Entering the 2020 season, Texas Longhorns senior Sam Ehlinger was one of the nation’s most accomplished quarterbacks, ultimately finishing his career as one of three FBS players to ever throw for 11,000 career yards and rush for more than 1,500 yards, among other accomplishments that left his name dotting the school record book.
But at times during practice, Ehlinger was left as awe struck as a middle schooler watching his idol. All thanks to the ability of a freshman quarterback who committed to Texas before he’d even taken over as the Lake Travis starter.
Such is the talent of Hudson Card, the second-year quarterback who signed with the Longhorns as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class and will compete with Casey Thompson this spring for the starting job vacated by Ehlinger’s declaration for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“Gosh darn it, why can’t I throw the ball like that?” Ehlinger asked himself during practice watching Card.
“Why can’t I spin it the way you can?” Ehlinger asked the younger quarterback.
Despite spending his sophomore season at Lake Travis catching passes from Ohio State signee Matthew Baldwin, Card transitioned quickly and seemingly easily to the starting role, throwing for more than 3,500 yards and 50 touchdowns against only four interceptions. Lake Travis made it to the state semifinals before losing to Galena Park North Shore.
To hear Ehlinger tell it, Card is simply a natural at the quarterback position.
“Hudson is just a special player — there’s really no other way to put it,” Ehlinger said this week. “He came out of the womb spinning the football.”
Card has already earned a reputation around the Texas football program. Last fall, Ehlinger called him the “golden boy” and recounted how the rest of the quarterback room teased Card for always doing quarterback drills perfectly.
And while new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian won’t utilize Card’s athleticism as a runner like Lake Travis did, his ability to extend plays to make throws down the field or scramble for key yardage should be a strength.
Like everyone else who saw Casey Thompson get the first extensive playing time of his career in the Alamo Bowl against Colorado, new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian was impressed as he watched the game live. Thompson went 8-of-10 passing for 170 yards and four touchdowns despite playing barely more than a quarter.
But as much as Sarkisian liked Thompson’s performance, he also recalled already doing his research on Card.
“I had to remind myself that when I got into really looking at this job, I did a real extensive eval on Hudson Card,” Sarkisian said on The Audible podcast. “And then I got here and heard a lot of the similar same things you’ve been hearing, so I feel like we’re in good hands in the short-term future; I feel like we’re in good hands in the long-term future.”
What were the hosts of that podcast, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel, hearing about Card? Superlatives similar to those offered by Ehlinger on multiple occasions.
“I’d be shocked if Hudson’s not the quarterback,” one former Texas assistant told The Athletic. “I love the guy. Love his accuracy. Hudson can really drive the football. His footwork and ability to throw from any platform. He’s a very intelligent kid. I think Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback ever in terms of skill set. This kid reminds me a lot of Aaron Rodgers in how he can move within the pocket and throw from different arm angles and make off-platform throws, and he’s got really good agility. He’s like a 4.5 (40) guy. I’m not bullshitting you. He’s really that talented.”
With Sarkisian building his offense in layers from run-pass options that often demand off-platform throws and the quick hands that he prefers in his quarterbacks, Card seems like a strong fit for the new Longhorns attack in those two key areas.
Two other former Longhorns assistants expressed similar sentiments about the young quarterback, with one opining that Card has a chance to be one of the best players in the country.
So if Card does win the starting job, it’ll be just another step in an expected ascension. After all, he was born for this.