There were probably times when Angus Quigley didn't think he'd ever really get his shot.
From the moment he stepped foot on campus in 2005, the word "potential" has followed Angus Quigley around like a lost puppy. Fans watched high school footage of the 6-foot-1, 222-pound running back from Cleburne, Texas, and they saw the future of the Kansas running game.
It all should have worked out. Big and reasonably fast, Quigley possessed a receiver's hands and something...more. Sure, he ran with his pads too high, but he nevertheless carried with him an indefinable sense of power when the ball was in his hands. Defenders bounced off him as if he were made of teflon.
So punishing was his running style that on one occasion in 2008, Quigley lowered his shoulder and absolutely detonated freshman safety Blake Gideon, rendering him unconscious. Against South Florida earlier that same season, he bowled over no fewer than three Bulls defenders en route to the end zone, capping off a 14-yard shovel pass and giving the Jayhawks the tying score.
But those moments of brilliance were few and far between. After starting his career by suffering back-to-back season ending injuries in 2005 and 2006, Quigley saw limited time at running back during the next two seasons. In 2009, former head coach Mark Mangino shifted him to linebacker in an attempt to boost the unit's overall athleticism – an experiment that, in hindsight, proved unsuccessful.
Running back was where Quigley wanted to be, and when Turner Gill was hired to lead the program in December, it breathed new life into that dream.
But there were conditions. The offense installed by Gill and first-year offensive coordinator Chuck Long places a premium on speed at the skill positions, and if Quigley was to stay at running back, he would need to find a way to cut 12 pounds off his chiseled 235-pound frame by the time training camp began in August.
It was hard work, Quigley said, but worth every droplet of sweat. Gill and his staff revealed the first depth chart of the fall Thursday afternoon, and there sat his name atop the list at running back.
"It helps me, because I know if I was 235 pounds I don't know if I would have been exactly up on the depth chart as I am now," Quigley said. "I feel a lot more shifty, I can make the cuts and things like that that I need to play running back."
The quarterback competition between sophomore Kale Pick and redshirt freshman Jordan Webb – a competition that ended Thursday with Pick's selection as the starter – may have gotten more press, but in some ways the running back battle has been even more intense.
Each of the six competitors brings a little something different to the table, and according to Gill, the depth chart at the position is far from set in stone.
Quigley knows this. He's just not focusing on it, and he's certainly not taking his current status for granted.
"It kind of takes a small burden off my shoulders, but that really doesn't mean a whole lot to me," he explained. "Just because I've been announced doesn't mean I can't be replaced. Complacency is not in my vocabulary at this moment, and it won't be all season. Because I know just as easy as I got up there I can be a third string guy, too."
Even so, Quigley is relishing the opportunity to showcase his skills that he desired from the beginning. All that's left to do is continue to work as hard as he can ever single day, and he knows it will translate from the practice field to the playing field.
"Right now my biggest thing is to live up to it," Quigley said. "If you're going to be the number one guy there's going to be a bulleye on your back and a lot of people are going to be watching. You can't slide under the radar, you're going to be out there."