Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie began his collegiate career just like every other true freshman quarterback -- dazed and confused when he looked at the 110 plays mushed together on his wristband like an algebra cheat sheet.
“The first couple of weeks were terrible,” Shinskie said. “I couldn’t remember any routes.”
At 25 years old, the player now affectionately known by his teammates as “Uncle Dave,” had the maturity to be the quarterback and leader Boston College was desperately seeking. He had the arm. He had the athleticism. As a minor league pitcher for the past six years, he had the arm strength. But until he arrived on campus, he didn’t have the experience -- or the playbook.
“When I first came in here I was taking classes and got a playbook and it was really confusing to me and I was really frustrated,” Shinskie said. “The first couple of weeks I couldn’t juggle those two things without getting frustrated and asking myself why the hell did I do this and why did I make this decision? But now it seems like I’m getting it down a little better. Week to week they give us new plays, new things to look at, new tapes to look at, and it’s coming to me a little bit faster.”
Fast enough to help the Eagles to back-to-back wins over Atlantic Division opponents Wake Forest and Florida State heading into this week’s difficult road game against league leader Virginia Tech. Shinskie enters this week second in the ACC in passing efficiency with a rating of 153. He has completed 47 of 77 pass attempts (61 percent) for 616 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “It hasn’t hit me yet. I kind of have surprised myself a little bit. But then again, that’s why they brought me here. I have faith in my ability and I have faith in my teammates. We’re coming together as a team. That’s what’s great about watching a team grow up like that during the season, coming together as a team. It’s not just myself, we’re all growing.”
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has taken note of it.
“I know he’s playing good for them, he’s playing well,” Beamer said. “Probably the age and maturity helps that situation. But he’s really throwing the ball accurately. I think he really gives them something. With those running backs and the people they’ve got, his ability to throw the football really helps them.”
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said Shinskie still needs to get better at managing the game -- things fans can’t see, like getting the Eagles in the right play and formation.
“He’s progressing just like a freshman would,” Spaziani said. “By no means is he a polished, accomplished signal-caller and field general. There’s not enough experience there. But he’s getting better every week and he’s learning and we see improvement there. We need to see a lot more.”
There’s plenty of time for improvement. Shinskie, who has enrolled in the school of education but hasn’t yet declared a major, plans on sticking around for all four years. He’ll be 29 years old when he graduates, and is thinking about elementary education, teaching third grade and becoming a coach.
But first, he’s got something to prove.
“I really wasn’t done,” he said. “Being released, I kind of felt like maybe I wasn’t good enough to be in the big leagues. Maybe somehow I thought to myself I need to prove to myself or prove to other people I am good enough to do something. I don’t know. Education had a lot to do with it. I didn’t feel like getting a job. This opportunity was brought to me and I figured let’s do something with it. I’m glad I did. It’s very fulfilling to be here.
“After the games I’m sore and stuff like that, and I might say, ‘Oh, man, why did I do this?’” he said. “But it’s a great feeling to be doing something like this. I’m glad I’m here.”
So are the Eagles.