When a former four-star recruit decides to transfer, it’s going to be a big deal. When the recruit is a quarterback and the school he chooses is in the Ivy League, it’s an even bigger deal. And when that Ivy League school happens to be Columbia, it’s groundbreaking—even historic.
Yes, junior quarterback Brett Nottingham’s transfer from Stanford to Columbia is one of the most significant events of Pete Mangurian’s short tenure as head coach of the Lions. And as Mangurian goes into his second year, Nottingham’s presence is one more reason for the optimism surrounding the program.
Though the process of transferring officially began in December 2012, Nottingham said in an interview with Spectator that making the decision to leave Stanford was a long process.
“I don’t think it was really like I woke up any one day, rolled out of bed, and said I wanted to transfer,” Nottingham said. “After you have the season, you have time to talk to coaches, get player evaluations, and then kind of reflect on where we wanted to go. So, after talking with my family, it seemed like the logical decision for me to continue my football career was to go somewhere else.”
According to Mangurian, a significant factor in that decision-making process was Stanford’s choice to go with an offensive system manned by a mobile quarterback—something Nottingham, a classic drop-back passer, is not.
“There’s a side of Brett Nottingham, as highly recruited and competitive as he is, that wants to reinvent himself,” Mangurian said. “And he saw this program, this system, this university, and this city as an opportunity to do that.”
“I said, ‘If you want to make people notice who you are, where better could you go than New York City?’” the head coach added.
Though this is the Bay Area native’s first time living away from California, Nottingham responded well to that pitch.
“There are just a lot of resources in New York City,” Nottingham said. “I think if you’re ambitious and you know how to manage your time, a lot of those doors open up to you.”
Offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo was instrumental in the process of getting Nottingham to buy into what Columbia would entail. The quarterback said that he and Elizondo got along well and saw eye-to-eye on an offensive philosophy. But Nottingham added that the opportunity to be a part of Mangurian’s plan to make the program a winner also appealed to him.
“I’ve just been really impressed with their goals and aspirations for this team,” Nottingham said. “So it made it pretty easy throughout the recruiting process to kind of hope and envision myself being a part of that.”
Former Lions basketball star Brian Barbour, CC ’13, also had an effect on Nottingham’s recruiting process, as the two knew each other in high school in California.
“When I was transferring and I knew I was looking at the Ivy League, he was one of the first guys I reached out to, and he was very supportive throughout the whole process,” Nottingham said.
Once Nottingham made the decision to come to Columbia, Mangurian said one of his biggest concerns was how the quarterback would interact with his teammates with all the hype surrounding his arrival. But it hasn’t been an issue at all, with senior running back and co-captain Marcorus Garrett saying, “He’s one of us.”
“I’ve been around some pretty good quarterbacks over the years, and they’re all just like that,” Mangurian said. “They want to be one of the guys. And he has that mentality.”
“And I don’t think it’s a performance,” the head coach added. “I think that’s who he is. I think that’s who he wants to be.”
Another quality Nottingham’s teammates have noticed about him is his competitiveness. It’s a quality Garrett has noticed in everything the quarterback does, especially in practice with his fellow quarterbacks, sophomores Trevor McDonagh and Hank Trumbull.
“If Trevor or Hank throws a TD in practice, if Brett has an extra rep, you know he’s throwing a TD,” Garrett said. “He’s that type of guy. He’ll never let you one-up him. He’s competitive even in video games, and that’s what we all like about him.”
“I think that’s just an important quality when you’re talking about football, and quarterbacking especially,” Nottingham said. “I was always told by both my parents that regardless of if you’re in the classroom, you’re playing a sport, or just playing checkers with your buddy, you play the game to win and you have fun doing it.”
Of course, what sets Nottingham apart as a four-star recruit is his talent. Senior offensive lineman Jimmy Yukevich said, “He can really put the ball wherever he wants.”
“Physically, he’s gifted—there’s no doubt about it,” Mangurian said. “When he’s confident and people are where they’re supposed to be, he’s very, very, very talented.”
But Nottingham still has to master the system to be at his best. Mangurian said that one of the quarterback’s final hurdles is becoming fluent in the language of the Columbia playbook, and he has just about done that.
Academically, Nottingham is going to have to change his major, as his original major, science, technology, and society, isn’t offered at Columbia. But he said he is looking forward to embracing the Core in his four remaining semesters in college.
For now, Nottingham is looking forward to playing games with his teammates.
“I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and we’re not going to sit here and make any outrageous claims, but our goal is to win every game,” he said. “Honestly, I think the sky is the limit.”
This article is part of our 2013 Football Season Preview. View the rest of the preview here.