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.