The Nick Rolovich Hire Brings Things Full Circle For Former Washington State QB Anthony Gordon

MOBILE, Alabama -- As Senior Bowl practice winds down for the Northern team, Washington State’s record-setting quarterback mills around midfield with his teammates, awaiting the onslaught of media interviews. He stands placidly as the barrage of questions about his skill, his QB style and his favorite Mike Leach story begin.

But it’s OK, because this is what he came for – exposure. It's something Anthony Gordon didn’t experience a whole lot of over the course of his collegiate career.

He quietly set a Central Coast Section record with 4,899 passing yards and 49 touchdowns over the course of his career at Terra Nova High School. He led City College of San Francisco to a 12-1 championship season as a freshman, throwing for 3,864 total yards and 37 touchdowns. All that before he even set foot on a Division 1 field.

“Anthony had a lot of appealing characteristics,” explained Gordon’s City College coach Jimmy Collins. “He had a redshirt year and three years left to play, he had just done something at our place that had never been done before – a true freshman broke all our single-season passing records and we were national champions.”

So Collins made some calls.

“There wasn’t a phone call for about six months there where I didn’t just pester them up at Washington State about Anthony Gordon,” joked Collins. “Finally, the opportunity came.”

And the rest is college football and Cougar history. Gordon led the country in passing yards (5,579), passing yards per game (429.2), 300-yard games (12), 400-yard games (9). In the process, he set Washington State and Pac-12 single-season records for passing touchdowns, passing yards, completion percentage, total offense (5,559) and completions (493).

But Gordon’s biggest takeaway from his body of work wasn’t about the destination, it was the journey.

“Patience is a concrete virtue, you have to just put your head down and you work hard,” said Gordon. “Nothing is given in this world so you gotta work hard for it and hard work will really pay off for you.”

But Collins believes it was more than hard work, it was Gordon’s innate ability to believe in himself day in and day out.

“The one thing I’ve said about Anthony forever, and he proved it at Washington State is he has so much realistic confidence in himself; there’s nothing arrogant about the guy whatsoever but his confidence is so genuine and natural,” praised Collins. “And what he did with Washington State is he believed in himself, bet on himself and waited for an opportunity that he felt best about. In the end it was the perfect offense and the perfect coach.”

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Mike Leach left Washington State after the season for a job at Mississippi State. The Cougars replaced him with Bay Area native and City College alum Nick Rolovich, who led the Rams to a conference championship three years after Gordon’s father Ryan did the very same thing. Anthony grew up around Nick. Talk about a full college football circle.

“Coach Rolovich is a Marin Catholic guy and San Francisco City College guy as well so that’s pretty awesome,” said Gordon when asked about the recent hire. “I’ve known Rolovich since I was pretty young and he was actually the first one to kind of give me an opportunity to pursue a four-year college. He kind of offered a scholarship without offering it to me but he kind of knew my sights were set on a Power 5 school coming out of City after my first year at least.”

Rolovich is actually well-known for his keen eye.

“Nick is considered one of the best evaluators of talent – it’s one thing I’ve consistently read about Nick,” explained Collins. “You know he was the first person to offer Justin Herbert, I think Tua (Tagovailoa) and if you go down the line, the names of people when you look at these guys who have had unbelievable college careers at really big programs, the first guy to offer them a scholarship was Nick Rolovich. And that was the same with Anthony.”

Gordon shared the secret Rolovich used to try and make him a Rainbow Warrior.

“His biggest selling point was that I would come up there and sling the rock and that he was going to do everything he could to prepare me for the next level,” divulged Gordon. “He’s a great dude and it's crazy how it comes full circle and now he’s up in Pullman.”

As both Gordon and Rolovich embark on their next respective chapters in football, Collins talked about what makes Gordon such a special player and human being.

“He’s gotta be one of the purest passers in terms of accuracy and physically his ability to get the ball out so quickly and from so many different positions – he doesn’t need a perfect pocket, he doesn’t need perfect bounds, he has so many different arm angles he can deliver it from,” he disclosed. “He’s what you need to be a consistent passer of the football from inside the pocket, you don’t need to move him.”

While Gordon doesn’t need to move much to drop dimes, Collins says his ability to avoid opposing defenses is also one of his strengths along with his easy-going nature.

“He does throw very well on the run and eludes the pass rush very well even though he’s a not a dual-threat guy, but his quick release and his ability to have that quick release from a variety of positions is something I think is going to impress quite a bit,” allowed Collins. “And I think that when you get to talk to him, he’s a genuine guy. There’s nothing phony about him; he’s just a genuine, confident, good guy that is well-liked everywhere he goes. If you have a problem with Anthony Gordon you probably gotta look in the mirror.”

Gordon’s quick release turned some heads in Mobile during Senior Bowl week, but how that will translate into good draft position remains to be seen. Luckily, he’s good at letting all that noise and uncertainty go.

“You always go through that checklist of things you want in a quarterback and there’s things you can teach and there’s things you can’t and the things you can’t teach, he has,” quipped Collins. “He’s the guy who if he doesn’t have success, he just moves on to the next day – he’s a journeyman guy who just never gives up and when he gets a chance I think he’s proven what he can do with it.”

There is clearly a bright future ahead for the hard-working Gordon, but first he took a moment to weigh in on Washington State’s future under Rolovich.

“Leach and Rolovich are a little similar,” said Gordon. “I think the biggest difference is that Rolovich will be a little bit more open to running the football, he will have more pre-called runs. Whereas Coach Leach kind of leaves the freedom up to you, which is awesome. But I think Rolovich is going to have some more pre-called runs into his game.”

Gordon also had a message for the former City College slinger.

“What’s up Coach Rolovich, I’m excited to come and see you for Pro Day man, hang out with you and the whole staff. Looking forward to it!”

This time it’s Gordon making an offer that Rolovich can’t refuse.

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