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August 14, 2013It was just before halftime, and the 1978 Texas Tech football team was trailing the Arizona Wildcats 14-0. The Red Raiders were looking to bounce back from their season-opening loss the previous week to No. 9 USC, and things weren't looking good. Then, to make matters worse, Tech starting quarterback Tres Adami went down with an injury, forcing head coach Rex Dockery to call on a true freshman to try and save the game.
As he trotted onto the field for his first collegiate snap, Ron Reeves received a standing ovation from nearly 42,000 fans at Jones Stadium. While this was his first time playing for the Red Raiders, it was far from his first game on the South Plains. Reeves had just graduated from Monterey High School a few months earlier, and was no stranger to the Lubbock community. The warm welcome he received, Reeves said, gave him the confidence to go out and perform well.
"It was crazy," he said. "First time running out on the field, and you talk about a big boost for me."
Reeves used that surge of confidence to lead the Red Raiders on to a 41-26 victory against the Wildcats and cement his position as the team's new starting quarterback. After a pair of tough losses against No. 6 Texas and No. 7 Texas A&M, Reeves led Tech on a six-game win streak, including victories against No. 5 Houston and No. 18 SMU.
Freshman Davis Webb may find himself in a similar situation later this month, with a chance to start in place of a banged up Michael Brewer. If that happens, Webb would be the first true freshman in program history to start a season-opener. While it seems intimidating, Reeves said it should be relatively easy for Webb to step into his role as a starter from a preparation standpoint.
"For me, coming in as a freshman, we weren't able to have spring training or anything like Davis Webb has had, which is fortunate," Reeves said. "He had the summer, as well, to work out with all the guys, so I'm sure the people around him are understanding of what he's capable of and what kind of work ethic he has."
Heading into the fall of 1978, Reeves was listed third on the depth chart and had no reason to believe he would start at any point in the season. Webb, meanwhile, was engaged in a quarterback competition with Brewer from the moment he stepped on campus. As a result, Reeves thinks the freshman will be more mentally prepared when he steps onto the field as a starting quarterback than he was.
To be successful as a freshman quarterback, Reeves said, Webb must earn the respect of his teammates coming out of the gate.
"It's so important that your teammates believe in you, that you're capable of performing at a level that will help the team be successful," he said. "You go out there and you work hard and you learn your stuff, you know what you're supposed to do, you're not making dumb mental mistakes, you're encouraging your teammates, and just playing hard."
A major part of his success during his freshman campaign, Reeves said, can be attributed to his coaches, Dockery and quarterbacks coach Watson Brown -- the older brother of Texas coach Mack Brown.
"Those guys spent time with me and encouraged me, and they would keep me grounded," he said.
Reeves said he believes Webb will have great help from Tech's new-look coaching staff, just as Dockery and Brown aided him.
"I think he's got some great assets in Sonny Cumbie and Kliff Kingsbury," Reeves said. "They are so hands-on with those quarterbacks, they're young, they both played at a high level, they know what to send the quarterback in with. They're going to have a very well thought up game plan, they're going to try and get him some success early and a lot of coaches will try to have you do some things that are some real high percentage throws early on just to get some confidence and keep you from making a mistake early."
Part of the job of being a starting quarterback and team leader is handling off the field distractions and the media, which can be difficult for a freshman. Even in the late 70's, Reeves said, dealing with the media was a responsibility, although not as difficult as it is today.
"There was attention, and there was out of town reporters calling, but it was definitely not like it is today," he said. "But I will say I handled it a lot better than Johnny Manziel has handled his stuff this year. He's had a little more pressure and opportunity to mess up than what I did, though."
Although the media was not quite as hazardous during his debut season, there was a great amount of hype that quickly gathered around Reeves as he continued adding to the team's win column. After a 27-9 victory against Baylor, Bears coach Grant Teaff, now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, gave Reeves a compliment he would never forget.
"When we played against Baylor, I threw several touchdown passes, I remember him (Teaff) being quoted in the paper the next day saying he thought I was going to be the next Roger Staubach," Reeves said. "I started thinking, 'Can I really do that?'"
Reeves may not have become the next Staubach, but he did lead the Red Raiders to a 6-3 record as a true freshman starter and earned Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year honors at the end of the season.
If Webb sees early season success and the excitement surrounding his potential builds up, Reeves said he thinks the coaches will be able to keep him grounded and focused on football.
At the end of the day, Reeves said, Webb should be focused on two things -- staying prepared and having fun.
"Enjoy the opportunity that you have to play, and how many people would just be dying to have that opportunity," Reeves said. "Obviously, prepare as much as you can beforehand, which I know that those coaches will have him -- he'll know his stuff. When you prepare ahead of time, there's not that many surprises."
Regardless of who gets the nod, Reeves said he is confident this Tech team has the talent and depth to be a conference championship contender.
"I am so optimistic and so happy with where we are with our team," he said. "I think we're going to do well. I'm going to predict an eight-win season, and I think if we have a few breaks go our way, I think we can be even better than that."
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