So why did he agree to work there in the first place? Watford greets the question with a smile.
“Biscuit told me about it. He worked here one summer, too,” he says.
Biscuit is Watford’s cousin, former Virginia quarterback and current Cavaliers wide receivers coach Marques Hagans. Their relationship offers a glimpse into why, 12 months after Watford was forced to take a redshirt year because of Virginia’s logjam at quarterback, he will take the field as the Cavaliers’ starting signal-caller when they start the 2013 season against Brigham Young on Saturday.
Last summer, Watford was almost a forgotten entity despite playing as a true freshman in 2011, a third wheel behind incumbent starter Michael Rocco and ballyhooed Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. In the first week of training camp, Coach Mike London asked Watford to redshirt, a concept Watford was initially — and publicly — against.
But when he officially named Watford the starter earlier this month, London talked of a player who proved to have “an innate ability to be the leader, to be the face” of a program that is looking to rebound after its second 4-8 season in three years.
So what happened between now and then? Watford realized his setback wasn’t all that different from the one Hagans overcame during his career at Virginia.
“The way he just matured and the way he handled the situation really affected me,” Watford said. “He just came in to work every day and made the most of it, and that’s what I did as well. I treated every day like a Saturday.”
Like most youth football players in Hampton, Va., Watford idolized former Hampton High quarterback Ronald Curry, and Hagans emerged as Curry’s replacement in 1998. From that point on, Watford knew he wanted to be a quarterback, too.
“I wanted to throw like him, run like him, do everything he did,” Watford said of Hagans. “I remember throwing with him and my hands just aching because of how hard he threw it, but I tried to throw it just as hard as he did. That’s how I learned to throw the ball.”
Once Hagans got to Virginia in 2001, though, he encountered a coaching staff that had its doubts about his abilities at quarterback. He was forced to redshirt as a freshman and then spent two years as a wide receiver, kick returner and backup signal-caller.
Only in 2004 did Hagans ascend to the starting role, and he eventually led the Cavaliers to consecutive bowl games — the last Virginia quarterback to do so. He now sits No. 5 in program history in terms of total offense.