Q&A: Garrett Gilbert

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Garrett Gilbert scans the field during the BCS National Championship game against Alabama in 2010. Gilbert, a freshman at the time, replaced an injured Colt McCoy in the game but Texas lost, 37-21. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Bryant Haertlein | Daily Texan Staff

Garrett Gilbert sat down with The Daily Texan for an exclusive interview, discussing his time at Texas, high expectations and his future at Southern Methodist University.

The Daily Texas: What do you like about June Jones’ offense?
Garrett Gilbert: He’s been successful as a coach for almost 30 years now. It’ll be fun for me to learn some stuff from a guy that’s been coaching a lot of great quarterbacks since 1980ish.

DT: Do you think that system is better suited for your skills?
Gilbert: The thing that drew me in about SMU wasn’t necessarily the system. Obviously, it’s more of a spread like I did in high school. It’s just the fact that the attitude that they have. They’re going to throw it no matter what so that’s fun for me when I was up there.

DT:When you committed to Texas, they had Colt and put him in the shotgun and didn’t even try to run the ball. Is that what you thought you were going to do?
Gilbert: We talked about running the ball and being able to run the ball since I came. That was something that we tried to do and, for whatever reason, last year it didn’t work out as well as we wanted it to. We kind of had a midseason transformation. Obviously, this year they’re doing a great job of running the ball now. They’ve had 1,000 yards in the past three games.

DT: Have you wondered why you couldn’t have that productive running game?
Gilbert: For whatever reason, things didn’t work out. So there’s no anger there. I’m happy for the guys. I love watching them play on Saturday. I’m really bummed for Fozzy. He’s been awesome to me. He’s been an awesome teammate. I know no one has said a bad word about him. He deserves the best. Hopefully, he’ll get a speedy recovery and get a chance to play on Sundays.

DT: What’s it like watching them play on TV?
Gilbert: It’s a little different. I’m definitely rooting for them to do well. They’re still my friends. I’m still cheering them on every Saturday. Obviously, it’s a little different not being out there but it’s just part of the decision.

DT: What’s been your impression of the team since you left?
Gilbert: They’re very young. Despite guys like Fozzy and some of the guys that have played a little bit more — [David] Snow, Tray Allen and Mason [Walters] — they’re a very young team for the most part offensively. You knew the defense would be good going into the season. They’ve done a great job for the past few years and coach Diaz has had a great attitude and has done a great job with them. Coach Harsin brought in a similar attitude. He’s done a very good job with it. Coach Applewhite and him work well together. But I think, being so young, there have been a lot of guys that have been forced to mature very quickly. The oldest receiver was a true sophomore Mike Davis before Marquise came back. So they’re young at a lot of positions. They’re only going to get better.

DT: Is it frustrating watching the quarterbacks struggle?
Gilbert: It’s easy to be a guy who judges. I’m sure during practice or during the first two games, David’s saying, ‘Oh, I can make that pass.’ I’m rooting for them and I’m hoping they do well. I know things aren’t going to be perfect because they never are. So I’m just hoping things go as well as possible.

DT: Is it fair that people view the quarterback as responsible for the whole team?
Gilbert: As a quarterback, you’re always going to be a guy that gets way too much credit and way too much blame. That’s something that I’ve known growing up from the time I played Pop Warner all the way through high school and into college. That’s just something you’ve got to deal with and David will deal with and he’ll do a good job of it and put the game behind him and move on. I’m sure he’ll respond well this week.

DT: What was your favorite memory of playing at Texas?
Gilbert: No matter it may look with the way things went last year, I really feel like I learned a lot from it. Going 5-7 and going through that adversity taught me a lot about being a football player. It’s something that, hopefully, going forward, if I get the opportunity to play at SMU that I can get use that sort of experience. Last season was a great learning experience. And I’ve really enjoyed the first three years of my college life here at Texas. I wanted to come to this school. It’s my dream school. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I’ve just got some goals that I want to attain for myself that I think it would be better if I go other places with.

DT: Did you think about finishing your football career and competing for the starting position here?
Gilbert: It was a very tough decision. I thought about it a lot. I prayed about it a lot. I just decided that this was best for me. Looking back, maybe I could have stayed. Maybe in the future, I could look back and say that maybe I should have stayed. Right now, I’m looking forward. I’m excited about the opportunity that SMU will bring and I can’t wait for the opportunity to learn from a great coaching staff and learn from the guys on the team.

