| The Detroit News
It didn’t take much for Mel Tucker to be convinced on which quarterback he was going after in 2021.
While still at Colorado, Tucker and Jay Johnson took a liking to a 6-foot-6 quarterback from Fort Worth, Texas, without the benefit of seeing him play all that much quarterback.
As a sophomore at Aledo High in 2018, Hamp Fay was starting at wide receiver while serving as the backup quarterback for a team that won the Texas 5A championship. The next season, he transferred to All Saints Episcopal and started the first three games at quarterback before a torn labrum ended his junior season.
That was all it took, though, for Tucker and Johnson — Michigan State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the same role he held at Colorado — to be sold.
Fay was their guy.
“You have to trust your eyes and all of the tape that you have,” Tucker said.
The Spartans managed to get Fay on campus last March, just before COVID-19 led to the end of campus visits, and secured his commitment in April. By December, Fay had signed, and in January, he was back on campus, doing his best to adjust to the snow and cold weather.
“It’s definitely colder here, a lot more than I thought,” Fay said. “I wear a couple more jackets than usual.”
Dealing with a new climate has proven to be one of the easiest obstacles Fay has had to tackle the last couple of years. After getting past the shoulder injury and the surgery needed to repair it, he embarked on a COVID-shortened senior season, his commitment to Michigan State in his back pocket.
It was a solid year as Fay completed 59.9% of his passes (109-for-182) for 1,450 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for another touchdown as his All Saints’ team lost in the state semifinals.
Not long after that, the focus shifted to getting ready to head North and jump into a quarterback room that underwent some significant changes just as Fay was signing his letter of intent. Graduate transfer Anthony Russo had joined the team followed by the departure of Rocky Lombardi, last year’s starter and Michigan State’s most experienced quarterback.
To say the landscape had changed would be an understatement. The quarterback room now is full of players believing they can be the guy, including redshirt freshman Payton Thorne, who played well late last season and got his first career start. Add in sophomore Theo Day and freshman Noah Kim, and there’s plenty of competition in the room.
Fay, however, is relishing his early time with his fellow signal-callers and is thriving on the atmosphere.
“With all the other quarterbacks in the room, we’re just all competing together,” Fay said. “No one talks about it but you feel that tension in the quarterback room, trying to beat each other and just compete in general. It’s a fun environment. There’s a lot of pressure, but you just got to stay calm, cool and collected. It’s been fun to work with them.”
It’s that competitive drive that drew Tucker and Johnson to Fay, who injured his shoulder diving for the corner of the end zone in a game, laying himself out there for the extra yard instead of playing it safe.
“I think it’s just the competitive aspect that I demonstrated in high school,” Fay said. “Whatever the circumstance may be, with everything that we’ve been given, there’s no excuses to where we can’t go out and win. If we’ve got COVID or whatever it is, whatever it may be, the team looks to me just because I have that competitive aspect and the drive to go win.
“I think that’s something that they’re looking for, and especially the quarterback because I know coach Tucker wants his quarterback to be the most competitive guy on the field. And so that’s what I feel like they’re looking for in me.”
Fay is doing his best to bring that competitive drive not only to learning the playbook and throwing with some of his new teammates, he’s also doing it in the weight room. He admitted he was sore after the first few workouts with strength coach Jay Novak, but relished the atmosphere.
“In the weight room every day I do a pretty good job of making it feel like we’re in a game,” Fay said, “and like we’re going out and competing.”
When he’s away from the football facilities, Fay has been doing his best to transition into college life. He is getting to know his new teammates and has the benefit of enrolling early with fellow Texas native, tight end Kam Allen.
He did admit to missing his dogs and said reality hit the first time he had to do his own laundry.
“I had to call my mom and make sure I was doing everything correctly,” Fay said.
“So that’s when it kind of hit me.”
By the time Michigan State begins spring practice March 23, Fay hopes he will have already become accustomed to life in the Big Ten, and that his teammates and coaches understand his commitment.
“I think it’s just taking advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me, whether it’s in the weight room, in meetings, just small, little interactions,” Fay said. “Just win each moment, as small as it is. I’ve got to gain their confidence and their trust in me. I’ve got to be able to do that and demonstrate that every day in the offseason, throughout the summer and leading up into the season.”
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