Flint Minshew never had to push his only son, Gardner.
“I have a lot of people who ask me ‘oh my son wants to play college.’ And I say ‘oh does your kid bug you to go out and do extra stuff?’" the father of three explained recently. "So, literally, people thought I was crazy. But he wanted to be in the yard every day throwing the ball."
It's a desire to be the best and a zest for life that Jacksonville -- and the entire NFL -- has seen first-hand this fall.
The Jaguars' sixth-round draftee out of Washington State was thrust into a starting role when $88-million free agent signee Nick Foles broke his collarbone just 11 plays into the 2019 season. All Minshew has done is throw for over 900 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception. He is the first quarterback since 1990 to throw for 200 yards and a post a passer rating of at least 95.0 in each of his first four, career starts.
To his father, none of this is a surprise.
“I honestly – and I know people aren’t gonna believe this – I honestly thought [he'd become an NFL quarterback] the whole time,” Gardner "Flint" Minshew I explained.
“He won like a Nike camp and a Rivals camp, did well in the Elite 11. None of these camps do they go, ‘hey, we need you to make a decision.’ And you go, ‘okay, somewhere along the way y’all are missing the boat. The whole dang position is about making decisions.”
Minshew's decision-making has been surefire during the first four weeks of the 2019 NFL season. He has completed 69% of his passes, a higher completion percentage than Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
For those who knew him during his one year as a grad transfer at Washington State University, though, this comes as no surprise. As the leader of Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense, Minshew led the nation in passing yards and was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The road to national prominence was a winding one: Minshew began his college career as a walk-on at Troy University, transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College, transferred to Eastern Carolina University, before finally finding a "home" in Pullman, Wash.
But given Minshew's Brandon, Mississippi roots, the move to the Pacific Northwest came with a price.
“It’s funny because before we ever talked to Leach, we talked about that," Flint smiled. "Because before he called him, [Gardner] said ‘are you gonna be able to make the games?’ And I said ‘You don’t worry about that. I said, if that’s where you wanna go, I’ll figure out how to get out there.’”
The father who always knew his son would succeed at the highest level only missed one game during Gardner's Washington State tenure -- the only game he's ever missed in Gardner's entire career.
“I missed USC last year," Flint explained. "Because it was a Friday night game. My youngest daughter was a Homecoming maid in Brandon. Yeah. I missed it. That’s the only one I’ve missed…"
This fall has proven to be a challenge for the Minshew family, but one they have met head-on. While Flint has followed Gardner to Houston and Denver and has made the 8.5 hour drive for the Jaguars' first two home games, his wife and Gardner's mom, Kim, has followed their youngest daughter, Callie, on the road with her 11-3, Mississippi State Volleyball team.
"We try to make every game," Flint said. "When my middle daughter [Meredith] was a dancer, she won four state championships in dance...my wife would go with her. I would typically go with Gardner. And then by that time he got to that age where he wasn't doing baseball and soccer anymore, Callie was coming along with soccer and volleyball so I would go with Callie.
"Mainly because [Meredith] didn't trust me to do her hair and make-up for dance."
Flint has the ultimate trust of his son.
"He’s one of my best friends, so to have him there, he’s been there every step of the way," the rookie quarterback said earlier this season. "I’m kind of used to it now. I’m kind of spoiled in that way, but it’s awesome to be able to share those kinds of moments with family.”
Gardner stresses that the dedication and "tough love" his parents showed him has been critical to his success in the NFL and in life.
“I think part of it is being raised right. You have parents, and when they tell you to do something, you do it. So anytime somebody tells me to do something from an authority position, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability," Gardner said.
"You know, he took to that," his father smiled as that quote was read aloud to him. "And it’s kinda funny: once he got on that track, it wasn’t work to him. It was ‘no I enjoy doing this.’
"He did want me to beat up other kids’ dads who didn’t bring them to practice."
The stories of Gardner's drive as a child are numerous. Among Flint's favorites:
"One time, it was a big -- he played on a really good soccer team, played in a lot of regional tournaments and they did well – and they were in a shoot-out to win the tournament. And they won, and afterwards I was like ‘hey, were you nervous?’ And he goes ‘no, I would’ve been nervous if anybody else had been out there.’ He just always had that belief in himself.”
There's also the moment Flint says "put Gardner on the path" to winning on the field and in life.
"He didn't make [Little League] All-Stars [when he was seven]. And he didn't deserve to make All-Star's. And he got in the car that night, my wife was in the car. And he's pissing and moaning -- and boy, she lit into him. She was like 'you're not an All-Star. You don't deserve to be an All-Star. You don't work. Anytime your dad wants you to go in the yard, hit the ball, play catch, whatever -- you wanna stay inside and play with your trucks. And so, from that point on, he really [took to hard work].
"That's one thing I always tell people: Kim and I really agreed on how to raise our kids. So there weren't any mixed messages there... Even at a young age, we would praise them when they lost -- if the effort was there. And we'd chew that tail if it wouldn't."
The hard-working mentality instilled in Gardner Minshew II has largely helped drown-out the "noise" of the national media clamoring for every bit of "Minshew Mania" they can get. From his "Uncle Rico" spot on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown to a recent "Snickers" promotion, Gardner certainly likes to have fun; but he's focused on the real task at hand.
The same could be said for Flint, who has become an Internet sensation himself through Gardner's celebrity. That included being welcomed on the NFL Network stage post-game after the Jaguars' Week Three win over the Titans.
"I'm just thinking we're going down there to surprise him after the game. And so we get down there [on the field] and they start mic'ing me up," Flint explained. "And then they say 'okay, when we tell you, y'all are getting on stage. So I'm like, 'okay, we'll go on stage!'
"At that point, you're just like 'are my pants zipped?'"
Flint has also been a go-to for NFL broadcast directors during games, who always seem to find the muscular, elder Minshew in the crowd. But Flint knows all too well: he runs the risk of becoming an Internet "meme."
"I catch myself now, and I had some of this at Washington State last year, that you wanna be careful [in case you're on-camera]. Especially if you're cursing -- you wanna cover your mouth," he laughed.
Flint was also ready to debunk the "Minshew Myths" that have sprung up from every corner of the Internet (his father really did want to name Gardner Beowulf; he uses "whatever shampoo Kim buys at Dollar General" on his signature, salt-and-pepper hair).
And about that infamous, Minshew mustache?
“You know, he’s comfortable with himself. And so we encourage that. We don’t encourage the mustache," Flint says with a grin.
"But you gotta be comfortable with who you are."