STILLWATER — By 5 p.m. Thursday, Andy Lunt could no longer talk on the phone without keeping it on the charger.
News in Rochester, Ill., about their favorite quarterback sure spreads fast.
The calls and text messages had been flooding into Andy all day, congratulating him about his son, Wes, earning the starting job at Oklahoma State.
“It's all kind of surreal,” Andy said. “Kind of humbled. It's been a long process, but I'm proud of him.”
Wes Lunt, a true freshman who enrolled early at OSU to compete for the starting job, beat out junior Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh during spring practice. All three quarterbacks got equal reps during the 15 workouts.
“We had to make a decision based on what we thought was best for our offense to score points and then give us the best chance to win football games,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said in a release. “All three players had good springs, but at some point, the decision is made on the field.
“There's always a comment about who coaches are going to name as the starter at any position, but the coaches usually don't make that decision — the decision is made by the players. Wes performed better than the other two quarterbacks in the spring.”
Wes found out he would be the starter during a meeting with offensive coordinator Todd Monken on Thursday morning.
“I'm overwhelmed,” Wes said in a release. “It's such a humbling experience. Coming in early, I knew I had a chance to compete for the job and to get it is just overwhelming. I know that we're still going to compete through summer and two-a-days, so it's not over.”
A phone call to his mother, Jane, came soon after, as well as a text to his former coach at Rochester High, Derek Leonard. After that, Leonard and Andy said it quickly felt like the entire town (population: 3,246) knew that Wes had been named the No. 1 Cowboy quarterback.
“If he won the job, we all won the job,” Leonard said. “For a small town like Rochester, and really Springfield, this is the biggest news. To have something like that happen is a joy not just to him, but everybody.”
The last true freshman to start at quarterback for OSU was Tone Jones in 1993, but the Cowboys have not had a true freshman start the season opener since at least 1950. Gundy himself was a true freshman starting quarterback in 1986.
Wes, who was rated the seventh-best pro style quarterback in the 2012 recruiting class by Rivals, led Rochester (Ill.) High School to a pair of state championships during his career and passed for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2011. The 6-4, 211-pound Wes was always regarded as the most natural fit of the three contenders to run OSU's offense, as he played in a similar system during high school and has a very similar build and skill set to Weeden.
“He's a once-in-a-life quarterback,” said Leonard, the son of legendary Illinois high school coach Ken Leonard. “Oklahoma State (is) so lucky, because he's going to play on Sundays one day. I've seen a lot of high school quarterbacks, I've never seen any of them throw the ball like him.
“He doesn't even know the offense yet, and he still competed. To earn the starting job in that kind of offense like that — a no-huddle, fast, throw-it-around attack — you have to be special.”
The decision to name Lunt the No. 1 quarterback was made following a Wednesday meeting between Gundy and Monken. Gundy had been adamant all spring about wanting to name a starter following spring practice, so that player could organize and lead summer workouts and begin fall camp getting approximately 75 percent of the reps.
Entering the spring generally regarded as the third quarterback in line for the job, Lunt emerged as a legitimate contender about midway through the 15 workouts, Monken said following Saturday's spring finale. Monken and Gundy have both praised Lunt's maturity, arm strength and ability to quickly pick up OSU's spread offense.
“Through me dog-cussing the crap out of him and (him) screwing stuff up,” Monken said, “he was able to function without basically just going in the tank and quitting ...
“His body language doesn't change. It's so similar to Brandon (Weeden) in that regard. Everything just kind of goes. When he gets excited, you hardly even know it. (The ball) doesn't always come out exactly the way you like, but he's an accurate son of a gun, now. That ball's on the money and he's got a calm demeanor about him.”
And throughout the spring, Wes was also simply trying to adjust to college life. He was homesick at first. He'd call his family frequently, and both Andy and Leonard visited Stillwater at earlier this month.
Andy admits that there were some mixed emotions when Gundy and Monken first visited Rochester last winter to talk about the possibility of Wes enrolling early at OSU and participating in spring ball. They assured the family that Wes had a real opportunity to win the starting job. Andy now knows it was all “well worth it.”
“It's an opportunity that they gave him,” Andy said. “And I know that he felt like he needed to capitalize on it.”
The Lunt family has already planned to see Wes' first start against Savannah State on Sept. 1. Wes' older brother, Wil, is a quarterback for Western Illinois and plays on Thursday, Aug. 30. Then they will all road-trip to Stillwater.
Leonard is quite busy on weekends in the fall, but he said he'll also figure out a way to see Wes play in his freshman season.
“To do what he's done, when you look at the whole picture, it truly is amazing,” Leonard said. “That's how special a player and person he is.”