Matt Webb knew what he’d find every Saturday night when he came home and checked his nightstand after a long day of work.
Webb was an assistant head coach at Keller High School northwest of Fort Worth. His quarterback at Keller happened to be his son, Davis, who would spend his Saturdays watching college football with a stack of blank notecards. When he saw a play he liked, he’d draw it up on one of those notecards. Trick plays always seemed to make up a laughably high percentage of those notecards, but there were plenty of traditional plays, too. An interesting misdirection? A unique route combination? He’d find them in the stack.
The implication: Our team needs to do this.
He wouldn’t stop there. When he explained the plays, he’d fit them into his team’s terminology, showcasing how well he knew the concepts he had been coached.
“Every now and then he’d come up with one that would fit our personnel, and we’d put it in the game plan,” Matt said, “Just not as many as he wanted us to.”
That’s the kind of prescient hobby one would expect from a player who plans on following his father into coaching when his playing days are over. He inherited the offensive coordinator gene.
Just a few years earlier, something like that seemed unthinkable.
Webb has started three college football games, and he’s never thrown for fewer than 380 yards. He’s never completed fewer than 62 percent of his passes. The Texas Tech true freshman has never thrown fewer than two touchdown passes. Before Saturday’s 385-yard, two-touchdown outing against Oklahoma, he’d also never lost.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is the nation’s leader in passer rating and inserted himself into the Heisman conversation, but beyond Petty, no quarterback in the Big 12 has been better than Webb.
“People are starting to see, ‘Hey, this guy can win ballgames if we rally around him and do our job,” Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
It didn’t take long, and Webb provided has plenty of reason to believe Tech will win a lot more ballgames with him at the helm.
The title of being a “coach’s kid” comes in handy when your college coach needs a platitude to answer a question. The reality is much less glamorous, even if it can be beneficial. Most often, it means lots of moves and school changes.
When Davis was born, Matt was coaching in Lancaster, where he and his wife, Donna, grew up. Matt was a quarterback himself, and his wife is in the hall of fame at Abilene Christian University for her tennis career. Matt joined the coaching staff at Colleyville Heritage just before Davis started kindergarten, and after Davis’ third grade year, took a job in Waxahachie, a suburb on the southern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Three years later, the family moved to Keller, where Webb’s football career began to blossom.
He grew up being a ball boy and bat boy for any team his dad coached, but didn’t sign up to play on a football team until the seventh grade.
The reason why might get him permanently exiled to north of the Mason-Dixon line: He preferred ice hockey.
He strapped on his first pair of skates at about five and spent most of his sporting career on the ice through seventh grade.
He hit a growth spurt before his freshman year and turned heads as a 6-foot-3 quarterback his sophomore year, when he got his first taste of high school varsity football.
That summer, Davis took his turn on the high school camp circuit. Texas Tech assistant coaches Neal Brown and Sonny Cumbie showed early interest before any other major programs.
On the drive home from that summer camp in Lubbock, he turned to his dad and told him he wanted to play for the Red Raiders.
“Well, then you better get a lot better,” Matt said.
It wasn’t long before Davis quit baseball to focus solely on football and the weight room requirements that came with it.
A year later, Webb was no longer a gangly kid trying to get a feel for his newfound height. Today, he’s 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, but even that slight frame would be slimmer without his new weightlifting hobby. He found a goal to chase: Playing for Texas Tech. He needed to be better. The first step was getting bigger.
By the end of his high school career, he had three recruiting stars, one invite to the Elite 11 quarterback camp and most importantly, a scholarship offer from Texas Tech.
He spent his junior season as a full-time starter, but the staff at Keller was fired after winning five games in two seasons. Matt needed a job, and landed on Kent Scott’s staff at Prosper. Davis came with him and became Prosper’s starter, throwing passes to Notre Dame signee Torii Hunter Jr. and Arkansas State signee Money Hunter. He finished the season with 2,722 passing yards, 572 rushing yards and accounted for 35 touchdowns.
“He deals with his teammates exactly how you’d want your quarterback to,” Scott said. “He was only here for one year, but you’d have thought he has been here since kindergarten.”
Time after time, Scott would arrive at the football offices and find Davis in his dad’s office, using his dad’s laptop to watch film on his own time. By the time he left after practice at six or seven at night, Davis would be throwing to receivers in the indoor facility. If no moving targets were available, he’d set up nets to work on his accuracy.
“You just don’t see many 17, 18-year-old kids who do things like that and are that self-disciplined,” Scott said.
That’s not to say he was surprised. Every year, Scott explains the importance of setting goals to his team. His suggestion is to write them on the bathroom mirror to make sure daily reminders of where they’re aiming stare them in the face. For many of his young players, it’s an innovation that can change the course of career. It was a habit Scott started in college.
