Call it mutual admiration. Reciprocity.
The rise of Sam Ehlinger as the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns relegated Shane Buechele to a backup role during the 2018 season, leading to his transfer on Thursday, but Buechele never wavered in his commitment to program and head coach Tom Herman never wavered in his admiration for Buechele. Neither did Ehlinger.
Words cannot describe how thankful I am for everything you taught me on and off the field. Thank you for everything. Can’t wait to watch you tear it up next year. Love you bro❤️ https://t.co/DUJ1gfynZW— Sam Ehlinger (@sehlinger3) February 7, 2019
And for good reason.
Buechele’s dedication mostly happened out of the public eye or away from notice — his efforts in practice, his engagement on the headset during games, and even before games, when he always greeted his teammates in the tunnel.
This is a perfect example of why @BGShaneBuechele is one of the finest young men I’ve been around. I filmed this before the ‘18 Texas/OU game. Instead of pouting about not bring the starter, he was encouraging his teammates. This guy is loved BIG and is ALL CLASS. pic.twitter.com/e8pbSzV5kD— Bob Shipley (@RobertShipley2) February 8, 2019
Beyond Buechele’s pre-game ritual, the dedication showed itself primarily in practice.
“I have told you guys, and I want to tell the world — Shane Buechele is the most engaged, he’s the most prepared, he’s the most positive coaching backup quarterback I’ve ever been around in my life and I’ve been around some really good ones, really, really good ones,” Herman said after the Baylor game.
Buechele had replaced an injured Ehlinger and helped the Longhorns to a victory largely enabled by his practice habits.
For the first seven weeks of the season, Buechele took his mental reps as Texas worked on quarterback sneaks. There was Buechele, always 15 yards behind the play, crouched down and without have a center in front of him just taking mental reps on air.
So when he was called on, he was ready.
Texas won’t just lose a highly competent backup quarterback or a good teammate, though — Buechele thinks the game like a coach’s son and helped the offensive staff on the headset during games throughout the season.
One particularly impressive example was relayed by wide receiver Collin Johnson, Buechele’s roommate, in a recent video. In it, Johnson discussed a 3rd and 11 play against Kansas State in the fourth quarter with the clock under five minutes remaining. As was the case for much of the season, it was a situation in which the Horns were attempting to hold on late.
Having noticed a potential vulnerability, Buechele recommended a play to the coaches and when the game was on the line, they trusted him enough to call it. Against zone coverage from a empty set, Johnson was able to find some space on his dig route in the boundary and Ehlinger was able to keep the ball low where only Johnson could catch it.
Thanks to the big conversion, Texas was able to run out the clock.
As a potential future coach, Buechele was clearly an asset to the offensive staff during games, a contrast highlighted when now-departed freshman quarterback Cameron Rising wasn’t sure what to do on the headset when Buechele replaced Ehlinger in the Baylor game. With Ehlinger in the locker room receiving treatment for his injured shoulder, Rising had to take on that role.
“He comes over to me, ‘Coach, what am I supposed it look for?’” Herman recalled after the game. “I said, ‘Just act like you’re playing the game and give us any pointers that you see out there and just be Shane’s sounding board, if you will.’”
For quarterbacks who have started their whole lives, it’s an unusual situation. In 2019, redshirt freshman Casey Thompson or true freshman Roschon Johnson will take on that task and the the high standard set by Buechele that comes with it.
The bottom line is that Buechele made the most of his opportunities to contribute to the team in any way possible, an example that should serve Thompson well as he matures, and one that the entire quarterback room can pass down to Johnson.
After all, the little things like that are the best way to honor Buechele’s legacy at Texas.