Sept. 6, 2008
Patience Pays Off For Osborn
He's been listed as one of the top five high school athletes to ever come out of the state of Iowa. He set state records by passing for 3,254 yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior at Harlan High School. He led his team to state championships in baseball, football and basketball. He is Northwest Missouri State quarterback Joel Osborn.
Osborn and the Cyclones won their final 17 games in capturing the 3A state baseball championship in the summer of 2003. Harlan continued that streak of wins throughout its undefeated football and basketball seasons that fall and winter, upping the total number of consecutive wins between the three sports to 57. Harlan Athletics Director Mitch Osborn, Joel's father, must've been proud.
Osborn came close to throwing more touchdown passes in three years than former University of Iowa quarterback Matt Sherman had thrown in four, yet when it came down to choosing a college, Osborn didn't choose Division I. He chose Northwest Missouri State.
"I was trying to find a place I could play both football and basketball," said Osborn. "I wanted to be able to compete for a national title and that's what Northwest has been able to offer."
Osborn played 29 games for the Bearcats' basketball team as a freshman during the 2004-05 season and finished as the team's fifth-leading scorer. In his third collegiate game, he set a program record by hitting eight 3-pointers.
"We had a playoff game in football the night before," said Osborn. "All my teammates came to watch and I wanted to impress them. I just happened to be hot that night."
Osborn redshirted the 2004 football season. In 2005, the Bearcats advanced to the national championship game played Dec. 10. One-fourth of the men's basketball schedule had already been complete and Osborn decided to focus on football.
The 2005 football season was Josh Lamberson's senior year. Josh Mathews beat out Osborn for the starting role in 2006 and led the Bearcats' to a second championship game. When Osborn began his junior year in 2007, he'd thrown 41 collegiate passes.
"There were times during my sophomore year that I was selfish and considered transferring, and it's natural because you want to be out there competing," said Osborn. "It didn't take long to realize this was the only program in the nation I wanted to play for."
Osborn stayed and his opportunity came in game two of last year after Mathews had suffered a concussion in the opener. In his first collegiate start, and against Missouri Western, Osborn passed for 287 yards and two scores in a 44-20 win. His first four possessions resulted in touchdowns, giving the Bearcats a 28-0 cushion.
"What would've happened if I hadn't been there when Josh was hurt," said Osborn. "I'd have been kicking myself. I stayed and it worked out for the best."
Osborn's performance forced head coach Mel Tjeerdsma to employ a two-quarterback system. Mathews played the first two series and Osborn went out for the third.
"It was tough sometimes," said Osborn. "I remember Josh had two really good series against Central Missouri and gave us a 14-0 lead. I came in and we went three-and-out and the momentum shifted. I didn't go in the rest of the game."
Osborn was 4-of-5 the following week at Fort Hays State and had thrown three passes in the Bearcats' homecoming contest with Washburn when Mathews was knocked out of the game late in the second quarter. Osborn orchestrated the comeback and won it on a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright on fourth down in the game's final minute.
Osborn took nearly every snap in Northwest's final six games of 2007. He threw for 299 yards in the Bearcats' first playoff game against West Texas A&M and was 20-of-25 for 238 yards against Grand Valley State. Osborn took advantage of his opportunities and it led him to a championship game.
"Joel was ready to go when Josh went down and he was ready to be our starter," said Tjeerdsma. "He's relentless in his preparation for games and can't wait for game day so he can execute.
"But the most impressive thing about Joel is his character, confidence and leadership that even overshadow his athletic abilities. He's taken real ownership in our football team and he feels it's his responsibility to get things done on and off the field."
Osborn's wait is over. His year has arrived. And while he likely won't duplicate the numbers he posted as a senior in high school, his teammates and the Northwest fans will certainly enjoy watching him try.
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