On a spring Friday evening, the phone of Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong rang.
It was 10:30 p.m. and freshman quarterback Shane Buechele was on the other end.
Buechele and fellow freshman Collin Johnson, his constant, inseparable companion, wanted Strong to let them into the indoor practice facility so Buechele could continue throwing to Johnson.
Strong recommended trying Clark Field, but his quarterback informed him that the two were already there and the lights were no longer on.
So the Texas head coach headed over to the campus area to let Buechele and Johnson into the Bubble, where the two kept working even later into the night.
The story Strong shared at the Houston Touchdown Club last month provides further insight into the prospective starter for the ‘Horns at a position that has been in a constant state of flux since 2009.
When asked about Buechele in a rare offseason press conference at the end of June, Strong was quick to discuss the other two competitors at the position — senior Tyrone Swoopes and sophomore Jerrod Heard -- but the relentless work ethic of the Arlington Lamar product will almost certainly vault Buechele into the starting role this fall.
It’s a goal the 6’1, 191-pounder has worked towards ever since he got to campus.
He quickly struck up a friendship with Johnson, the 6’6, 212-pound pass catcher who drew considerable buzz throughout the spring, and the two spent every moment they could around the football facility.
When Sports Illustrated visited Austin to do a piece on Strong and the Longhorns, the head coach responded to a question about his freshman quarterback by noting his surprise that Buechele wasn’t around the football facilities at the time of his interview.
The result is that Buechele’s presence and work ethic had an impact during the spring on the other quarterbacks. Strong noted after the spring game that he saw Buechele, Johnson, and several other receivers putting in extra work one day.
Then Swoopes showed up with another group of players. Then Heard showed up.
So now Strong doesn’t have to worry about pushing any of his quarterbacks to get out and throw the football around outside of practice or summer 7-on-7 — Buechele’s example has already ensured that.
Even when Buechele isn’t around the football facilities, he’s still got a football in his hand, as evidenced by his video of a long throw to a friend on a jet ski.
On the rare occasion he isn’t throwing a football, he might be hosting Johnson and the other early enrollee at a Rangers game as a bonding exercise.
However, only discussing what the former consensus four-star prospect has already done at Texas undersells the impact of his upbringing as the son of a Major League Baseball player and younger brother of college athletes.
“Nothing is really going to fluster him because he's been in that family,” Strong said this spring. “So when you've been in it and grown up around it, there's not too many things where you're going to be off base.”
Indeed, the poise that Buechele showed in throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the Orange and White game this spring was extremely impressive.
All of the hard work and preparation helps enable and complement a savvy that is beyond his years, illustrated in one particular moment from spring practice that senior safety Dylan Haines shared:
Haines recalled one of Texas’ first practices where he was playing the curl/flat area. He thought he baited Buechele into making a bad decision on a bubble screen/slant combination route, jumping the bubble with thoughts of an easy interception. Instead, Buechele made an unexpected move that left Haines in no man’s land.
“He gave me a nice pump fake and went back to (the slant),” Haines said. “I had a hand out but (the ball) whizzed right by my hand. I had to applaud him for that because that’s something not a lot of true freshmen can do, and not a lot of quarterbacks can do.”
The result of all that hard work and athletic pedigree? A quarterback.
“The thing about Shane is he's been a quarterback, and that's what he's always worked as,” Strong said. “A lot of times you see guys who are athletes playing as quarterback where he is a quarterback. Just because of his bloodlines and what he's been around, he's got that competitive spirit to win. “