For the first time since the early days of the Dirk Koetter tenure at ASU, the Sun Devils enter fall camp without an unquestioned starting quarterback, and after missing the better part of the past three football seasons due to injury, Szakacsy is back in action to compete with teammates Danny Sullivan and Brock Osweiler for time under center and in the shotgun for ASU.
"The injuries have been tough, it has been frustrating when my mind was telling me ‘yes' but my arm couldn't come through," admits Szakacsy. "I'm finally getting my arm strength back and feel the best I have since high school. I'm in a position now that I feel I can perform to the best of my ability and show the coaches what I have."
Szakacsy, a one-time verbal commitment to USC during his junior year at Camarillo (Calif.) High School, signed with ASU after the hire of Dennis Erickson, largely because he felt a greater chance to compete to start at ASU when Carpenter graduated after the 2008 season. Though his progress and development has been impeded by arm injuries, the determination to excel never faltered during Szakacsy's first two years in a Sun Devil uniform.
"Learning to overcome the injuries helped build character," confesses Szakacsy. "There were low times that I really had to battle through, but all-in-all it's something that made me stronger."
For Szakacsy to spurn Pete Carroll and USC to attend ASU was considered quite an achievement for newly-hired Erickson and company, as Szakacsy was rated the No. 48 quarterback prospect in the nation as a senior by Scout.com, while also displaying incredible exhibitions of athleticism as one of the standout performers at Scout.com's 2005 Los Angeles Combine.
Most noticeably pinning Szakacsy on the recruiting map was his record-setting junior season, during which he broke an 18-year old Ventura County record by completing 72.4-percent of his passes on the year (184-of-254), adding 2,038 passing yards and 24 touchdowns after playing his sophomore season at Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure High School.
Among recent reports, Szakacsy's abilities to scramble through chords on a guitar or rhymes on a microphone have garnered more fanfare than his talents to escape a broken pocket on the football field, but the multi-dimensional student-athlete/musician balances his playbook, schoolbooks and song books in compelling fashion.
"Football is definitely my main focus but every player on the team has a hobby they focus on during down time away from football," says Szakacsy. "Some of my teammates play video games, I play music. In fact, music is something that has been very therapeutic to me during the injuries because it has been something that helped take my mind away while I was working to get back to 100-percent and back on the field."
Szakacsy, now two-years removed from a star-studded prep career finds himself amid a quarterback competition to lead the Sun Devil offense after redshirting during his true freshman season in 2007 and watching the entire 2008 season from the sidelines, primarily due to a lack of physical health, while listed as ASU's number three quarterback behind Carpenter and Sullivan.
To Sun Devil fans, any mention of a quarterback competition, quandary or controversy provides nauseating flashbacks to 2006, but Szakacsy insists that any competition among the 2009 stable of ASU passers is one that will only enhance the overall potency of the offense and team togetherness.
"There certainly is competition among us on the field, but that isn't something that we're going to let us come between us as teammates and friends," states Szakacsy. "No matter where I am on the depth chart, I have to be as prepared as if I'm the starter, because although it's very cliché, it's the honest truth that in football, especially at quarterback, you're always just ‘one play away."
Additionally, the camaraderie among the quarterbacks – and the team in general – is a palpable, tangible distinction among this team compared to years passed, which helps dually strengthen the competition and unity among Szakacsy's position battle.
"Danny (Sullivan) is a true student of the game and learns as much as he can in the film room and on the practice field," says Szakacsy of his teammate. "Brock (Osweiler) has only been here for a few months but it seems like he's been here forever, he came in right away and played at a very high level.
"Steven Threet is awesome, he and I are roommates and the odd thing is that even though he's brand new to ASU and will have to sit out this year, he has as much college football experience as any of us so he has the ability to be a difference maker for us."
Admittedly, Szakacsy had a rocky start to his performances during spring drills but gained greater confidence, health and performed at a higher level as the spring session progressed, and that experience and improvement carried Szakacsy through the remainder of the offseason into the start of fall camp.
Szakacsy began fall practice last week listed second on the depth chart at quarterback behind Sullivan, but his unique athletic talents, quick feet and accurate passing touch make him an intriguing wild card candidate that has many Sun Devil faithful eager to see the likely start to his collegiate career as a sophomore in 2009.
Regardless his role on the field or position on the depth chart, Szakacsy has full faith in his coaches, his teammates and in himself to help ASU rebound from last year's subpar team performance.
"We all have a very sour feeling after last year and I promise this team will work as hard as humanly possible this season," declares Szakacsy. "That is a reflection on Coach Erickson and what he instills in all of us. I also love all the adjustments we have made to the offense; I think the spread offense is fun to operate and I believe that in any opportunities I get I can really show the best of my skills in the pocket and also with my feet if plays break down."
A thoroughly unique individual with an eclectic, worldly disposition, Szakacsy's overall outlook and charisma are infectious, and when given the opportunity he has the natural talent to create an impact in all his pursuits.
"In football and in life I want to be remembered as someone who lives passionately and loves life," says Szakacsy. "Above all I want to do all I can to make an impact on other people's lives."