at Baylor for Briles, who was fired amid sexual assault accusations made against several Baylor football players.
Stidham, with the uncertainty of not knowing who the new coach would be at Baylor, decided to find a new place to showcase his considerable talents.
“I just felt like it was in my best interest to transfer,” said Stidham, whose parents, Rochelle and Juder Stidham, now reside in Memphis, Tennessee. “I wanted to put my future in my own hands. I had no idea who my coach was going to be.”
Stidham said he wasn’t quite as heavily recruited by Auburn coming out of high school because it was widely believed he would choose a Texas college. At first he made a verbal commitment to Texas Tech before signing his letter-of-intent with Baylor. Now, however, the No. 8 jersey with the Tigers seems to be a perfect fit for the 6-3, 214-pounder.
“I’m having a great time,” Stidham said. “This is why I came to Auburn, to win a lot of games and help the team out. I love playing with these guys.”