DT: SMU plays TCU every year between now and 2015. What’s it going to be like playing against your little brother, Griffin?
Gilbert: It’ll be fun. We’ll never be playing against each other, per se, being on the field at the same time. But we’ve already got a little family rivalry going so it’ll be fun for me to get to go against him and for us to get to compete against each other for the first time. We’ve always been at Lake Travis growing up being on the same time. It’ll be fun to compete against each other in an organized setting.

DT: Are you going to be in the defensive huddle warning teammates about him?
Gilbert: I don’t know if we’ll be able to stop him. He’s pretty good.

DT: Any way you get him to come to SMU?
Gilbert: No, he loves TCU. I’ve only got two years left. He’s got four or five years to worry about. He needs to do what’s best for him.

DT: What was the worst moment during your time at Texas?
Gilbert: As much as last year can be used as a learning experience, there’s also negatives to it. Being unsuccessful and being part of a team that broke the 10-win streak wasn’t very fun. As a team, we struggled to get through that together. The guys that are still there I know use it very much like I did as motivation and as a learning experience. I think that’s going to help them and helped them have the success they’ve had. And watching Colt go down in the national championship. Being able to learn so much from him for the two years – the one year I was on the team and his junior year- and to see how much work he put in for that national championship, obviously it was a great opportunity for me to be able to learn, but to see it for a guy that deserved it so much on a freak play that was tough. It was tough to watch because he definitely deserved the national championship.

DT: Is playing on Sundays still a goal of yours?
Gilbert: Absolutely. Right now, I’ve got to put first things first. It’s kind of a one step at a time deal. But the end goal, for me, is to make it to the NFL. That’s been my dream and it’s going to continue to be my dream.

DT: Guys have done well, especially quarterbacks, transferring from Texas, including Jevan Snead and G.J. Kinne. What will be your expectations moving forward?
Gilbert: I expect myself to do well. Once again, it’s first things first. I’ve got to go up there to learn the offense, meet the guys and become the best teammate I can be. After that, I can start competing for playing time. I know that there’s a couple good quarterbacks already there at SMU. That’s my goal.

DT: What’s the most hurtful thing you heard?
Gilbert: Honestly, I try my best to let that stuff go in one here and out the other. I do my best not to remember any of that. Obviously, there were things that I would read or see on TV that were tough but I’d put it out of my memory as quickly as possible and just move forward. All I could control was what I can do and what our team can do. I never really was able to waste time focusing on the negativity outside because our goal was still to make a bowl all the way up until the last week of the season last year. We had to just keep moving forward and try to keep getting better each week.

DT: Were you told not to read anything about you?
Gilbert: I think it kind of goes without saying that you shouldn’t read it because nothing good can come out of reading good stuff about you and, obviously, nothing good can come out of reading bad stuff about you. They tell us stay away from the media but it’s just a matter of staying focused on what’s important and understanding that outside, most of the time, it’s their job to put something out there that people will read. You’ve got to understand that and understand that it won’t be beneficial to you.

DT: What’s the one thing that pissed you off the most?
Gilbert: I don’t know if there was any one thing. It was frustrating last year. I don’t know if it was anything like that. I’m not going to say anything bad about anyone in particular. I don’t remember anything specifically. I know I’d accidentally read it sometimes. I tried not to. I tried to stay away from it. I don’t remember anything specific.

DT: Were expectations for you too high?
Gilbert: Absolutely not. At Texas, every year, it’s 10 wins, BCS, national championship or bust. I knew that when I came to school here. I knew that would be part of it when I came to Texas. The expectations were not too high. The fans have a right to say exactly what they want or feel however they want.

DT: You came here during a crossroads of the program. Texas had to reevaluate what it was doing on offense. Do you ever wish you came here at a time like 2008?
Gilbert: I can only deal with the circumstances I’m given. I was put here at this time for a reason and now I’m going to be put at SMU for a reason. That’s all I can control. That’s all I can worry about.

DT: How’s the shoulder?
Gilbert: It’s doing well. I’m getting range of motion back. I’m working on the rehab every day. It’s a long process.

