"6-Pack Right! Here we go baby! Let's roll!"
That was quarterback Brandon Doughty's huddle chant to his teammates. It was an early November game, homecoming at Western Kentucky, and Doughty's team confronted first-and-goal at the Florida Atlantic 7-yard line. It was late in the third quarter. Surely, Doughty would hurl another touchdown pass. He had already tossed three.
But the call was a double-receiver reverse pass. Doughty initiated the play and then just hung around. Sort of hidden. He emerged into the right side of the end zone. Western receiver Nacarius Fant flung the ball there.
Touchdown catch Brandon Doughty!
Doughty threw a startling 111 touchdown passes in three seasons as Western's starter. Why not hang around, sort of hidden, emerge and catch one?
"We had been practicing that play for awhile," Doughty said on Tuesday after completing NFL Scouting Combine work. "It was a coach (Bobby) Petrino original play. It was cool. A special feeling. I never thought they would ever call it."
Western won that game, finished 12-2 and ranked No. 24 in the FBS. NFL teams are now calling Doughty's name, curious about this smaller-school player with big-time passing numbers and contemplating who is he, what he is -- an illusion or a prime NFL quarterback prospect? Doughty said of the 32 NFL teams, 30 met with him in Indianapolis. They are probing. He is intriguing.
His production is cosmic. He threw 48 touchdown passes last season and 49 the season before. His interceptions dropped from 10 to nine in that span. That is an astounding 97 touchdown to 19 interception comparison, complemented by six 400-plus-yard passing games last season. He finished last season as only the third quarterback in the last 50 years to lead the nation in passing yards (5,055), completions (388) and completion percentage (71.9).
Doughty, 24, is from Davie, Fla. Because of two early medical redshirt claims, he spent six seasons at Western: 2010 through 2012 under then coach Willie Taggart, 2013 under then coach Bobby Petrino and the last two under current coach Jeff Brohm. Several players bolted early toward their pro football dreams. Doughty stayed, hung around, sort of hidden and then emerged.
Cal's Jared Goff, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and Memphis' Paxton Lynch are the golden pre-draft quarterbacks, the pre-draft blue bloods. Doughty -- 6'3, 213 pounds -- likes his stature among them.
"In Indy was the first time I got to see myself alongside the top quarterbacks in the draft, to size them up eye to eye," Doughty said. "I thought I did well in the passing drills. I expected to do well. You have to be able to throw the ball on air. I knew I was the most accurate quarterback in the draft. I wanted to show that on the big stage. I led the NCAA in completion percentage not just because. I worked my butt off. I think some team, I caught their eye."
Among teams that interviewed him were Dallas, Washington, Buffalo, the LA Rams and the Giants.
Doughty showed timing and touch. He showed a quick release and that he is an artistic decision-maker. He is the most accurate passing quarterback prospect, but he is also the slowest -- his 5.22 timing in the 40-yard sprint was the worst among combine quarterbacks. For some teams, his lack of speed is scary. For others, they say Tom Brady ran worse, 5.28, in 2000 and that worked out OK.
"If he had run, say, a 4.8, he'd be taken a lot higher," longtime NFL personnel expert Gil Brandt said. "But he does move around in the pocket and beyond better than a 5.2 guy. He has a good delivery, good accuracy. He has been well-coached. I don't think there is any question, unless he is injured, that he will make a team and be a developmental quarterback with a lot of upside. There are intriguing quarterbacks who could go in the third, fourth and fifth rounds and he is one of them. I think he's in the fifth-round area, but it's early. I would love to have him in my camp."
Doughty said most people think WKU ran only a spread offense during his time there, but he says his exposure to the spread, the West Coast offense and the pro-style offense was thorough due to a mix-and-match approach of Taggart, Petrino and Brohm.
Some question his arm strength but he answers: "I may not be able to throw it 90 yards but I'm going to put it where it is supposed to go. I'm a pocket quarterback. Pocket quarterbacks have done well in this league. I'm a student of the game. I think Jesus Christ and football, that's who I am. I not only play the game because I love it. I play because that's who I am.
"In Indy," he continued, "it was the first time some people got to see my personality. I was not afraid to step up in class. I was a three-year captain at Western. I'm very proud of that. Sometimes leadership is not something that can be measured. I have no problem in stepping forward with teammates, with people. I wish my 40-time had been a little faster, but I'm not too concerned about it.
"Being a quarterback is about being meticulous and precise. One of the teams at the combine took me to the board. They gave me one of their plays from their offense. They explained it. They erased it. Then they told me to draw the play and explain it. I'm sort of a football dork. That was no problem. I went a little over and beyond with all of the intricacies of it. Afterward, they told me it was the only time they could remember that they didn't have a question for the quarterback after that exercise."
Brohm said he saw that kind of skill in Doughty at Western, a player who fought through highs and lows early, especially his ACL and torn meniscus that pushed Doughty into intense rehab. A quarterback who grew and matured, he said, after going through "fires."
The tape shows he improved every year, Brohm added. Doughty controls the ball, has been consistent and throws passes with "very good touch" and "balls that are extremely catchable," Brohm said.
"Brandon needs to be in a place where they are willing to spread the field," Brohm said. "Give him options. A lot of guys in the pattern where he will see and distribute quickly. He is similar to (Minnesota Vikings quarterback) Teddy Bridgewater. Very similar in the aspect that neither is the greatest athlete in the world but relies on accuracy. Brandon is the type of quarterback and person that when given the chance, he will do something with it."
Doughty's pro day workout at Western is March 29.
Between the combine and that workout is his marriage. It happens this Sun., March 6, to Sydney Sisler in Key West, Fla. She was a soccer player at Western in 2011 who tore her ACL a month before he did. They met in rehab.
"Rehab can be a lonely process," Doughty said. "You can become isolated. You don't feel as much a part of the team. Sydney was competitive and bright. She challenged me. You take something like that injury happening to you, you think it is the worst thing ever and look what good came of it. This Sunday is a special day. My day. It's Sydney's day. A spiritual and emotional day. I am excited about the opportunity to marry the person I love."
The combine, the marriage, the pro day, the draft in late April in Chicago -- Brandon Doughty says his life is full of promise and hope. As the draft approaches, he thinks he is running "6-Pack Right" all over again. Other quarterbacks garner more hoopla. But Doughty is hanging around, sort of hidden, certain he will emerge.