- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2016

ASHBURN | Daunting math was undone for Nate Sudfeld by naivet and brotherly support.

Sure, he would have said when he was younger, he’ll make it to the NFL. Growing up in Modesto, California, Sudfeld didn’t grasp how rare it was for a high school athlete to become a professional one, nor did he much care. It wasn’t arrogance that made him think even before high school that he could play one day as a professional. He just figured, why not? Also, his brothers told him he could. That sufficed.

So, staying after practice to make more throws at Redskins Park on a day that feels like the sun is a hat, is ecstasy. When Sudfeld takes another round of live snaps in Friday’s second preseason game, the Redskins’ rookie third-string quarterback will be playing out the first steps of what he hoped for. Also, for the first time, this part of his football life will be a unifying one for his family.

Sudfeld’s brother, Zach, is a tight end for Friday’s opponent, the New York Jets. Their mother, Michelle, is expected to do the split-jersey thing. One side Redskins, one side Jets, clashing colors be damned.

“It’s the first game of my life that my parents haven’t had to decide which game they want to go to,” Nate said. “So, very exciting to have my parents be able to watch both of us.”

Sudfeld wasn’t a strike-up-the-band level signee out of high school, but did receive multiple scholarship offers, including two from Pac-12 schools. He chose Indiana after Arizona changed its coach. There, he set school records for touchdowns and passing yardage, among other record rewriting. He went through the usual route of high school ascension followed by a reset, then another move to the front of the pecking order before being drafted in the sixth round.

Friday night will be another reminder of Sudfeld’s current stature as a rookie, something he is trying to manage with care. He’ll be the last to go into the game, following starter Kirk Cousins and veteran backup Colt McCoy. Though they share the same positional meeting room, their NFL statuses are distinctly varied.

Cousins is in his first season as the undisputed starter. He’ll work under the franchise tag, making him rich and unsure about his contractual future. McCoy is playing his seventh season for his third team. For the first time since he has been in Washington, McCoy is the clear backup.

Sudfeld is aware of the role of each. Which is why he is trying to learn without disrupting.

“When I got drafted and looked at who was here and the coaches, I thought it would be a good situation,” Sudfeld said. “Kirk and Colt are just so good to me. It’s not like they’re hiding things or being mean. Turning their heads to me.

“And, I’m trying to do my best of being very engaged but at the same time not slow them down while still getting better. I’m asking questions when I feel like it’s right; a good time to maybe ask a quick question, but I’m not trying to slow down the meeting, like, ‘Hey, what do we do on this play?’ Little intricacies. After Kirk and Colt leave, I’ll stay extra with the QB coach [Matt Cavanaugh] just to ask him, kind of pick his brain on how to get better. I’m just trying to soak up everything they do. The way they go about their business is awesome. They’re very professional.”

Wednesday, Sudfeld arrived at Redskins Park around 6 a.m. He’s a progressive operator in the morning. A couple taps of the snooze button are followed by thinking through what is coming in the day ahead. Breakfast is provided time to settle before a morning lift. The hot tub is used to loosen muscles, then the day can begin in full.

The process prepared him last week for his preseason debut against the Atlanta Falcons. Sudfeld was 10-for-15 for 89 yards and a touchdown pass. His numbers would have been significantly higher if wide receiver Rashad Ross had not dropped a well-placed deep pass.

“I thought Nate did a good job, man,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said after the game. “He was a competitor. He did a nice job, got his team in and out of the huddle, there were no delay of game penalties. We didn’t have any formation issues; he didn’t call the plays wrong. That’s half the battle for a young quarterback coming out of college, and I thought he did a good job, I liked the way he competed and stood in there.”

Sudfeld is excited about facing the Jets because of the multiple defensive schemes they use, not to mention the family connection. He’s also pleased that last week didn’t feel like overwhelming chaos.

“I just have to keep making sure I know what I’m doing,” Sudfeld said. “Keep my porch clean, I like to say, and taking care of my own business and getting better.”

That means coming early, staying late and knowing when to stay silent.

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