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QB Survivor: Meet The Underdog Tribe
Seaside Bonus: Why Sam Hartman changed his number to '10' the week of his high school state championship game
Last weekend, Sam Hartman pulled off a remarkable feat, even if it’s one that ultimately he doesn’t wish that he accomplished: Hartman threw six touchdown passes against Clemson, the fifth-ranked school in the country and a team that had the number two scoring defense in the nation last year.
The reason that Hartman isn’t quite satisfied with 337 yards and six touchdowns? He lost the game.
Facing off against D.J. Uiagalelei, it’s hard to find a more perfect microcosm for the underdog story than that for Hartman. Uiagalelei, whose name I have learned how to spell now (two a’s then two e’s, bookended by i’s—that should take care of it for most of you), was the number one pro-style quarterback recruit in the country in 2020. He is also the successor to two star NFL quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence. Both of whom won national championships at Clemson.
Uiagalelei was the exact opposite of an underdog up until last season, when an underwhelming campaign (9 TD/10 INT) took him out of the conversation for the NFL Draft and made him the “first one out” in our QB Survivor voting last week. We may need to do a recount.
Uiagalelei kept pace with Hartman, throwing for 371 yards, five touchdowns, and rushing for 52 yards, leading Clemson to a 51-45 win over a top-25 team—albeit a school that did not have much success until Hartman led them to an 11-3 record in 2021.
Since last year, I’ve been a big fan of Sam Hartman. Though he was not the most lauded quarterback recruit, getting three stars and ranking 32nd among pro style prospects in 2018, Hartman worked his way into starting for Wake Forest as a true freshman, paired with Kenneth Walker III for two seasons (which means that you’ve actually watched a lot of Hartman if you’ve been following this newsletter all year), and surpassed all expectations by throwing 39 touchdowns as a senior in 2021.
Despite not quite measuring up to conventional NFL standards for size at the QB position (Hartman is around 6’1, 200 lbs) and ranking 767th as a recruit in 2018, I could see the arm, decision-making, and leadership of an NFL quarterback. He wasn’t on any radars going into the year but I think Hartman could have been drafted earlier than most of the quarterbacks in the 2022 class.
By going back to school for another season, Hartman now has the chance to solidify himself as a first round pick. He now thrown 13 touchdowns and two interceptions on 100 attempts with an exceptional performance against an exceptional defense.
His talent is something that I had suspected was there all along. However, I didn’t know much else about Hartman until I started doing research for QB Survivor. The point of this series is not just to evaluate film, statistics, and measurements.
What interests me is finding out who these people are and what drives them to be successful. There are a million places to find information on who the player is, but I’m curious about who the person is.
In no case will that be more significant than in the case of the underdogs.
Of the six quarterbacks on The Underdog Tribe, there are two three-star recruits, three two-star recruits, and one 0-star recruit who were not really sought after by any programs.
They were told that they were “too short,” “too inexperienced,” “too slow,” and even getting colleges to watch their film coming out of high school proved to be a challenge, while most of the other quarterbacks in this series that you will read about had to turn down dozens of full rides without lifting a finger.
Most of these quarterbacks were told that they could not and would not ever start a college football game. The list includes a national champion going for title number two this season, a player who has led his school to the second-highest winning percentage in the country since 2020, a JuCo transfer to a Pac-12 program who won the Jerry Rice FCS player of the year award, and a lefty who nearly saw his career end after suffering a broken clavicle.
EVERYBODY ROOTS FOR THE UNDERDOG. But is everybody prepared to hand the keys to the organization over to him?
These are the six players on The Underdogs Tribe. I will do a longer write-up for Sam Hartman to tell you a little bit more about him, but to save time will wait to dive deeper into the other five prospects as the series continues.
If you think that QB Survivor is a cool idea and you want to share it with a friend, please please please do.
Sam Hartman, Wake Forest - Why he wears #10
“When I put on my jersey, that’s something I’m proud of. I never want to have a day when I don’t feel like he’s with me.”
College Gameday did a feature on Sam Hartman that you can watch right here. I will only be doing a summary and the video is worth watching.
When Sam Hartman was in the fourth or fifth grade, there was a new kid in town whose family was struggling to get by. Hartman’s family welcomed him, Demetri Allison, into their home six days a week so that he would have more resources to get by as he was growing up.
Sam and Demetri spent a lot of time together and he always considered him to be one of his brothers.
When Sam was a junior his high school and as he was one win shy of a perfect record and a state championship, the Hartmans got the terrible news that Demetri had committed suicide. He was 21.
“It came on so fast, and we don’t know why,” said Sam’s mother.
Sam’s parents urged him to not play football that week, but Sam insisted that it was what Demetri would have wanted him to do. For the first time in his life, Sam Hartman wore the #10, the same number that Demetri had worn in high school. Sam’s dad called it “the best football game Sam’s ever played.”
Sam Hartman has worn #10 ever since.
