Jordan Wynn will spend Saturday in Hawaii, wearing a headset and watching from the coaching booth in the press box, trying to help his team finally win a football game.
And he’ll wish he could be quarterbacking the Utes one last time at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Utah’s Senior Day observance would have included Wynn, if not for the last in a series of shoulder injuries that ultimately ended his career in September 2012. “I wake up every day and I wish I could still play,” he said from Honolulu, where he’s a graduate assistant coach for Hawaii’s 0-11 team.
This is not just a cast of Utah’s quarterbacks acting out some script, with Travis Wilson now in the role of Wynn and Adam Schulz as Jon Hays. These are real people, not merely characters.
As obvious as that may seem, I have to be reminded of it occasionally. Wynn’s appearance with Hawaii in early November in Logan, where he’d thrown his last pass as a Ute quarterback, and my recent conversation with him about Wilson’s uncertain football future drove home that point again.
So for one day, I’m not thinking about how Utah will staff the QB position in 2014. This is about Wynn and Wilson and how much they’ve loved playing the game. And to have it taken away from them prematurely? That hurts.
Wilson was ruled out of Utah’s final three games of his sophomore season after his treatment for a concussion revealed a pre-existing condition that may prevent him from playing again. That’s to be determined in the next few months.
“When you’ve played football your whole life, that’s a very difficult thing to deal with,” Wynn said. “Nothing can prepare you for that.”
Wynn’s experience was less jarring than Wilson’s. With his repeated shoulder injuries, Wynn reached a point that when a Utah State defender plowed into him just after he launched a pass, he knew he’d had enough.
Even so, the impact was traumatic. Wynn went home to California for a week to regroup.
When he returned to the campus, working with the quarterbacks helped him transition into coaching, and he joined the staff of former Ute offensive coordinator Norm Chow in Hawaii.
Wilson accompanied the Utes to Washington State last weekend. Schulz credited Wilson with providing encouragement after he threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in the first quarter.
While apparently hoping to play again (the school has not made him available for interviews), Wilson already is following Wynn’s example of staying involved with the team, redirecting his efforts and looking to the future. “There is more to life than football,” Wynn said, “especially with his injury.”
Well, there’s life beyond playing football for Wynn. So he’s in Hawaii, applying his Utah economics degree by working for a winless team.
“It’s definitely a struggle, something I never would have envisioned in my first year of coaching,” Wynn said.
But he loves the job, and Wynn’s responsibilities are greater than his grad assistant title suggests. Chow parted with his offensive coordinator just prior to preseason practice, so Wynn is heavily involved in the offense. The Rainbow Warriors have lost five games by seven points or fewer, including two overtime defeats. Sean Schroeder, Wynn’s QB, passed for 499 yards and six touchdowns as Hawaii scored 56 points in regulation last weekend at Wyoming, only to lose in overtime.
Hawaii’s final game is Saturday against Army. Preparing for a 12th game after 11 defeats is not easy, but Wynn perseveres, just as he kept coming back from those shoulder injuries. He believes that someday, he’ll reflect appreciatively about how this season “made me a different person.”
A person. Not just a performer. I’ll remember that distinction, whenever I think of Jordan Wynn or Travis Wilson.