High school football: Bingham quarterback took an unlikely path to lead Miners to 5A championship game

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20 2013 9:30 a.m. MST

Bingham quarterback Kyle Gearig throws as Bingham High School and Lone Peak High School play in the 5A State football semi-final  Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in Salt Lake City.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Bingham quarterback Kyle Gearig throws as Bingham High School and Lone Peak High School play in the 5A State football semi-final Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SOUTH JORDAN — Just a year ago, Kyle Gearig didn’t imagine he’d be top-ranked Bingham’s starting quarterback, let alone leading the undefeated team to the 5A state championship game this Friday.

“I even said to him a few weeks ago, ‘Kyle, if I told you a few months ago where you would be right now, would you have believed me?’ ” said Bingham head football coach Dave Peck. “And he said, ‘Man, coach, this has been crazy, hasn’t it?’ ”

A number of factors make Gearig’s story “crazy.”

First of all, the junior didn’t even start playing quarterback until his freshman year.

“I decided not to try out (at Bingham),” he said. “I played Little League, and that was the first year I played quarterback.”

Gearig had always played running back and linebacker, and that’s what he planned to play his freshman season. But the quarterback he’d played with for a few years decided not to play football, and the team's backup quarterback broke his hand.

“I’d always been able to throw fairly well, and that ended up making me the quarterback,” Gearig said. “I was nervous, of course, never playing the position before. But I had a good coach, and that took some of the pressure off.”

Not only was Gearig good, he decided he liked running the team’s offense. So when he tried out for Bingham’s team his sophomore season, he tried out as a quarterback.

“I didn’t really have the experience at that time, so eventually they switched me to receiver,” he said of playing on the Miners' sophomore team. “I really did enjoy that.”

Unsure what position he should pursue, he sought advice from the men who made the decisions.

“At the end of the season, I asked coach Peck if I should keep trying to play quarterback or stick with receiver,” he said. “And he said try quarterback.”

He worked hard in the offseason and worked alongside the other four boys vying for the Miners’ starting quarterback job.

“He was one of four kids that we saw a lot of good things in,” said Bingham quarterback coach John Lambourne. “The fact that he was able to rise to the top, that competitive process was what we saw the most of — because those other kids are great kids, too.” It wasn’t until Bingham decided to let the two younger quarterbacks split time in the BYU 7-on-7 tournament last spring that Gearig began separating himself from the pack.

“We were able to win that with him as quarterback,” Lambourne said. “To be able to win that, you have to be able to improvise, and he was able to do that. He was able to make things happen for us. Then I just saw some pretty rapid learning on his part.” Gearig said he had doubts about his ability to lead the Miners' offense, and it wasn’t until the team’s camp in Price that he started to see in himself what his coaches saw.

“There was always a little bit of doubt,” Gearig said. “But after each success, especially the BYU (experience), when I played with the first varsity team and we won the championship, I was pretty confident after that.”

Still he admits he was surprised when coaches named him the No. 1 quarterback.

“Actually, I was,” he said. “We went to Price for summer camp and then we came back, and ever since the 7-on-7 tournament, I wasn’t really doing what I knew I could. I wasn’t making the passes and the reads I needed to. But coach Lambourne saw the potential. And once he did that, I decided that if it was going to be me, I needed to leave no doubt.” Peck said coaches believed Gearig’s athleticism and intelligence (he’s a 4.0 student) would eventually make the Bingham offense successful.

“He was outstanding at BYU,” Peck said. “That was our first real sign that this kid could be something special. By the time we went to camp, there was no doubt he was the front-runner for the job. He’s the type of kid who could lead us to a state championship.”

Still, even his coaches didn’t think Gearig would be successful right away.

“We thought we may drop a couple of games early because of his inexperience,” Peck said, rattling off the impressive teams they faced in the preseason. “But we were willing to take that chance. He was way better, even than we thought he’d be, from the beginning. He played great at Valor Christian, on the road against a great program, and he made some huge plays.” Gearig has quietly gone about helping the Miners to an undefeated season. He’s completed 126 of 229 passes for 1,792 yards and 26 touchdowns. The two-sport athlete (basketball) has also rushed for 696 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Gearig’s success has been a thrill, not just for him and his coaches, but for his family.

The youngest of five children, Gearig had two older brothers who played basketball that he looked up to.

“He’s always been a confident person,” said his father, David Gearig. “Being the youngest, a lot of times you’re more competitive. You see your older brothers, and you want to be that way.”

His brothers are now among his biggest fans.

“It’s quite exciting as you can imagine,” said David Gearig. “His brothers and sisters all come to all of the games, his aunts and uncles, it’s really become a rallying point for the whole family. It’s been a really neat experience for all of us.”

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