Quinn Ewers' journey to Texas was bumpy, but he's right where he always wanted to be

Photos by John Hamilton | Edit by DCTF

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NEW ORLEANS – Riley Dodge was the offensive coordinator at Justin Northwest High School in 2017 when his buddy and North Texas’ offensive coordinator Graham Harrell stopped by the football offices to chat and recruit a few of Dodge’s players. Harrell told Dodge that he’d done something new in his career – offered a middle school prospect a scholarship opportunity. That middle schooler was Quinn Ewers. 

Dodge, who starred at quarterback for Southlake Carroll for his dad, and former Texas quarterback, Todd Dodge, returned to his alma mater as the head coach of the Dragons the next season. That’s when he first saw Ewers throw the football, and it is when he knew that Dragon Stadium would be the place to be for the next four years. 

“I was pretty excited that a guy like Graham Harrell saw something like that in one of our quarterbacks,” Riley Dodge said. “When I finally saw him throw the ball, I knew why. I saw it right away. His talent jumped off the grass quickly.” 

Ewers’ family moved to Southlake around his third-grade year. His father, Curtis, called the local youth league presidents for football, baseball, and basketball when they arrived from Pleasanton. Quinn was already a sports junkie who played everything from football to golf. If there was a ball, he wanted to throw it, or hit it, or shoot it through a hoop. 

Southlake embraces talent. The Dragons have won eight state titles and qualified for the state quarterfinals 23 times between 1987 and 2022. They’re up there with Katy and Aledo and Carthage as the most-recognized high school football programs in a state obsessed with prep pigskin. The sports-centric Ewers family was in heaven. 

“Right off the bat, you could tell Southlake was a different spot as far as football is concerned,” Curtis Ewers said. “With Quinn being pretty good at sports related things, he hit the ground running, and everyone gravitated towards him.”

Ewers became the full-time starter as a sophomore. Dodge remembers a post pass he threw over a safety and into the running stride of a wide receiver against Odessa Permian that illustrated how special his young protegee’s arm talent was. Ewers’ coming out party was a 46-34 win over Denton Guyer that 2018 season. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more, including a 70-yard run. 

Playing quarterback at Southlake Carroll is a community event. The lineage includes Dodge (North Texas), Kenny Hill (Texas A&M/TCU), Greg McElroy (Alabama), and Chase Daniel (Missouri). The current quarterback is a four-star Georgia Tech commit named Graham Knowles. The quarterback in 2022, Kaden Anderson, committed to Wyoming out of high school. Leading the Dragons is a big deal.  

It remains a one-school district and with football enjoying so much success, everyone in town knows the starting quarterback. It is a true Friday Night Lights situation. Ewers embraced the role. He led the Dragons to a state championship game as a junior despite missing eight games and undergoing double hernia surgery. 

“Southlake helped prepare me a lot,” Ewers said on Friday at the Sugar Bowl. “It is the highest stage in Texas football to play quarterback. They have rich history there at the quarterback position and it is an honor to be a part of something like that.” 

Ewers became a five-star talent, and not just any five-star talent. He was the most highly-regarded quarterback prospect since Trevor Lawrence. The only other player to get a perfect rating by 247Sports outside of Ewers and Lawrence was Vince Young. The plan was for Ewers to follow in Vince Young’s footsteps. He grew up a Longhorn fan. His dad says that Quinn dressed up as a Longhorn football player six or seven times.

But things change. The world around Ewers morphed during his high school career. He and his teammates battled through COVID in the 2020 season that ended in a state championship loss to Westlake. NIL became a reality for college athletes. The transfer portal became prevalent. Amid the changing landscape, Ewers chose a new path – one that shocked the Lone Star State. After flipping his commitment from Texas to Ohio State because of coaching uncertainty at Texas with Tom Herman, Ewers skipped his senior season of high school to enroll a year early. 

“It was strange for us as a program. Strange for him, too,” Dodge said. “He was in unchartered territory. Knowing him, it was not easy leaving his teammates and buddies. It was in his best interest at the time, but it was a weird time, for sure.” 

The one-year stint at Ohio State didn’t work out. Ewers entered the transfer portal after the 2021 season and returned to his roots – pledging to Steve Sarkisian and his childhood team. He started 10 games as a redshirt freshman, leading the squad to six wins and throwing for 2,177 yards. He played his best game that season against Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown, completing 21 of 31 passes for 289 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in a route over the rival Sooners. 

But that didn’t quiet the naysayers. Texas limped to an 8-5 finish in Sarkisian’s second year, capped by a loss to Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Ewers, and his trademark mullet haircut, was doubted in the offseason. As a leader. As a five-star quarterback. As a winner. Could he lead Texas to a Big 12 championship? Was he a future leader of an NFL franchise? Was he the type of player other guys gravitated towards? The people close to Ewers knew he was suited to lead, but his actions needed to match.

Apparently, Ewers knew that, too. Or, at the very least, he was tired of being questioned. He traded the mullet for a short haircut that looked more appropriate for the face of the program and a future NFL starter. Texas fans were relieved, but not as much as his parents.

“I think we high-fived,” Curtis Ewers joked about his and his wife’s reaction to seeing Quinn cut his hair. “We prefer the clean-cut Quinn; I’ll say that much. It took on a life of its own. Once Quinn understood that preceded him a bit too much, I think he made the right decision to cut it off.” 

Ewers began to lead. Starting center Jake Majors says he saw a change in his quarterback after the bowl game against Washington. He knew that Texas could achieve great things once Ewers began speaking up more and taking control of the offense. The promise was fulfilled in a road game against Alabama in Week 2 when Ewers threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns. 

“I think vocally I’ve changed a whole lot,” Ewers said about his ability to lead. “The confidence I have in my teammates and the confidence they have in me ultimately helps overall the way I’m able to lead.” 

A dream came true for the Ewers family in December when Quinn led Texas to its first Big 12 championship since 2009. He threw for a career-high 452 yards and four touchdowns in the win. It was his first time playing at AT&T Stadium since his last game as a Dragon. The road wasn’t always flat, but he eventually arrived at the correct destination. 

“What made it extremely special in our household is that Quinn grew up wanting to be the quarterback of the Longhorns,” Curtis Ewers said. “For him to achieve that dream, it is hard to explain how special of a moment it was. I told him, ‘Quinn, no one can take that away from you for the rest of your life.’” 

A win over Washington in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 puts Texas in the national title game. Ewers wasn’t even three years old in 2005 when Young led Texas to its last national title. He admitted to not remembering the 2009 Rose Bowl loss to Alabama when Colt McCoy was hurt because he still wasn’t old enough to remember games. The biggest game Texas has played in during Ewers’ active memory was the 2018 Sugar Bowl against Georgia. A win over Washington in that same venue puts Ewers in the Young and McCoy category of Longhorn greats. 

“It is awesome. It is humbling. This is what I’ve dreamed of,” Quinn said about the stage he’s on. “I couldn’t be more thankful, and I’m fired up to get out there.” 

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