For four years, Billy Farris watched from the sideline, patiently waiting his turn.
After redshirting as a walk-on in 2004, he spent a majority of the next three years on the bench. When he did find the field, he was simply put in to mop up the garbage left behind by the starters.
In practice, there were times when he didn’t even scrimmage with his own offense. Instead, it was his job as the backup’s backup to run the scout team offense to prepare the defense for the upcoming opponent.
But he stuck with it. He didn’t have to, but he did. He could’ve transferred to a smaller school where he would’ve easily been handed the starting position. But he didn’t.
“It’s been a long journey,” Farris said, a journey that has been anything but easy.
“There’s days you’re out there running scout team, out there practicing and not getting any reps — man it sucks.”
“You come to college to play football, you know. It was tough. But it’s paying off.”
Paying off as in, with Farris at the helm, the Rams have more to play for than just a finely stained boot in their regular season finale this coming weekend.
With a win over Wyoming and a victory from Utah, the Rams could possibly earn a bowl berth for the first time in three years — something Farris’ predecessor, Caleb Hanie — an NFL quarterback — never did.
But Farris has something Hanie never had: the opportunity to play for first-year coach Steve Fairchild, who has helped transform Farris from a long-time backup to the conference’s third-leading passer.
Like his ascension up the depth chart, being the starter under Fairchild has been anything but easy for Farris. Demanding execution on every play, the coach has at times been at odds with Farris, unleashing profanities and yanking him when can’t execute.
Farris, though, has nothing but admiration for his coach.
“He’s straightforward and honest,” Farris said. “You can’t ask for anything more from a guy, especially a head coach.”
And you definitely can’t ask Fairchild about his team’s bowl chances. You can, though, ask his players, who all know what’s at stake in this weekend’s Border War.
“This game is huge for us,” Farris said.
“After (Saturday’s win), we got a lot more to play for,” wide receiver Rashaun Greer said.
Said running Gartrell Johnson: “You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
But considering more than half of all teams will go to a bowl game, what exactly would it even mean?
For linebacker Jeff Horinek, it’s something to look forward to during Thanksgiving break.
For Johnson, it’s one step toward turning around the once-storied program.
And for Farris, it’s accomplishing a goal, one that would last longer than his five years at CSU.
“My personal goal going in was to just get to a bowl game and win that bowl game so we could get a ring,” he said. “And nobody could take that ring away from us.”
Oh, and don’t forget about all the other perks that come with going to a bowl game.
“I’m tired of not doing anything after the regular season. It just sucks, man. Everyone else is going and getting free stuff — clothes, money, free paid vacation — and we’re sitting at home in the freezing cold in Colorado.”
First, though, the Rams need to win the Border War, which will be fought on foreign land.
So call Mom and tell her you’ll be coming home a few days later than expected. Grab a ticket and make the trip up to Laramie Saturday. With the way CSU plays away from home, they could use your support.
Because like Greer said: “Their students don’t like our students. Our students don’t like their students.”
Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.