Webb had been doing it since middle school.
The introverted quarterback is a rare breed. With the position comes and obligation of leadership, wanted or otherwise. Ready or otherwise. Texas Tech receiver Eric Ward knew from the moment Webb joined the team before spring practice in 2013 that Webb was outgoing.
“You can talk to him and he always manages to make you laugh,” Ward said.
Sometimes that means cracking jokes. Sometimes it means entering a room with his shorts pulled up embarrassingly high to see how long it takes for someone to notice.
Being outgoing and funny isn’t the same thing as being a leader, though.
Ward hadn’t seen Webb show the intensity he’d seen from other quarterbacks like Seth Doege, Taylor Potts or Steven Sheffield that had thrown Ward passes in the past.
In a practice after Webb earned the starting job when Baker Mayfield suffered a knee injury, a teammate loafed after a play, lacking an urgency to get to the line of scrimmage. Kingsbury’s offense is predicated upon a frenetic pace, and isn’t as effective if it allows defenses to get in position and communicate before the ball is snapped.
Webb’s teammate was slowing down the entire offense.
“(Davis) just let him have it. He ripped him apart,” Ward said. “I was just like, ‘Wow.'”
He’d been Webb’s teammate for nine months, but hadn’t seen that side of him emerge. The starting quarterback, especially one with a 400-yard performance under his belt, commands a respect that a true freshman in spring camp with his named taped to the front of his helmet does not.
“I was like ‘Yeah, he’s assuming his role,'” Ward said. “He’s a leader. He’s only 18 years old, but he’s a leader.”
When Webb took his first visit to Texas Tech, he saw the names in a hallway and dreamed of adding his own.
Kliff Kingsbury. Sonny Cumbie. B.J. Symons. Cody Hodges. Graham Harrell. Webb wanted to be next, even if he never thought that chance would come in his first season on campus.
“He wanted to emulate them,” Matt Webb said, “and go to a place that was going to throw it around quite a bit.”
When Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati and Kingsbury left Texas A&M to become his alma mater’s new head coach, it didn’t take much to convince Webb to honor his commitment and sign with the Red Raiders. He just needed assurance that Kingsbury wanted him in Lubbock.
Knowing he’d leave the university with what his dad refers to as a “master’s degree in offense” didn’t hurt, either.
Most assumed Michael Brewer would be Seth Doege’s heir as the next Texas Tech quarterback. He followed Garrett Gilbert in high school and lost just one game in his career at Lake Travis High in Austin before signing with the Red Raiders. He redshirted in 2011, but impressed in spot duty in 2012 and appeared ready to grab the starting job.
He suffered a back injury in the offseason, but even during the spring battle, Webb challenged for the job. Before the season, Webb lost the starting job to fellow true freshman Baker Mayfield, who didn’t join the team until July.
“He was very disappointed when he wasn’t named the starter and never blinked. Kept working, kept working,” Kingsbury said. “Every rep he got, you try to make the most of it. So when he got another shot at it, he wasn’t going to let it go.”
He got his first chance when Kingsbury benched Mayfield against Texas State, giving Webb his first meaningful action of the season. He completed just 19-of-43 of his passes, but accounted for 310 yards and a pair of scores in the 33-7 win. A knee injury to Mayfield two weeks later against Kansas meant Webb’s time had come again. In the three games since, Webb’s refused to give Kingsbury the option to re-open the starting quarterback discussion. Maybe it won’t be his job forever, but it’d be hard to ask much more from a freshman.
“He has brought explosiveness to this offense,” Ward said. “He’s really smart. He’s playing like he’s been in this offense for years.”
Despite playing about half the season, he’s racked up 25 completions longer than 20 yards. Only Petty has more.
Matt Webb wasn’t surprised when the environment in Norman didn’t faze Davis. Years earlier, he watched him make his first start as a pitcher in high school baseball at the Ballpark in Arlington.
He knew Davis smiled every time a call came in from the sidelines for a trick play. His love of them began early, and Kingsbury used a halfback pass, an onside kick, a reverse and a cheeky fake punt return with a decoy that worked to perfection to try and keep Tech’s undefeated season alive last week against the Sooners.
The Red Raiders didn’t earn a win, but Kingsbury and his quarterback both earned plenty of respect. Stoops’ teams have lost to ranked teams at home just twice in 18 games, and on only two other occasions did the losing team suffer a single-digit loss. Tech’s Big 12 title hopes are still alive after the loss, but young talents like Webb make the future for Kingsbury look even brighter, which would explain Kingsbury’s affinity for Ray Bans, perhaps.
“Everything he’s doing now, he has nothing but time to get better at,” Ward said of Webb, “and he will.”