By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - A football-loving sixth grader in Texas, Jarrett Stidham was easy to spot on the field. He was the tall kid lined up next to the quarterback.
"I had to play left guard my sixth grade year," said Stidham, whose growth spurt rendered him too large to carry the ball per league rules. "The first year or two I was good, then sixth grade rolled around and I was so much taller than everybody, so I weighed more."
For the next three years, Stidham resumed playing quarterback, until another position change as a high school sophomore.
"Played receiver that year and a little bit of DB as well, so I was able to pick off some passes," said Stidham, who made two touchdown receptions for Stephenville High School in the 2012 Texas 3A championship game.
Since then, Stidham has played exclusively at quarterback, the position he'll play for Auburn when the Tigers kick off the 2017 season against Georgia Southern on Sept. 2.
"There's so much to work on as a quarterback," he said. "For me at least, I'm never satisfied with it. I'm always trying to get better, always trying to learn more so I can enhance my game."
Moving from Kentucky to Texas as an 8-year-old, Stidham felt right at home with his new state's sport of choice.
"Moving out to Texas, it's the polar opposite from Kentucky," he said. "Football is everything, and that was kind of more my thing, so I started playing football a lot more and ended up falling in love with that over basketball, but played both up to my junior year of high school."
Stephenville, 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth, offered the young QB an ideal setting in which to develop.
"Where I'm from, it's blue collar, digging the dirt atmosphere they have there, so you just learn to work really hard," Stidham said. "I don't really know anything other than that. I know it's not like that everywhere. I'm very fortunate coming from Stephenville and being in that program."
After playing as a true freshman at Baylor in 2015, Stidham sat out last season before signing with Auburn in December, joining a program where the indoor practice facility extols the value of "work, hard work" expressed in the Auburn Creed.
Jarrett Stidham likes to 'keep the defense honest' by making opponents respect his running and passing abilities so they have to prepare to defend both.
"Work ethic, and then leadership," Stidham said. "I feel like I have strong leadership qualities, on and off the field. I like to do the right thing on and off the field and lead by example."
Majoring in interdisciplinary studies with emphases in kinesiology, communications and business, Stidham intends to coach football after his playing career.
"I've always loved the game of football," he said. "I'd like to be similar to Coach Lindsey, be an offensive coordinator, and be a head coach one day."
Auburn's season opener will be Stidham's second time inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on gameday. While attending junior college and considering his options last fall, Stidham attended Auburn's game against Clemson.
"Pretty crazy, to say the least," he said. "It was really cool. At Baylor, I'd played in some big road games in the Big 12, but coming down here, there was really no comparison in the intensity of everything. Within the stadium, the fans, everything. It's a pretty cool sight to come to Auburn and to see something like that in person."
One year later, Stidham attracted the longest line of autograph seekers at Auburn's Fan Day.
Jarrett says being the face of the program 'comes with the territory' for quarterbacks.
"It kind of comes with the territory," he said. "I come from a place, Stephenville, it's very similar to the movie 'Friday Night Lights.' If you're the quarterback at Stephenville, you're getting all of the fame, all the glory, but you're also getting all of the blame, too.
"Here at Auburn, it's kind of the same thing, just on a bigger scale. Obviously, the SEC is a monster in itself. I've tried to embrace it as best I can and keep a level head during it all and not get too high, not get too low, and just kind of stay even."
Going long with Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham on his roommate, fullback Chandler Cox...
"I know him a lot better than most people do. He's a phenomenal guy. Very kind-hearted person. He's a very high-energy guy. He makes me laugh probably a little bit too much. He's awesome. He's like my best friend here. He'll be in my wedding one day. He's been great."
Jarrett on his pregame music preference...
"I love music. I listen to everything. I could have Texas country on, I could have Nashville country on. I could have rap, I could have some type of alternative rock. I listen to everything."
Jarrett on adjusting to living in Auburn...
"The main one for me other than the color of the grass is being away from family because I'm a very family-oriented person and family means absolutely everything to me. Just being away from all of my family is pretty tough, but it's been a good adjustment. I miss breakfast tacos."
Jarrett on Sean White...
"Our relationship actually has been really, really good. At first, coming in here, I didn't know Sean at all. I was coming in with open arms to see how it would go. Sean has been nothing but great to me and to Malik Willis and Coach Lindsey.
"He's been super helpful to me because he's been in this offense for so long. He's obviously had a lot of experience running it at a high level. He's been helping me with reads. He's seen SEC defenses, so breaking down some coverages and stuff like that. He's been really, really helpful. He's had a really positive mindset going into practice every day. I think he's going to be a big part of this team."
Jarrett on Auburn's receivers...
"Those receivers, they're very, very talented. I came from Baylor. We had a lot of talent at that position. I played with Corey Coleman, who was the No. 15 pick in the draft that year. I've been around some really good ones. These guys, they're just as talented. They've got to get more experience. There's size, there's speed, there's strength, there's quickness. Everything that you would want in a receiving corps, we have it.
"They've been working their tails off this entire fall camp to make sure we're on the right page and that come two weeks from now, that we'll be ready to go."
Jarrett on Run-Pass Options...
"It puts a good element to an offense, brings it all together, especially if you have a quarterback who can run around a little bit. As a defense, you not only have to worry about the running back, now you have to worry about the quarterback, but you also have to worry about the pass.
"It puts defenses in a bind at some points. As an offensive player, we love running that kind of stuff. There's a lot of stuff you can do within a game plan with RPOs.
Jarrett on Auburn's defense and OL...
"That's one thing I love about being here is that we have a top 10 defense. You're going up against a top 10 defense every single day. It's not just the defensive line or the linebackers or the secondary. It's everybody."
"Up front, especially, we've got some guys on the defensive line who can go, and those offensive line guys, obviously, there's a lot of experience with Austin, Braden and Darius. Now we have some other guys who have come in and been really helpful on the offensive line. They're hard-nosed guys. They love to do the dirty work and they love the game of football. From my perspective, I love seeing that. They enjoy practice every day. They come with great energy. Coach Hand does a great job with those guys. I feel really protected, so that's always good on my end."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer
Ticket InformationA limited number of single-game tickets ($35) and Family Pack Tickets ($25) remain for the ULM game on Nov. 18. To purchase visit AUBTIX.com.