With Charlie Whitehurst's Clemson playing career sadly coming to an end next season, Tiger Nation won't be able to turn to his familiar No. 6 jersey for the assurance they seek to know the team is going to win its next game.
Instead, they will have to look for a new source for their hopes to lead Clemson toward an ACC title run. And the likely candidate will be little-used and little-known backup quarterback Will Proctor, who will be a red-shirt senior in 2006.
"I feel, and a lot of other players do, that this is a guy that could start for about any Division I team," starting offensive guard and backup center Roman Fry said. "He just hasn't had the opportunity to play. Charlie's a great quarterback, and he's done great; but we have confidence in Proctor. I don't know if the public knows that we as a team have confidence in Will that he can get the job done."
Who is this guy, Proctor, and what's in store for the Tigers in life after Charlie?
His bio in the Clemson media guide says he was a two-time Class AA Prep Player of the Year in Florida and that he turned down Florida, Notre Dame, LSU, North Carolina and Maryland to play for the Tigers.
He's played on only a handful of plays, and the only time he was used extensively in his career, Clemson's 2005 season-opening win against Texas A&M, all he did was essentially hand the ball off to freshman tailback James Davis.
Several months earlier, Proctor set a Spring Game record for passing yardage with 275. He also threw three touchdowns on 18-of-23 passing, which is a 78.3 percentage, also a Spring Game record.
"I think the improvement he's made over the last year-and-a-half is pretty incredible," Whitehurst said. "I think that he has the capabilities of being a pretty good player. Experience is key. He's going to have to learn really, really fast because of limited experience. But I think everything's there. All the tools are there, and he works really hard."
Proctor and his teammates describe him as the All-American collegiate student. With a deep tan and perfect hair, those closest to him say he's conscious at all times of how he looks. Proctor looks as though he plays the role of a quarterback in a Hollywood movie, not in real life.
But looks, no matter what they are, can be deceiving.
"Personality-wise, he's tough," said Fry, who is one of Proctor's closest friends on the team. "He comes off the field as maybe a pretty boy. We always joke around with each other that he's a pretty-boy type and he knows it, but that doesn't stop him in the summer time from running and working extremely hard. I love playing with him. He wants to win, and he makes plays. We get to see it in practice. We know as a team he's a great player; the public just doesn't get to see it. I'm really excited for the public to get to see him."
But from Proctor, his legacy will be determined on whatever he does in only one season. For Proctor, it's one-and-done.
"It's tough, but at the same time I've learned so much from all of the coaches I've had," Proctor said. "I've learned a lot from Charlie and Willie (Simmons) and the other quarterbacks, but at the same time, I've been preparing for that year for a long time. After Charlie had his breakout year in his first year and second year, I kind of knew it was going to be a one-and-done type deal, unless he left early. I've been preparing for this for awhile, and when it gets to me, I'll be ready to go."
And being ready is something Proctor has been for quite a while. After he played some against Texas A&M, he said that he'd like to get in a series or two in every game just so he could stay sharp. Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said if Proctor wanted to play, he'd have to beat out Whitehurst for the starting job.
"There's no question that I want to play every game," Proctor said. "I prepare like I'm going to play every game. If Charlie gets banged up at all, I've got to go in. But every part of me wants to play. But it's been tough, and there have been times when I wished I'd been in there a lot more. But that's part of being a quarterback; you've got to pay your dues, and it will all pay off in the end."
For someone who was recruited by big-time college programs and had the type of high school awards and numbers he did – 6,935 total yards and 85 touchdowns – it would have been easy to make waves or even transfer to another school. But Proctor didn't. He stuck it out and has seen it through to the end.
"You know he wanted to get more playing time," Fry said. "You know inside that he's not that type of guy that's going to go around and say he wishes he was doing this or that. He's not negative. Look at the past four years. Has he been negative? No, he's just kept working harder. So many great quarterbacks have learned so much more by playing behind a good quarterback for a year or more. And if you look at the NFL, that's pretty evident.
"Life after Charlie? I don't think you can really compare those two guys. He's going to get this one year that he has, and he's going to make the most of his opportunity. That's the type of person he is. I think he's going to take that year and do a lot with it. I think there are great things for the future at quarterback and for the whole team next year."
Even though he's been around for four years, there's still nothing that quite equals playing in a real game. Scrimmages are fine, but they aren't against people who want to do damage to you in front of 80,000 screaming fans.
"He's got one chance," Whitehurst said. "I guess there are a couple of different ways to look at it. I think he'll look at this way: that he's got one chance and he better make it happen. And he probably will. I wasn't in that situation, so I really can't relate. But I know that he'll be very hungry to perform.
"There are questions that he doesn't even know to ask. I'm sure that he'll eventually ask, but it takes experience. He'll get out there and start his first game and all those questions will be answered. There won't be much to say to the guy. He is thirsty to learn, and he's picked up a lot of stuff already. He's learned all he can in practice. He needs to be in the game to go to the next level."
And Clemson fans are already counting on that happening.