Date of Birth: 10/28/1999 (draft age: 23)
Hometown: Mount Pleasant, SC
Last game: 20/29, 337 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT, 8 rush, 10 yards (L 51-45 to Clemson)
Cameron Ward, Washington State - Almost quit football
Ward was a zero-star recruit who nearly quit football in high school for lack of opportunities. He only received one offer out of high school from a program called Incarnate Word and he immediately won the Jerry Rice award as the top player in FCS. Ward transferred to WSU in 2022 and he is off to a hot start. As the youngest player in QB Survivor 2023, Ward might offer the most upside in the class. He led WSU to a win over Wisconsin on the road, a game that had them as 17.5-point underdogs going in.
Date of Birth: 5/25/2002 (draft age: 21)
Hometown: West Columbia, TX
Weight: 220 lbs
Last game: 37/48, 375 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 9 rush, 4 yards, 1 TD (L 44-41 to Oregon)
Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma - Hawaiian legacy
Though the state has recently produced Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa, the player with the most high school passing yards all-time in Hawaii is Dillon Gabriel. His father Garrett Gabriel was once the all-time leading passer at U of H. Gabriel, a lefty, was a three-star recruit who replaced college star McKenzie Milton at UCF in 2019. Gabriel offers much more in size and athleticism to Milton and UCF finished as a top-25 team that year, as he was paired with current Bills star Gabe Davis. Gabriel followed that up with a 32 TD, 4 INT season as a sophomore, but he broke his clavicle three games into 2021.
Looking for an opportunity to showcase his powerful arm at a bigger program, Gabriel transferred to Oklahoma in the offseason and immediately won the starting job. He has 11 TD, 0 INT through four games.
Date of Birth: 12/28/2000 (draft age: 22)
Hometown: Mililani, HI
Last game: 26/39, 330 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 7 rush, 61 yards (L 41-34 to K State)
Jalon Daniels, Kansas - Undersized, overlooked, and undefeated
Daniels is a last second addition to the QB Survivor cast, making him the UNDERDOG OF THE UNDERDOGS TRIBE! After Chance Nolan threw four interceptions against USC in Week 4, I felt I had no other choice but to make a change just under the wire. Jalon Daniels has deserved it and he was the only quarterback to receive write-in votes in the last poll!
Daniels grew up in Los Angeles and was in the same recruiting class as Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and D.J. Uiagalelei, so that may have caused him to be overlooked in 2020. He ranked outside of the top 2,300 recruits at 247 Sports. He went to Kansas, a school that did not win more than three games in any season between 2010 and 2021. I repeat: the best year for Kansas since 2010 is 3-9. They went 0-9 in 2020. Daniels has them at 4-0 right now.
I don’t know Daniels exact birthdate but it should be noted that he started games at Kansas when he was still 17.
Date of Birth: (???) Draft age should be 21
Hometown: Lawndale, CA
Weight: 215 lbs
Last game: 19/23, 324 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 11 rush, 89 yards, 1 TD (W 35-27 over Duke)
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Stetson Bennett, Georgia - Walk-on National Champion
I wrote about Stetson Bennett a couple of times so far. He was in our “Last 4 In” contest and he was one of the last four in! Bennett was a two-star recruit who decided to walk-on at Georgia. He transferred to a JuCo, then transferred back, has been behind all kinds of highly touted recruits in the last five years but led the Bulldogs (kind of) to a national championship last season. He will be criticized for his size, but not for his effort and determination.
Date of Birth: 10/28/1997 (draft age: 24)
Hometown: Blackshear, GA
Weight: 190 lbs
Last game: 27/36, 272 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 5 rush, 13 yards, 1 TD (W 39-22 over Kent State)
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina - He’s ASKING to have a chip placed on his shoulder
What more can be said about Grayson on Seaside Joe? I don’t want to overwhelm the audience with praise for one player, but I will summarize Grayson McCall for the new Seasiders: Grew up in the same small town as Sam Howell, the top-ranked recruit for many people back in 2019. Howell got all the attention, Grayson was playing at a school that exclusively ran the triple-option offense and that didn’t help him get more attention even though he was always neck-and-neck with Howell in their matchups.
Grayson didn’t get many offers but he turned out to be a good fit for new head coach Jamey Chadwell’s triple option offense at Coastal Carolina, a program that only started playing football in the early 2000s and didn’t move up to Division-I until a few years prior to McCall’s arrival. After redshirting as a freshman, McCall went into the 2020 offseason buried on the depth chart and Coastal was picked to finish last in the Sun Belt. He won the starting gig against the odds and Coastal went undefeated until a loss to Liberty in their bowl game. McCall has the highest passing efficiency in college football since 2020, setting a national record in 2021, and his current record as the starter is 24-2.
When asked about the NFL Draft and being overlooked in the class, McCall recently answered by saying that those are great players and that he hopes they get drafted ahead of him because he wants the chip on his shoulder. That’s my kind of underdog.
I think he’s good. I don’t want to hear any comments about his competition unless you’ve watched the games! Then I definitely want to hear all of your thoughts.
Date of Birth: 12/13/2000 (draft age: 22)
Hometown: Indian Trail, NC
Weight: 216 lbs
Last game: 19/27, 268 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 8 rush, 38 yards, 1 TD (W 41-24 over Georgia State)