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Henry Colombi has been preparing to win the starting quarterback job since he arrived at Utah State

Utah State quarterback Henry Colombi (3) escapes the grasp of Hawaii defensive back Donovan Dalton (29) in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Honolulu.
Eugene Tanner, AP

LOGAN — When Henry Colombi first arrived at Utah State in 2017, there was little to no expectation that he would play.

At the time, the Aggies had a veteran signal-caller in Kent Myers, and a young up-and-comer in Jordan Love behind him. Throw in guys like DJ Nelson and Zach Larson and Colombi wasn’t expected to see the field his freshman year, and he didn’t.

Colombi redshirted the 2017 season, watching as USU finished 6-7 overall.

In 2018, with Love firmly entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, Colombi still didn’t have much of an avenue to playing time. He appeared in seven games as Love’s primary backup, all in runaway Aggie wins. The same largely held true this past season, though you can swap out some of those blowout wins for blowout losses. Colombi played in six games in 2019, all in relief of Love.

In his three years in Logan, Colombi has appeared in just 13 games, completing 53 of 59 passes for 460 yards and two touchdowns. But despite what can be described as limited playing time, Colombi hasn’t been sitting idly by. Through his first three seasons at Utah State he has been constantly learning from those ahead of him.

“When I first got here we had Kent at the top and then Jordan and then me. I was able to learn a lot from those guys,” said Colombi. “I learned a lot from Jordan and I have a good relationship with those guys. I took things here and there from them that have made me a different quarterback.”

Foremost among the lessons learned was the importance of preparation. That is, the most important thing for any quarterback is to prepare like you are the No. 1 option, whether you are or not.

“That is one of the main things I had to learn over the past couple of years,” said Colombi. “Even if there is a seasoned veteran in front of you, you always prepare the same way. You always prepare like you are the starter.”

And now, with Love off pursuing dreams of a pro football career — “If it were up to me I’d draft him with the No. 1 overall pick,” Colombi said — that approach appears to be paying off.

Following the first day of spring camp last week, Colombi was roundly praised by both head coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder.

“Henry’s experience showed today,” said Andersen. “That was fairly obvious. He was by far the best quarterback out there. I guess one would expect that, but I don’t think the other quarterbacks quite expected that. It was nice to see Henry do what he did. He did his part.”

“I felt Henry made some good plays today,” added Reeder. “(Andrew) Peasley is coming off the injury and I don’t know if rusty is the right word to say, but he is still getting his legs under him. The two young guys, Cooper (Legas) and Josh (Calvin) are coming along OK. It is going to be fun to watch those guys compete.”

Utah State quarterback Andrew Peasley warms up during an NCAA football game between Colorado State and Utah State Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Fort Collins, Colo. Utah State won 29-24.
Jack Dempsey, Associated Press

Both coaches emphasized there is an ongoing quarterback competition at Utah State. Legas in particular drew praise for how quickly he has picked up the offense, and Peasley has been given the benefit of the doubt as he makes his way back from a season-ending leg injury. None of the quarterbacks have taken command of the team yet, either, and the one who does will likely get the starting nod.

“I am looking for command,” said Reeder. “What we need is for leadership to emerge. Anytime that you have a guy that was such a good player and so successful as Jordan, the guys behind him don’t get the opportunity to lead, to struggle and to overcome adversity. This is going to be a great trial for them to see who can have command out there and lead the offense in the right direction.”

Colombi isn’t worried about his chances to win the job. He has been preparing to win it for three years now and that isn’t about to change. He’ll just keep doing what he’s always done.

“The goal for me for spring camp is to get better every day,” he said. “Learn a new offense, get chemistry with my wide receivers and my running backs, all that. There is going to be competition everywhere you go. I know what I bring to the table: experience, accuracy with the ball, a whole bunch of things. The main thing I’ve been focused on is competing with myself. As long as I get better every day I will be happy.”