SCOTTSDALE — The bus hadn’t even left the parking lot at last year’s Holiday Bowl in San Diego, and Bryce Petty already had his thumbs working, composing a tweet.
“Great way to send out the seniors,” the Baylor quarterback wrote at the time. “Last game as a backup, last game on the sidelines. Tomorrow it starts. #newera #itsmytime.”
Think Petty might’ve been itching for his chance to play QB for the Bears?
Um, yeah. Definitely.
“I was shaking hands with the seniors and hugging people, and then as soon as we walked to the bus, it was like, ‘It’s my time now,’ ” said Petty, mimicking typing on his phone. “That was as much a tweet to you guys (in the media) as it was a tweet to myself. Or just a mental note saying this is for real now.”
A year later, Petty finds himself in the midst of a much different bowl experience. As Nick Florence’s backup in 2012, Petty tried to keep himself armed and ready for any type of emergency action. But the harsh reality is that there’s a vast difference between being the guy behind the guy and being the starter. It’s kind of like the difference between a hike through Waco’s Cameron Park and a hike up Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain.
The latter is just a lot more intense.
“This means I’m playing. It’s a little bit different, in a good way,” Petty said. “I feel like I’m contributing, so this one means more. Not to say the other (bowl games) didn’t, but when you’re not contributing it’s hard to want to get up and do stuff. We’re excited. I’m excited.”
Have you ever sat in a doctor’s waiting room until the brink of eternity, only to hang on and wait for 15 minutes more? Welcome to the last four years of Petty’s life. He doesn’t mince words. At the time, biding his time was excruciating.
He vented to his family and friends. He wondered if the coaching staff really trusted him. Probably the most aggravating moment came in 2011 against Texas Tech, when Robert Griffin retreated to the sideline due to an elbow injury. Though Petty was technically the listed backup on the depth chart, the coaches opted to burn the redshirt of the more experienced Nick Florence to play the second half.
Petty felt hurt, confused.
“That was one where I was kind of like, ‘OK, I don’t understand what’s going on here,’ ” Petty said. “But that was a blessing in disguise, really. That kind of set up everything as far as my mental approach and what I was going to do.”
One of Petty’s chief confidants in the waiting room was offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery. The coach sought the QB out for regular pep talks, constantly reminding him that his day would come.
“It’s tough, and especially at that position,” Montgomery said. “You recruit those guys because they’re all great football players and you’ve got a plan for them. With Bryce, it was all about understanding the plan and kind of where it was coming from and where it was going.”
A man of deep faith, Petty is now able to see things from an aerial view, to sense God’s hand in it all. One of the Bible passages Petty clung to during his apprenticeship was 1 Peter 5:6-7, which instructs believers to humble themselves before God, so that “he may exalt you in due time.”
Petty’s time finally arrived this season. He didn’t just play, he excelled. He won the Big 12 player of the year award. He was seventh in the Heisman voting. He has directed the Bears to more wins than any other Baylor team.
In Petty’s view, it’s just a reminder that God always hits his receivers in stride, with a divine timing pattern that is better than anything even Bill Belichick could draw up.
“That’s the whole thing about it. If I could write it up like I wanted it, I would have been playing four years ago,” Petty said. “But who knows what would have happened? But the way God had it all written up himself is the better plan for me. It was that idea of trusting in that.”
It was never easy. Not many college quarterbacks take the route from grayshirt to redshirt to second-stringer to second-stringer (again) to starter. That’d be like driving from Waco to Phoenix with detours in Charlotte, Milwaukee and Seattle.
In the end, Petty kept the faith, and the reward for Baylor has proven priceless. Montgomery said Petty is a better, more mature quarterback because of the time he spent learning and honing his craft. His teammates praise his perseverance, and consider him a leader because of it.
“I appreciate it, I respect him for it and most of all I’m proud of him for it,” said All-American guard Cyril Richardson. “Some people would get fed up, some people would get angry about it, but he didn’t show that one bit. He showed it through his work ethic: ‘I’m going to get on this field one day.’ He worked his tail off, and look where he is now.”
Petty is still using his thumbs this Fiesta Bowl week, but there’s been less typing and more retweeting. He’s got to keep those digits rested.
At long last, he’s going bowling, and he gets to hold the ball.