MBA quarterback says Samford was the Wise choice

Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 2:57am

Former MBA quarterback Spencer Wise is off to Samford University.  Mike Strasinger photo

Spencer Wise, one of the Nashville area’s top quarterbacks has announced he will sign with Samford (Ala.) for college.

Wise, a Mr. Football finalist who graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in late May, still not knowing for certain where he would wind up, made a mid-June decision to continue his career with the Bulldogs.

“I chose Samford because it seemed like a great fit for me and my family,’’ Wise said after a stellar career at MBA. “I love the people down there, the coaches are great, it’s a beautiful campus and it’s in a good town (Birmingham)."

He said he received some scholarship money for academics as the coaches didn’t have any scholarship money left when he was signed very late in the recruiting process.

Wise also strongly considered walking on at Tennessee, which was his likely choice a month ago. He was also interested in Ole Miss, as well as some Ivy League schools.

The young quarterback will be playing for Coach Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman trophy winner from Auburn, something that factored into his decision.

“Of course, Pat Sullivan had an impact on my decision just because of the man he is and the kind of football player he used to be," Wise said. “I cannot wait to get the chance to play under him. I have heard only good things about him. I had some good, long conversations with him and the offensive line coach that swayed my decision.’’

Wise said he had spoken to UT Coach Lane Kiffin and some other UT coaches about the possibility of walking on for the Vols.

“I talked with coach Kiffin, as well as (QB coach) David Reaves and offensive co-ordinator Jim Chaney about the possibility of being a preferred walk-on,’’ he said. “Before Samford came into the picture, I was dead set on going to Tennessee. But something about Samford just attracted me and drew me toward making that decision."

It’s likely that as a 5-foot-11, 190-pound drop-back passer, many larger Division I schools passed on Wise. Schools are just used to recruiting bigger and faster quarterbacks these days, but Wise can draw inspiration from the Fran Tarkentons and Doug Fluties of the NCAA and NFL.

Wise, a Division II Mr. Football finalist last November, added his name alongside some of the great signal-callers in MBA history and led his team to a 23-2, two-year record.

After winning out in a four-way battle for starting honors in August 2007, he guided the Big Red to the state championship in Murfreesboro his junior year. The dream season was capped by a 12-0 finals win over Brentwood Academy as MBA finished 13-0.

In that season, Wise passed for 983 yards, hitting 77-of-142 (54.2 percent), six TDs and just two interceptions.

The past season, Wise had the top numbers in Nashville, passing for 2,011 yards and finishing as one of Nashville’s most accurate passers. He clicked for 70.2 percent (172-of-245), good for 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

A classic drop-back passer, Wise led MBA to a 10-2 finish and a state playoff semifinal berth before the Big Red lost to eventual champion Memphis University School.

“He is the smartest football player I have ever coached,’’ said Daniel McGugin about Wise, who was the full-time starter in McGugin’s first two years as Big Red coach.

Wise was at his best against the best. In the ESPN Classic last Labor Day weekend, Wise passed for 244 yards and one TD and ran for another in a 21-6 win over Cincinnati Moeller at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium, at the time lifting MBA to a 2-0 record.

“He has been a key factor in the huge amount of success we have enjoyed the past two years. Samford is getting a really outstanding player,’’ McGugin said.