LUBBOCK, Texas — When Henry Colombi leads the Texas Tech offense onto the field against West Virginia Saturday, it will be the first game he’s started since he was in high school, in 2016.
Colombi spent three years at Utah State behind NFL-bound Jordan Love before transferring to Texas Tech, where he opened the first four games backing up Alan Bowman.
Saturday, Colombi finally gets the opportunity he’s waited more than three years for.
“Obviously it was a really emotional week for me and my family,” the quarterback said. “It’s been something that I’m strong in my faith about and I’m pretty blessed to be here.”
Of course, it won’t be Colombi’s first in-game action as Texas Tech’s quarterback. He replaced an injured Bowman against Kansas State and engineered a 21-point second half, giving the Red Raiders a brief lead in a game they’d eventually lose 31-21.
Bowman returned to start TTU’s next game at Iowa State, but after failing to generate any points he was benched for Colombi.
Despite only playing two drives to Bowman’s eight and attempting 10 fewer passes, Colombi threw for 18 more passing yards than Bowman and produced eight more points. He moved the chains methodically, a refreshing change from the lethargic offense of the game’s first 50 minutes.
After watching film of the game, Matt Wells decided to tab Colombi as the starter against West Virginia.
“I think Henry has come in and played well,” Wells said after announcing Colombi as the starter Monday. “I thought he was aggressive. I think he kind of jump-started the offense.”
Starting a game at quarterback is different from entering in the middle. The opposing defense watches film of the starter for a week, and coaches spend long nights trying to figure out how to confuse him and slow him down.
Colombi now has film on file from his time at Texas Tech that the Mountaineer staff has been dissecting, looking for weaknesses to exploit.
However, the preparation hasn’t been any different on Colombi’s side. He prepared hard for games as a backup, knowing that injury to the quarterback ahead of him could strike at any time.
“Since I’ve been backing up Jordan Love I kind of had the same mentality coming here,” Colombi said. “It’s always to prepare as you’re gonna be the starter because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Before Colombi’s big week, he took a trip home to Florida to visit his father, also named Henry, who is a football coach at American Heritage Delray High School in Delray Beach.
Colombi credits his father for molding him into the player he is today.
“He’s been there with me since the beginning. He’s really what made me into a football player. There were times where I wanted to quit and he kind of just kept pushing me through it,” he said.
The elder Colombi gave his son advice on how to deal with the pressure, downplaying the fact that it would be Colombi’s first collegiate start.
“It’s just going out and playing ball,” Colombi said his father’s message was. “It’s something we’ve been doing for a long time. And it’s not really letting the moment get to you, just going out and doing what you do.”
Keeping it low-key is something Colombi is used to.
He’s described as someone with a calm demeanor, rather than the type of quarterback who’s constantly trying to hype his guys up.
Still, he exudes self-confidence.
“He has a calmness about himself,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “He has a presence about himself. He believes in himself, in his ability.”
Colombi will not get to ease in against a soft defense. The Mountaineers are first in the nation in total defense, allowing just 240.3 yards per game. They feature two beastly brothers on their defensive line: Darius and Dante Stills, and have players who know what spots to be in.
Fortunately for Colombi, he’ll be running an offense that he’s familiar with. Colombi has ran the offense since 2017 when he was a freshman on Wells’ Utah State team, so he knows it as well.
After Colombi’s stint against Kansas State, Wells said that the staff didn’t change anything when Bowman gave way to Colombi. Yost said that will be the case against West Virginia as well.
“There’s a lot of the same stuff in how we would be attacking West Virginia’s defense,” Yost said about switching from Bowman to Colombi. “There’s not a lot of change between the two in that way.”
It’s a game three years in the making for Colombi, and it comes in a spot where his team desperately needs a win. Colombi has provided a spark off the bench for the Red Raiders twice, but being the starting quarterback is a different adventure altogether.
Saturday at 4:30, Red Raider Nation will see if he’s up for the challenge.