TCU’s Dalton a winner set to pass `Slingin’ Sammy’

TCU quarterback Andy Dalton has earned a catchy, cool
nickname.

Dalton’s next victory will put him alone as the winningest
quarterback in Horned Frogs’ history. ”Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh had
solely held the mark for more than seven decades until Dalton tied
him at 29 wins last season.

”We’ve got to come up with something unique,” center Jake
Kirkpatrick said.

Especially if the redheaded Dalton holds the record for a
lengthy time like Baugh, the quarterback in the mid-1930s who was
immediately followed by Heisman Trophy winner Davey O’Brien.

”I don’t think anything fits as well as Slingin’ Sammy,”
receiver Curtis Clay said. ”Some guys on the team just call him
Red. Some people call him Rooster. I just call him Andy.”

That’s just fine with Dalton, the unassuming college kid who
last season helped TCU finally become a BCS buster. The senior
fourth-year starter is also the winningest active NCAA FBS
quarterback, with three more wins than fellow BCS buster Kellen
Moore of Boise State.

”I’ve had a great opportunity to come and play early,” Dalton
said. ”I just happen to be the quarterback that’s been around when
this is all happening. … We’ve got a lot of athletes. My job is
to get them the ball, let them make plays.”

Dalton’s first shot at victory No. 30 comes Saturday night when
the sixth-ranked Frogs, with their highest preseason ranking ever,
play No. 24 Oregon State in a nationally televised season opener at
Cowboys Stadium, about 20 miles from the TCU campus.

Surrounded again by most of the same playmakers that helped TCU
set school records with 498 points and 5,937 total yards last
season, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Dalton could have a chance to add
another 12 or 13 wins to his total if things go right.

TCU is coming off its first undefeated regular season since
1938, when O’Brien won his Heisman Trophy and the Frogs won their
only AP national championship. But they lost 17-10 to Boise State
in the Fiesta Bowl, when Dalton threw three interceptions.

”I’ve watched it once,” Dalton said of the BCS game. ”I don’t
know if I’ve watched it twice.”

That blemish on TCU’s breakthrough season provided plenty of
motivation for Dalton and his teammates during offseason
workouts.

”I think he knew, I think we all knew, that we didn’t play to
the best of our ability,” Clay said. ”We didn’t give the nation
and everybody watching a right depiction of what TCU football is
all about.”

Dalton committed to TCU early in his senior season at Katy High
School in the Houston area. He was later third-team on the Texas
Class 5A All-State team – the highest classification – behind Greg
McElroy, the starter for No. 1 Alabama, and Taylor Potts, who
starts for Texas Tech.

While Dalton was not heavily recruited by many major schools
after splitting time his junior season at Katy, he went to several
camps and found a ”perfect situation.” He went to TCU knowing
that he might have a chance to play early after a redshirt
season.

”After you talked to him for a while, you kind of realized how
smart he is,” said tight end Evan Frosch, part of the same
freshman class and now Dalton’s roommate.

”He was skinny when we got here,” Kirkpatrick said. ”We were
all smaller, but he was skinnier and we were kind of like, `I guess
he can play in a couple of years.’ But he stepped right up.”

Before getting married, Kirkpatrick also used to room with
Dalton.

The former and current roommate describe Dalton as a picky eater
who leaves to-go boxes in the fridge way too long and a compulsive
texter who always has his phone – ”If he doesn’t answer a call,
you know he’s screening it,” Kirkpatrick said.

And they say he is still the same guy he was before he was the
star quarterback recognized all around Fort Worth.

”He’s a normal person, just completely down to earth,” Frosch
said. ”You wouldn’t even know if you were just talking to
him.”

During TCU’s fan day festivities last weekend, Dalton was the
last player to finish signing autographs and pose for pictures.
With no complaints.

Dalton is often seen at TCU volleyball games, trying with other
students to grab free T-shirts being thrown into the stands. He and
several teammates drove to Omaha, Neb., this summer when the Horned
Frogs baseball team made it to the College World Series.

The TCU record book will be filled with Dalton’s name when he
leaves. His 7,457 yards passing are already the most in school
history, and his is only a few games from breaking the marks for
touchdowns, completions and attempts. He has only 24 interceptions
in 1,001 pass attempts.

But Dalton wants to be remembered for more than that.

”The legacy I want to leave is he wasn’t just a great football
player, but he was a great person,” Dalton said. ”The kind of
person that I am and what I believe in is more important than
anything I do out there on the field.”

And his teammates say Dalton is well on is way to doing just
that.

”You can ask Coach (Gary) Patterson. He’s never had a problem
with Andy,” Kirkpatrick said. ”He just does everything right. He
has some strong personal beliefs and he sticks to those. He doesn’t
let other people influence him. He really has an effect on other
people.”

On and off the field.