Jason Bean lives out dream as Kansas’ starting quarterback: 'It meant the world'
LAWRENCE — Ever since Jason Bean began to understand in high school that he had the talent to play in college, he had a dream of playing quarterback at the Power Five level.
It's something Bean described this past Friday, after his first start at Kansas, as “kind of every kid’s dream.” The redshirt junior quarterback, in his first season with the Jayhawks after transferring in from North Texas, didn't hide what it meant to him to be a part of a Big 12 Conference program like Kansas after its opener. He was one of those kids.
So don't mistake the calmness Bean exhibited when he spoke after as a lack of enthusiasm. Even though Bean had just lived out that dream in a home game against South Dakota, and led a comeback drive in the fourth quarter that helped deliver a 17-14 victory, that reality isn't going to overwhelm him. And that ability to channel his emotions and passion in a productive way should only serve himself and his team well moving forward.
“It meant the world,” said Bean, describing Tuesday what it meant to earn this opportunity after spending three seasons (2018-20) at North Texas. “… This is a big school. This is a well-known school. And this is one of the highest levels to play football and I think the Big 12’s a great conference and I think it’s a good conference to be a quarterback in.”
That Bean won the starting job wasn’t just the culmination of a battle between himself, sophomore Jalon Daniels and redshirt senior Miles Kendrick. What the trio was told last week, after Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the staff finalized their decision, didn’t just validate how the competition had been trending — especially due to the time Daniels was limited. It meant more to Bean than that.
Kirk Thor, Bean’s football coach at Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield, Texas, said Tuesday that he’s always thought that Bean wanted to play at the highest level possible. It wasn’t an ever-present topic of conversation between the two of them, but Thor understood the aspirations Bean had then. Thor said the coaches at Lake Ridge were excited to see Bean named the Jayhawks’ starter, and that the “sky’s the limit” for someone with the combination of talent and character Bean has.
Bean is the same guy, in Thor’s eyes, as the one who left Lake Ridge for college. Thor sees the even-keeled athlete who doesn’t let much get to him that Leipold sees, and the benefits in having a quarterback like that. Thor tells his own team all the time there’s a difference between having fun and being silly, and to him Bean was always someone who had fun, worked hard and wasn’t silly.
“The best thing about Jason, I think, is he just controls — he knows what’s under his control and what’s not,” Thor said. “And he just controls what he can control. Teammates loved him. Coaches loved him.”
Thor also thinks Bean is probably the most unselfish player he’s coached during his time at Lake Ridge.
“He just wanted to put the team first,” said Thor, who also thinks Bean has NFL potential because of Bean's size, speed and arm strength. “We had two quarterbacks on the roster that were both Division I … Jason kind of took him under his wing and those two guys worked really well together. And sometimes in a room when you’ve got two Division I quarterbacks it can be really tough. But what it really showed our team is that, you know what? We’re going to have two talented guys and they’re both going to put the team first and they’re both going to play well and they’re both going to compete and Jason played great. He didn’t let that bother him.”
It was a quarterback room, albeit at the high school level, that appeared to handle competition between teammates in a constructive way as Kansas’ has this season. Bean said this past Friday both Kendrick and Daniels were helping him out during the Jayhawks’ win against the Coyotes. And Leipold praised Bean’s backups on Monday.
“(Quarterbacks assistant coach) Jim Zebrowski and I told them that, obviously not at this level, but many moons ago Jim and I both played the position and we’ve both been in quarterback battles that we didn’t win,” said Leipold, describing part of the conversation that was had with Kendrick and Daniels. “And we know what it’s like to sit in that chair when you’re told you’re not going to be the starter. And we empathize with those feelings and try to be sensitive to them and things. But I told them that I thought both young men have handled it extremely well and as you can see where Miles Kendrick is thought of in the locker room by his teammates — he’s voted as a captain.”
Bean’s ability to be able to make plays with his feet is clear. He knows he can run the ball effectively, saying Tuesday that option’s always on his mind even if he’d much rather stay in the pocket to get the ball to his receivers. Leipold, Thor and Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki each highlighted Bean’s talent there, too, further emphasizing how much stress that can put on a defense if used effectively.
Bean also showcased the poise and capability necessary to make key throws in high-pressure situations. Two touchdowns, both to redshirt freshman wide receiver Lawrence Arnold, and no interceptions helped put Kansas in a position to win. Kotelnicki raved about how the two touchdown passes, on top of the pivotal fourth-down conversion on the final scoring drive, were all plays Bean had missed earlier in the game that they still felt comfortable going back to because of how they feel about Bean.
There are a number of things Bean can improve upon prior to Kansas’ game Friday against No. 19 Coastal Carolina, which is heavily favored over the Jayhawks no matter how much Chanticleers head coach Jamey Chadwell may try to downplay that. Kotelnicki pointed to Bean’s game management, explaining Bean isn’t on the same level of a four-year starter at this point. Bean highlighted his own accuracy after completing about 65 percent of his passes against South Dakota, and desire to be more of a vocal leader.
It'll be challenging for Bean to accomplish the latter, in a way. He hasn't been around the program for too long and for him, being more vocal could necessitate a greater sense of comfort with the people he's around that only time can bring. But he's aware of it, and trying.
“I think it’s something I’ve struggled with all my life, is being a vocal person,” Bean said. “… Obviously being at this school you’ve got to do it a little bit more because there’s a lot more eyes on you. But I think it’s something I’ve been working on and trying to get better with my whole life.”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.