DT: Can you throw?
Gilbert: No, not yet. Hopefully I’ll get to start in a month or so. That’ll be a process, too. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.

DT: Did you get any weird looks while you were wearing a sling around campus?
Gilbert: I just didn’t like wearing the sling, first of all. It was big and kind of a hassle. Other than that, I made the decision for myself to transfer. Life goes on. Things will work out.

DT: What did people notice more? The sling or you?
Gilbert: I think they wondered what the heck that thing was on my arm more than they noticed who I was. Every once in a while, I’d notice someone looking at it trying to figure out what the heck it was.

DT: Could have played through your shoulder injury?
Gilbert: I just know that the doctors told me it would be best to get it repaired. The trainers released a statement. As I threw, it got progressively worse. For my future, it would be best to get it taken care of.

DT: How frustrating was it knowing that you might not have played as well as you could have against BYU because of your shoulder?
Gilbert: Honestly, in the Rice game, it didn’t bother me because I had the adrenaline going. In the BYU game, the plays that happened weren’t a result of my shoulder. That’s just what happened. It wasn’t my shoulder bothering me. I can’t say that had an effective negative on me during the game.

DT: What will be the biggest difference between people’s expectations for you at Texas and at SMU?
Gilbert: For me, the expectations will be the same. I’m playing to win every game. I’m going to do the best I can to go up there with that attitude. I think that’s the attitude there already. June Jones has brought in a great attitude to the program. He’s gotten them to three straight bowls so they’re doing very well. They’ve got that attitude, too, where they feel like they should win every game. They’re playing very well right now, apart from this last week. They’re doing a very good job so I’m excited to go up there and be a part of it.

DT: Did you hear the boos?
Gilbert: Did I hear them? Oh yeah. It’s a loud stadium. You’re going to hear it. It didn’t bother me or affect me. But you hear them when you’re out there.

DT: Is there anything you want to say the fans?
Gilbert: I appreciate coming out to support the team. They’re entitled to the way they feel. For whatever reason, things didn’t work out here. I’m just excited about the opportunity to move forward?

DT: What are you going to miss  most about, not just playing for Texas, but being in Austin?
Gilbert: Austin’s my home. It’ll be different being away from home for the first time. I love the city of Austin. I love being close to home. I love Texas. I love the Longhorns and I love my teammates. And I’ll miss all of that. It’ll be tough for me but it’s something that I have to do. The relationships will still be there. I’ll still be in contact with them. Obviously, it’s tough but it’s something that just has to happen.

DT: Were you shocked by what happened this season?
Gilbert: I wouldn’t say I was shocked. I don’t know why it happened but for whatever reason it didn’t work out here. I’ve just got to deal with and go forward. I feel very excited about where I’m going. All my focus is forward. I try not to get disappointed by the past because I feel like I’ve got a great opportunity ahead of me.

DT: Do you think you’ll be the starter at SMU?
Gilbert: I don’t know. My goal right now is to go up there and get to know the guys, learn the most I can about the offense, learn as much as I can from June Jones and be the best teammate and leader I can be. After that, I can start worrying about competing for a job. Wherever I would have gone, there would have been competition. I know there’s going to be completion there at SMU. I expect myself to perform well but there’s other quarterbacks up there that expect to do well, too. So there’s going to be competition there. There’s going to be great offensive players that have been there for a while. They’re successful right now so I’ve got to insert myself and help the team any way I can.

DT: Did you consider going anywhere besides SMU?
Gilbert: I fell in love with SMU. I was able to go up there and visit. I had a great time. I really enjoyed it. I thought the campus was awesome. I liked the people I got to meet. I loved the coaches. The guys I got to meet on the team were very welcoming. They treated me well. I got there and I liked it a lot.

DT: Do you stay off social media?
Gilbert: Yeah, I do. I got rid of my Facebook a while back and I never got on Twitter.

DT: What’s your lasting memory of Texas?
Gilbert: My lasting memory here? I’ll forever be a Longhorn fan. I’m very fortunate for the opportunity I was given by coach Brown and his staff and the people here at Texas. For me, I’m going to look back on it positively. I’m thankful for the education I was given. I’m thankful for the opportunity I was given to play football here because this is my dream. I think I’ll always be a fan of the Texas Longhorns.

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: Gilbert sits down with The Daily Texan