LAWRENCE — Todd Reesing can’t believe 10 years have passed since both he and Kansas occupied space among college football’s elite.
Actually, the former Jayhawk standout quarterback isn't entirely in disbelief.
“My shoulder feels like it was 11 years ago after having surgery," Reesing said Friday. "It’s a little bit tougher to throw the ball around.”
An Orange Bowl champion and holder of 14 program records, Reesing will be inducted into KU’s Ring of Honor during the team’s 11 a.m. Saturday contest against Rutgers (1-1) at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. The 5-foot-11 native of Austin, Texas, and former three-year starter holds KU records for career passing yards (11,194), touchdown passes (90) and completion percentage (63.8), among other all-time achievements.
Despite his status as quite likely the greatest signal caller in team history, Reesing was nevertheless surprised earlier this summer when current coach David Beaty informed him of the upcoming honor.
“It was a pretty breathtaking moment to hear the news,” Reesing said. “Obviously, it’s something I didn’t expect, not really knowing what the criteria might be to get up there, to have that kind of honor bestowed upon me. To join so many great players that have played here is pretty unbelievable.”
Saturday’s induction is a fitting bow on the career of a player who took KU to new heights.
Only a sophomore when he surprisingly won the team’s preseason quarterback competition in 2007, Reesing guided the Jayhawks to a 12-1 season that included a 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl. He threw 33 touchdowns against only seven interceptions across that signature season.
Beaty, who asked Reesing to speak to the Jayhawks (1-1) following their Friday walk-through, was wide receivers coach at KU for Reesing’s final two seasons. He uses the quarterback’s legendary competitiveness — Reesing often joined in on wideout drills and became livid if he couldn’t get open or make a completion — as a benchmark for current players.
Being under-recruited and underestimated cultivated a chip on Reesing’s shoulder, though he said those elements weren’t the most important factors to his success.
More than anything, he simply wanted to win.
“Being a competitive guy, I wanted to go out there and play as good as I could for the guys I spend so much time training with and preparing with, do it for the fans and the university and the football program,” Reesing said. “So it’s not hard to find a lot of motivation to go out there. You put so much time and effort 365 days a year and you’ve only got 12 dates on the calendar, so it’s not a lot of time you get to go out there and perform. You want to take advantage of those opportunities when you get them.”
The years since Reesing’s final season haven’t been kind to his former program.
The Jayhawks have gone 16-82 and cycled through three head coaches over the last eight-plus seasons, with Beaty in a pivotal fourth year. Despite the unsightly play since his departure, Reesing said he still attempts to watch every game and, when he can’t, manages to track the contests on his phone.
Reesing acknowledged witnessing KU’s struggles has been “tough.”
“I feel for the guys playing. I feel for the coaches probably more than anything,” Reesing said. “It’s tough, I think, from the situation that they were in, it’s kind of been an uphill battle for the most part, but I’ve got faith in coach Beaty and his staff and all the other people that are working hard in here to get this thing turned around. Sometimes those things take time.
“You’ve just kind of got to, as coach (Mark) Mangino used to say, you’ve got to keep sawin’ wood.”
Reesing fondly recalled the “sea of crimson and blue” that awaited him on Saturdays, a time when the Jayhawks were such a hot ticket that fans unable to get in watched from the hill.
He believes those days can be replicated.
“After you’ve been kind of down like Kansas has for a few years, it’s tough to generate a lot of momentum and buzz and get things going in the right direction,” Reesing said. “So it’s an uphill battle. It doesn’t mean it’s a battle we can’t win. We’ve just got to keep at it.”