Briscoe turned topsy-turvy college start into big-time success

FARGO — With final exams in the rear-view mirror, Sam Houston State quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe got nine holes of golf in on Tuesday, Dec. 12. He doesn’t miss many open targets in that sport, either.
Briscoe shot 4-over par at Raven Nest Golf Club in Huntsville, Texas, which is the home course for the Sam Houston golf program. On Friday night, Dec. 15, however, the athletic venue where Briscoe will be playing couldn’t be more opposite than the serenity of a golf course.
The Bearkats and North Dakota State will be vying for a ticket to the FCS title game in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
“It’s something I’ve thought about and dreamed about for a while,” Briscoe said. “Getting a chance to spend a week watching them is impressive. You find out quick why they won five national championships in a row. I’m going to have to be on my ‘A’ game diagnosing coverages and blitzes.”
Most of his college career has been played at an “A” level.
Briscoe’s story is well-documented in Southland Conference circles and FBS schools in that region. He committed to Baylor out of high school, but wound up switching his allegiance to the University of Arkansas.
That didn’t work out and Briscoe ended up at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. But in December of his redshirt freshman season in 2014, the school suddenly dropped football, leaving players to fend for themselves.
UAB football was eventually reinstated, but players like Briscoe had already made other plans. He had an offer from the University of Florida, but Briscoe said he wanted a place that was a good fit for him.
“It was pretty funny. I was talking to my mom the other day and it goes to show how crazy of a plan God has,” Briscoe said. “If someone would have told me four years ago after UAB shut down that I would be playing at Sam Houston and playing a game in the semis, I would have told them you’re a liar. It’s been a pretty crazy ride.”
Sam Houston has indeed been the beneficiary of the UAB move. Briscoe won the STATS.com Walter Payton Award last season that goes to the best offensive player in the FCS, with his primary resume-builder breaking the FCS record for most touchdown passes in a season with 57.
The old mark of 56 was set in 1984 by Willie Totten of Mississippi Valley State, a combination that included receiver Jerry Rice.
Briscoe’s stats are down this year, although down is a relative term. He’s completed 306 of 528 passes for 4,714 yards, 44 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Stats aside, Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler calls Briscoe the “toughest” player on the team.
Keeler cites the example of Briscoe being the national player of the year last year, yet still playing in the quarterfinals at James Madison when he probably shouldn’t have even suited up.
“He threw up on the plane ride and didn’t practice a single snap,” Keeler said. “He came out and willed himself onto the field and said you’re not keeping me out of this game. I made a coaching mistake not getting him off the field. I’ve been around some tough kids and he’s as tough as I’ve been around.”
JMU routed the Bearkats 65-7 and Briscoe was 13 of 44 with two interceptions.
Sam Houston got its quarterfinal redemption with a 34-27 win against Kennesaw State (Ga.) last Saturday night.
“Playing at home is always nice,” Briscoe said. “But since I’ve been here, this team has always played well on the road. I think the leadership is in the right place, where making a trip to the semifinals is not that big of a deal or foreign to us.”