Nevada quarterback Carson Strong has been rightfully commended for a plethora of things, especially when it comes to making plays in the passing game within an Air Raid offense that is practically unstoppable when it is at its peak. Some of the passes he’s made into tight windows down the sideline—perfectly placed with the right amount of zip, touch, and velocity on them—look almost impossible. The fact he does it multiple times in each and every game is that much more impressive.
But one thing we don’t talk about enough when it comes to Strong, and perhaps one of his greatest attributes, is his level of toughness—something that’s been on strong display just as much as his talent as a passer.
Strong was knocked around more than just a good bit about two weeks ago in Nevada’s gritty 27-24 win over San Jose State, taking some ugly shots in a game in which he was sacked three times. There was more than just one moment in that game in which any reasonable person would have expected the quarterback to head for the sidelines after getting put in the dirt the way he was, but Strong stayed in.
Not only did he stay in, but he stayed in and delivered on the game-winning drive to set up Wolf Pack standout kicker Brandon Talton in field goal range to seal up a 27-24 victory over the Spartans. Strong battled through that one to finish the game 36-of-54 passing for 314 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, proving to be the difference-maker in a game that was a lot tighter than most expected.
The following contest didn’t end the way Strong or Nevada had drawn it up as the Wolf Pack fell 23-21 to the San Diego State Aztecs in a game that came down to the wire. Strong took some hits in this one the same way he did against San Jose State, sacked three times once more. Throughout the contest, it didn’t look like Strong’s plant leg was quite at 100%, as broadcasters reiterated quite frequently throughout the game. While it did appear to affect him some, once again, Strong never once looked to leave the game.
And once again, he did everything within his own power to put Nevada in the best position to win, despite the clear adversity he was up against between playing through pain and going up against a talented defense (the Aztecs came into this game ranked No. 22 in the nation, which is saying something).
Even though he wasn’t able to put together the game-winning heroics—and it should be noted that winning is a team effort that shouldn’t come down to quarterback play alone anyway—Strong still showed all the same stuff that got him recognized on tape when he first started emerging as a serious NFL prospect.
He finished the game 34-of-48 passing for 350 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions—a stat line any quarterback, at full capacity or not, would be happy with. And if that’s what Strong can do in a situation in which his plant leg could have looked more solid while going up against one of the more formidable defenses in the nation, there’s a lot to be happy about here if you’re an NFL team looking at him as a potential draft pick in 2022.
Moving forward, there will be questions about mobility and how someone like Strong fits into the NFL, but at the end of the day, a quarterback should first and foremost be an elite passer with a high level of mental processing, the ability to make throws at every level of the field, and a respectable leader who exhibits both grit and toughness. That’s the very definition of Carson Strong.