Former MAC quarterbacks Maxwell, Reese find home, success with unbeaten IUP
Quarterbacks of Lenny Williams’ ilk don’t come along every day. During his time at IUP, the Sto-Rox product was one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in Division II, rushing for 2,787 yards and throwing for 8,189 while accounting for more than 100 touchdowns.
So in the first season of the post-Williams era, Crimson Hawks coach Paul Tortorella sought a more traditional pocket passer rather than conduct a likely futile search for the next dual-threat sensation. He got two: redshirt senior Quinton Maxwell and graduate transfer Jalen Reese.
Through IUP’s first four games, Maxwell has thrown for 935 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Reese has 340 yards, six touchdowns — four in a win over Lock Haven — and no interceptions.
“We were excited about bringing in a bigger guy who could help us in our middle-of-the-field, down-the-field pass game,” said Tortorella, whose team enters Saturday’s key PSAC West game against 3-1 Cal (Pa.) undefeated. “The thing that was kind of positive was, where both of them came from, their systems are very similar to what we were looking to get into.”
Reese (Toledo) and Maxwell (Ohio) spent their first four seasons in the Mid-American Conference, and Tortorella’s search for a quarterback coincided with their search for a new school.
Maxwell (6-foot-3, 229 pounds) appeared in 16 games over three seasons with the Bobcats, making eight starts. But when he saw his path to a regular gig was going to be blocked again, he entered his name in the transfer portal.
“I didn’t feel like I was going to be given the opportunity to play, and I felt the clock on my career was ticking off,” said Maxwell, a native of Missouri. “They had their guy, and decisions were made and I just had to do what was best.”
Reese (6-3, 180), meanwhile, didn’t see any game action in his first three seasons with the Rockets. When he did get on the field during his redshirt senior year, it was only to hold for field goals and extra points — save for one rushing attempt.
Much of the Mansfield, Ohio, native’s time was spent behind Alabama transfer Phillip Ely and Logan Woodside, who has had stints with with the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans. Like Maxwell, Reese was looking for a chance to finally get on the field.
“I just wanted to go to a program that was going to give me the best opportunity to play,” he said.
Though each knew of the other during their time in the MAC, they didn’t have a personal connection. That changed quickly.
Reese arrived at IUP first, having graduated in the spring, and got the starting reps in practice. Once Maxwell came on board for fall camp, he was named the starter based on, Tortorella said, his playing experience at Ohio.
Still, Reese was given the opportunity to vie for the job. Tortorella said both approached the competition — and its outcome — with maturity.
The symbiotic relationship between the two was apparent immediately. It was the first play of the first series of the Crimson Hawks’ season-opener against New Haven, and Tortorella told Reese to watch every play like he was in the game and to be ready to give Maxwell information when he came off the field.
“He was all over it,” Tortorella said. “It’s different if you have a redshirt freshman standing there watching. I’m not sure what he’s going to be able to tell you. But having two fifth-year seniors … I think is a tremendous asset. They’re both very bright … and really know the offense.”
Said Maxwell: “I’ll come off the field, and he’ll say, ‘You might have had this.’ We’re always trying to get the best out of each other. Since Day 1 at camp, we’ve been really good about that: seeing what one guy saw and maybe (he) saw it a little differently.”
Tortorella said Reese could start for many PSAC teams and added he is “very comfortable” with him as the backup. Maxwell seconded that notion, saying the expectations don’t change when Reese is directing the offense.
For his part, Reese is ecstatic to get meaningful minutes.
“What my dad always told me is: You have to bet on yourself,” said Reese, who is working toward his master’s in business administration. “That’s what I was doing when I was looking for a place to play. Ultimately, that’s what I was able to do in the early season.”
Maxwell and Reese hope to lead No. 19 IUP to the NCAA playoffs. The Crimson Hawks face their two most important games over the next two weeks against Cal and at No. 10 Slippery Rock.
The prospect of finishing their careers in the postseason is exciting. But, like their competition to start, Reese and Maxwell are taking nothing for granted.
“Like we said from the time we came into fall camp, we can’t be worried about winning the PSAC,” Reese said. “One-and-0 each day. One-and-0 each week. And that will set us up for success just staying in the moment.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .