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The butterfly effect of SMU's Garrett Gilbert

Garrett+Gilbert+Texas+v+SMU+_m1lMhv8lnQxAs is the case with the vast majority of us, it is a wise move on the part of SMU senior quarterback Garrett Gilbert not to play the What-If game. No need.

The Texas-transfer who has been at university for what feels like 10 years is in his final season of college ball; he has been a starting quarterback at two Division I schools, played in a BCS title game, earned his degree and is working on his master's at SMU. By any measure, this is a good college career if for no other reason he did not pay for school.

But as his former school struggles to find a quarterback, and his former head coach feels the nastiness that only a insatiable college-fan base can generate, it is hard not to ponder "What If" in regards to Gilbert.

This is completely unfair, but if Gilbert had hit the way so many of us projected, perhaps the climate in Austin is different surrounding Bevo.

Ncf_u_gilbert17_600Had Gilbert remained in Austin at UT, his career would have concluded in 2012. And he would be in the NFL, blah blah blah. Had it gone according to The Plan, UT would be playing a new quarterback right now and would not have had to worry about this position. Had it gone according to The Plan, Gilbert would have been a three-year answer for UT.

As is the case so often, life got in the way of The Plan.

I asked him if he ever let his mind wonder if his career had evolved differently at UT if he thought things would be different for the Longhorns.

"I really don't. I'm so thankful for Coach Brown, Coach Greg Davis and Coach (Major) Applewhite for just giving me the chance to play there - that was my dream," Gilbert told me this morning in a phone interview. "As soon as they offered me the scholarship I accepted it. But it did not go as I planned. Case McCoy is one of my best buds and I was really proud of him for what he did against Kansas State. I tried to put it behind me and move forward. I try not to think about it and where they are. I wish them all the best."

That is the right answer. It also sounds sincere.

It is hard to believe that on Jan. 1, 2009 Gilbert came off the bench to replace Colt McCoy as the quarterback in the BCS title game against Alabama. Gilbert was the high school Gatorade Player of the Year, and no one blamed him for UT's 37-21 loss against the Tide that night. 

Alabama scored 24 consecutive second quarter points for a 24-6 halftime lead, and the prevailing thought was Game Over. We forget that with 3:14 remaining in the game, Gilbert actually had UT down 24-21 and the ball. Things didn't go so well thereafter, and Alabama won.

Garret-gilbert-cry"It's a fairly common topic of discussion. I hear about that game every so often," Gilbert said. "For me, it shaped me as a player."

UT has not been the same since. Maybe neither has Gilbert.

Gilbert eventually transferred to SMU, where he has played since 2012. At SMU, he is completing 56 percent of his passes for 3,947 yards with 17 TDs and 16 INTs. He led SMU to a 7-6 record last season and a Hawaii Bowl win. He will start for SMU when it plays at TCU this week.

"For me, this was a great opportunity," he said. "I learned a lot, especially about leadership. I'm not the most vocal guy in the world and leadership is something I took for granted so I've forced myself to do it."

Gilbert sounds like a guy who is enjoying life at a private school in Dallas and playing high-major college football. No, it's not UT and it did not go according to The Plan, but it still works for Gilbert ... just maybe not quite as well for Texas.

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