If David Watford needed a reality check, he got it from a seemingly innocent History of Jazz course he took in his first semester at the University of Virginia.
Watford is in the midst of his first summer in Charlottesville. His life consists of workouts, running (endless running, that is) and summer classes – all with the goal of trying to earn some time on the field this fall at quarterback.
It's a continuation of what he started during the winter at U.Va., where he in enrolled in January, thus cutting his senior year short at Hampton High. He's getting used to the routine, but it was anything but normal when he first stepped on campus.
"It was nothing like I expected it to be," Watford said. "It was a big wake-up, for real. It's a big jump from high school to college. It's a big step in your life, and I really had to buckle down and get on it to be successful."
In his first semester, he took a course load that included Biology, Eastern Religion Perspectives, a required freshman transition course…and History of Jazz.
Now, the History of Jazz class was supposed to be a breeze. Of course, Watford didn't know he was going to be taught by a professor who had a particularly passionate interest in the subject, which made sense considering Watford's professor wrote the course textbook
"I'd study, and I'd think to myself, 'Oh, I'm good. I'm ready'" Watford said. "Then, I'd sit down and take the test, and I'd struggle. It was hard, man."
Before he knew it, he had absolutely bombed a few tests in the class – a foreign feeling for a kid that left Hampton with a grade point average near 3.5. He earned a C in History of Jazz.
He experienced a similar trying evolution on the practice field in the spring. Competing with three quarterbacks – sophomores Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny and redshirt freshman Michael Strauss – that had all been on campus for at least a year, everything came faster than Watford expected.
"Before I even left Hampton, (U.Va. offensive coordinator and quarterbacks) coach (Bill) Lazor and coach (Mike) London were asking me, 'Can you handle it?'" Watford said. "I was like, 'Yeah.' Coach Lazor and coach London both said they were going to try to help me out as best they can, and if it got to be too much to let them know."
Inconsistency and trouble with little things like handling the snap marked Watford's play. He emerged from spring practice listed as a co-No. 2 quarterback along with Strauss, behind co-No. 1's Rocco and Metheny.
Summer hasn't brought any reprieve for Watford in terms of workload. He's taking a class on the history of the circus in America, and will begin a high-level Spanish course in the second summer session.
He's working with teammates four days-a-week, plus coming over to the McCue Center in Charlottesville one extra day every week for individual work. Watford said it's "twice as hard" as the spring.
Watford's summer schedule also includes regular phone calls or texts with U.Va. graduate assistant coach Marques Hagans. He's a former 1998 state championship-winning Hampton High quarterback who went on to start for two seasons at U.Va. before spending parts of five seasons on National Football League practice squads as a wide receiver and emergency quarterback.
"Sometimes when I'm just out of it, and my head is going in circles, I'll just text him or call him," Watford said. "We'd just talk and he'd give me advice for days. I'd just try to soak it all in. He knows what he's talking about."
Hagans, who was hired in the spring at U.Va, is working with the offensive coaches. He'll be able to keep a close watch on Watford's progress.
"I think the thing with David is he can't focus on learning everything at one time," said Hagans during U.Va.'s spring practices. "If he continues to take bits and pieces each day, correct things here and there and make strides each day, he'll be fine. I just try to remind him Rome wasn't built in a day."
Near the end of April, Watford sat down and talked with Lazor about what would be expected in the fall. Is immediate playing time in Watford's future? Or is he destined to take a redshirt year – something that wouldn't be too much of a surprise at this point?
"He wants me to come in and compete for the starting job," Watford said. "If they need me to play, they'll play me. If they don't, he said they're not just going to waste a year and they'll probably redshirt me. I'm fine with that. I just want to compete."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times