In his first-ever start for Prairie View, quarterback Jawon Pass took a shotgun snap, looked downfield, and saw a barrier in his way.
A defensive lineman had beaten a block and was zeroing in a sack before Pass eluded the pressure and hurled a perfect 59-yard toss into the waiting arms of receiver Jailon Howard for a touchdown.
The sequence was a glimpse of what everyone thought would be customary for Pass in college, a four-star recruit out of Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia.
The athleticism. The pocket awareness. The strong arm that attracted the fancy of Power 5 schools across the country.
Pass went 25-of-37 for 354 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-17 win in the season opener against Texas Southern.
The outing led to the transfer being named SWAC Newcomer of the Week. Following another 300-yard passing day — this time against Houston Baptist — Pass earned the honor again.
Four years earlier — before Panthers head coach Eric Dooley contacted Pass to determine his interest in joining the program, he was starting at Louisville against Alabama in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Then just a redshirt sophomore, that night was supposed to be the unveiling of the next Lamar Jackson.
After all, Pass was the former Heisman Trophy winner’s backup the previous year, and the impression at the time was that Pass would pick up where Jackson left off.
But Pass — like most quarterbacks versus a Crimson Tide defense — struggled. He threw two touchdowns, two interceptions and was sacked three times in a 51-14 loss.
How big was the gap in talent between the teams?
Future NFL starting quarterbacks, Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa all played in the game.
Injuries and inconsistency over the next three years resulted in Pass ultimately deciding to leave Louisville.
Pass completed his stint with 2,900 yards passing with 14 TDs and 13 interceptions.
“I feel like people know what I’m capable of,” Pass told HBCU Sports when asked whether he had something to prove after the Louisville experience. “I just have to show it. I feel like yes, I have something to prove but at the same time, I have to just go out and show it.”
Praire View ‘felt right’ for Pass
Through the first three games of his second stint as a college start, Pass has already made a believer out of Dooley.
“He’s been a tremendous asset to our program. He’s fit in with the rest of the guys and been a leader for us,” said Dooley.
Pass admittedly didn’t know much about Prairie View or HBCUs before committing to the Panthers in the offseason, but he did have “an open mind” about the opportunity, though.
“They called and said they were interested in me and I looked into it,” he said. “It felt right, it felt right … so I made that move.”
Pass is the kind of quarterback that Dooley has always been drawn to and wants to work with for his aggressive, down-the-field aerial-style offense.
In 108 attempts over 12 quarters, Pass has already complied 898 yards on 8.1 yards per toss. The production rivals heralded signal-callers such as Aqeel Glass, Shedeur Sanders, Felix Harper and Skylar Perry.
“I join the bunch in everyone who wants a quarterback that puts up big numbers,” said Dooley with a smirk. ‘When I look at a quarterback, I look to see if he fits what we’re doing. The success he had in high school and in college made him a great part of what we’re trying to do here.”
Heading to into his fourth start — a date with rival Grambling State in the State Fair Classic — Pass says he’s learned from his time at Louisville and become a better, more confident quarterback that he’s been since he was a 5-year-old playing on football fields with his older brother back in Georgia.
“I’ve progressed more mentally,” he said. “I have a different overall mindset. At the end of the day, nothing is going to be given to you no matter the situation. I still have the mindset to work hard every day as if I’m trying to be the guy.”