Since I’ve been writing for CSZ I’ve always told it like I see it. I don’t always look at things through rose colored glasses. If something is bad, I’ll tell you it’s bad.
But if I’m wrong, I’ll admit I was wrong. If things are really good, I’ll tell you that things are good. If something is going on behind the scenes and I’m at liberty to tell you, I’ll tell you. Honestly is the best policy.
When it comes to Malik Cunningham, I never shied away from how I felt about his ability to play quarterback at Louisville.
Me not being afraid to tell you how I feel about a certain players ability isn’t restricted to just Malik. I’ll tell you how I feel about any player.
However, there was a moment I witnessed that changed everything for me. That moment I just happened to capture with my camera and that picture has been blown up and is proudly hanging in my basement.
But before I explain that moment let me revisit some of my comments about Malik.
In 2018 I believe I said he can’t accurately throw the ball downfield. I said if he threw the ball more than 10 yards it would be intercepted. While I did say he was a phenomenal athlete and could adapt to be a decent quarterback, I wasn’t completely sure that it would happen.
I believe I said on multiple occasions that Malik was a one read and run guy. Meaning he would only look at one receiver and if he wasn’t open then he would tuck and run. I also said I believed that he threw off his back foot too much.
After the 2019 WKU game in Nashville, Malik left the game after taking a hit that dislodged his helmet. I was on the sideline that game and I noticed the staff took his helmet away so I assumed he had a concussion. After the game coach Satterfield said Malik was fine and he could have returned if needed and that they wanted to get Conley some playing time in case Malik suffered an injury. Shortly after the press conference I was asking around and getting quotes for my post game wrap-up. In asking around I was told that coach was upset that Malik was trying to do too much and that’s why he didn’t go back into the game.
In that game Malik was 8/13 passing for 119 yards and had 16 rushes for 46 yards.
While I believe that moment was pivotal for the development of Malik Cunningham it wasn’t the moment that I witnessed where I knew he had what it takes to be a successful ACC caliber quarterback.
As for the rest of the 2019 season, Malik slowly started developing from an athlete to a quarterback. The problem is, most of the fans where more consumed with whether to call him Malik or Micale to notice his evolution right in front of their eyes.
His development was not without a few mistakes but it was clear that Malik was developing into a good quarterback. The fact that he finished the season with only FIVE interceptions speaks volumes about his development.
It was in his final game of the 2019 season (Music City Bowl) where I witnessed a moment that I knew Malik had it in him to be a successful quarterback. I already knew he possessed the athletic ability but I just wasn’t sure if he had the fire, drive or desire inside him to be the QB we all hoped him to be.
Late in the second quarter, Louisville was losing to Miss St 14-7. After an offensive holding, false start, 1 yard loss, a 19 yard completion and another false start, Louisville was faced with 3rd and 11. Malik then threw an incomplete pass intended for Hassan Hall, bringing up 4th and 11. With 5:17 left until half and the ball at the 34 yard line, Louisville chose to go for it. Malik threw an incomplete pass to Dez Fitzpatrick, turning the ball over on downs.
When Malik came to the sideline, he happened to be standing pretty close to me. I observed his reaction to what had just happened. He had a very disappointed look on his face. He looked as though he had just lost the game. He stood there and gathered himself as he watched the replay on the big board. It was at that moment I snapped the picture that headlines this post.
That look in his eyes was just different. Look at my picture and tell me you see what I see? It may be corny but I think it’s fair to use the analogy “eye of the tiger.”
It was at that moment, I believe that Malik took his disappointment of a small moment in a game and transitioned it into motivation to lead his team to victory. He could have said, “Hey, we just don’t have it today. We already won 7 games after winning 2 last season. This one doesn’t matter.” But he didn’t… He sucked it up and fought. He ended up with 279 yards (2TD’s) passing and 81 yards rushing – and more importantly, 1 victory.
I know the 2020 season didn’t do him any favors but I’m willing to just draw a line through the entire season and start this year as if the last game he played was that Music City game and let’s continue to grow and develop from there. People say Covid isn’t an excuse because every team went through it. Well, that is kinda true but it wasn’t exactly the same for every team and every player. I believe Malik needs normalcy and a structured routine to be successful and 2020 was far from that. He is getting that now so I expect to see the best Malik yet. I already know he has what it takes to be successful. I hope you see it too – Don’t sleep on him.
As Always, GO CARDS!