Faton Bauta wears a yellow wristband on his left arm that reads, “I am a champion.”
The wristband doesn’t represent trophies or rings; it represents attitude. It represents the traits desired in a champion.
In spring he called himself the “baddest dude” on the field, and now he has the chance to prove it as he takes his place as the Colorado State starting quarterback.
With the team coming off an embarrassing loss to an in-state rival, some might expect the confident University of Georgia graduate transfer to rally the troops with a pump-up speech. That speech will not come.
Former Georgia Bulldog and current Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley taught Bauta how to be a leader, and a speech was not a part of the lesson.
“I used to be a believer in speeches and all that kind of stuff, but at this point in time all that stuff doesn’t really matter,” Bauta said. “I remember when I was at Georgia, just reflecting on that, Todd Gurley, we were pretty close when we were there; and the one thing I can tell you, is he never said a word of encouragement.”
“He was encouraging, but he never had to go out and be a ‘rah-rah’ guy,” he continued. “But a guy like him, he went out there and he played as hard as he could and just did everything he could and he produced every single minute he was on the field no matter what it was. And everybody saw that and latched onto it, followed it and said ‘lets go.’”
For Bauta, being a leader is not about being the guy to rally the troops with an inspirational speech. It’s not even about being the best on the field. Bauta wants to lead by example; be the hardest worker on the field and others will follow. That is the mentality Bauta wants to engrave in his teammates.
Bauta came off the sideline for a struggling Nick Stevens during the first game of the season to lead the team to their only touchdown. On Monday, Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo gave him the keys to the offense for week-two. Don’t expect Bauta to treat it any differently than he did last week as the backup.
“If I changed anything I did, I think the guys would pick it up and be like ‘he’s acting a little different because he’s the starter’ but you walk in and act like you’re the starter every day,” Buata said regarding his mental approach in preparation for UTSA. “I was taught that my freshman year in college from Aaron Murray (former starting quarterback at the University of Georgia)… It’s just you’re demeanor, you gotta make sure you’re the dude all the time…You don’t have to change who you are, what you’re trying to do. If you put on the same positive, encouraging message all the time you should be good.”
Being thrown into the starting role hasn’t changed the way Bauta approaches the game. He wants to give this team the same effort all the time, whether that be backing up the starter or being the first person to run onto the field. The approach states the same.
“It’s exciting but you’ve gotta treat it (the same as any other week),” Bauta said. “I don’t think I’m doing anything different than I did last week or any time before. Just trying to prepare as best I can and get ready for (UTSA).”
If Bauta didn’t have that approach, if he had been quietly waiting his turn, he probably wouldn’t have gotten it. Once he did get the call to become the starter, it became business as usual.
“(The coaches) let me know on Monday, and it was just like any other conversation,” Bauta said. “They just told me and I was like ‘great’. If something on my mind changed, then it would’ve been a problem, but the approach has to stay the same.”
Bauta has started one other time in his collegiate career. It came in 2015 against the No. 15 ranked Florida Gators, in a 27-3 loss.
Bauat finished that game 15 of 33 passing for 154 yards and four interceptions. He will be the first to tell you it wasn’t a good game.
“I think (it was) a learning experience for sure. That first experience was pretty awful, there is no sugar coating it at all, so try and take all the coaching points from that from what I can remember,” he said.” I might even go back and check it out, see if there is any little things, details and stuff, just for the quarterback position, not really play specific stuff, just to remember things.”
Bauta’s first start against the University of Florida is one he will want to forget a lot about, but still believes it was necessary. He doesn’t have a lot of experience as a starter, he understands that. He wants to take what he can from it, but at the end of the day football is football. Once you step onto the field just be ready to play.
“It helps a little bit, it’s a D-I college football game,” he said. “You get to go out there and be the quarterback for your team and this time you gotta lead them to a victory, so that’s a little different, but other than that it’s football, you don’t want to make it any more complicated than that. Just go out there and play some ball.”
The offense struggled mightily in their first test against the University of Colorado. It took until deep into the second quarter for them to get a first down. The team knows that, Bauta knows it.
Looking forward to UTSA, the offense needs to put up points. But based off last week’s showing, they will settle for a first down and work their way up.
“Just move the ball and get first downs and eventually you’ll end up in the endzone. You can’t really think about doing too much once you get out there, just a play at a time, keep it simple,” Bauta said. “It cant just be me thinking like that, it has to be everybody, cause then we’ll focus on each play as itself, next one, next one, end eventually you’ll find yourself a first down and another first down and then hopefully in the endzone where you wanna be.”
Bauta spent some time with the offense in week-one, and saw more success than redshirt junior Nick Stevens. Bauta didn’t necessarily earn this starting job against UTSA, it kind of fell into his lap. Stevens didn’t play well, and it is time to see if someone can add a spark.
Both players understand the change, and just want what is best for the team.
“It’s unfortunate, because it wasn’t just Nick (Stevens), it was everybody. We didn’t play well as a team, and that ended up in a pretty embarrassing score, a pretty embarrassing game for us,” Bauta said. “The coaches decision is the coaches decision, and I have to be there when the opportunity comes. I’m here; I’m ready to go.
“It hurt me as much as it hurt (Stevens) cause I wanna see everybody succeed, this is a team sport,” Bauta continued. “If I was a guy that said ‘yes, here I go’, when we’re down 40, you cant be like that. This is a team game. We were all hurting, but when I got my number called, my job is to get something going. If I can do that, great, if I cant I’m failing. I’m always by his side, I hope he’s by mine.”
Stevens mirrored Bauta’s thoughts.
“I’ve tried to approach it with a positive mindset,” Stevens said. “I think it can be really easy to get down, especially in a position where only one guy plays. I’m trying to stay positive, trying to help out wherever I can on the field at all times.”
As far as how the offense will perform under new guidance is yet to be determined, but it will look different.
Bauta and Stevens have different playing styles. Bauta utilizes his legs, where Stevens is more traditional. The offense will adjust, according to Bobo.
“We obviously gotta do some things differently, it’s a different style with our quarterback,” Bobo said. “But we still gotta run our offense. We gotta be able to throw the ball consistently. (Bauta) is not gonna be able to run the ball 20 times a game…it’s gotta be a change-up. We’ve gotta be able to do the things we do as far as the run and play-action, and then we’ve gotta be able to hit our targets on third downs.”
During his time with Bobo at Georgia, Buata has seen how he likes to run the offense. All he can do is go out and do what the coach asks.
“Coach Bobo is going to run his offense, and I’m going to do my best to run his ‘O’. The thing about coach Bobo that makes him great is that he doesn’t really follow the script,” Bauta said. “You just have to be ready for anything essentially because at the end of the day a defense can go out and do something totally different, so you just gotta be ready to play football.”
Bauta will get his chance to play football and better the CSU offense, and that’s all he wants to do. Just play football.
Collegian Sports Editor Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman