And through the ups and downs of their time together on the field, the bond between J.W. and John continued to grow.
“When everything's going good, everybody can coach their kid,” John said. “But when things went bad — he threw an interception or we lost a ballgame and he felt like he could have made a few plays that could have got us over the hump — we learned how to handle things together.
“I think that just helped our relationship.”
J.W. became a national recruit in 2011, a season where he passed for 3,200 yards, rushed for more than 1,400 yards and accounted for 35 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Rivals rated him as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and No. 77 overall prospect in the nation.
He wanted to go to a school where his grandparents could drive to watch games. He also wanted to play for a head coach who was very unlikely to take another job during his time in college.
OSU fit into both of those categories.
And even though Brandon Weeden was sure to be the Cowboys' starter in 2011, J.W. enrolled early at OSU and participated in spring practice last year.
The thought was those extra practices, and the time spent with offensive coordinator Todd Monken, would prove valuable during this spring's quarterback derby.
Coming early also gave J.W. more time to learn from Weeden. Just like his days spent carefully watching those top-notch quarterbacks at Brownwood High, J.W. shadowed Weeden. Studied him. Even played golf with him from time to time.
“Everything he did on and off the field — interviews, just how he carried himself with people — I was taking mental notes,” J.W. said. “Since I had the opportunity, I needed to take advantage of it. That's something I think is going to help me throughout this process.”
* * *
Now that John is no longer J.W.'s coach, their relationship has changed.
But only slightly.
They still talk on the phone every day to discuss the highs and lows of each practice. When J.W. comes home, he'll get on the white board and diagram some of OSU's plays for his dad to learn. John is enjoying just being a fan, but he also notices and appreciates that Monken has helped J.W. get his throwing release point higher and has improved his presence in the pocket.
“I was really worried about me and how I'd handle (J.W. having a new coach),” John said. “But just listening to J.W. talk about how Coach Monken coaches him, the coaching part of me is extremely at ease.”
OSU is likely a few weeks away, at least, from naming its next starting quarterback. But those close to J.W. believe he is capable of leading the Cowboys in 2012.
That school worksheet, which John now has laminated and tucked away in his desk drawer, serves as evidence.
“His desire, his passion for the game,” John said. “He loves playing football. He's got a great skill set. And what I think a lot of folks don't know unless you're in the room with him is he's extremely intellectual about the game.
“His desire to win drives him to learn as much football as he can.”