Q&A With Nevada Quarterback Cody Fajardo
Nevada junior quarterback Cody Fajardo is quietly following NFL sensation and former Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps as an offensive threat, leader, and winner. The exciting dual-threat playcaller helped lead Nevada to a 7-5 regular season record and a bowl game berth. With the pistol as his weapon, Fajardo completed 67% of his passes for 2,786 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns last season. Even more impressive was the damage he did on the ground, finishing with 1,121 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 6-2, 210-pounder is preparing for his third season as a starter, and his potential only grows as he has appropriately filled the shoes of a Super Bowl quarterback despite flying under the radar as a recruit.
I was lucky enough to talk to Cody and ask him a few questions about the team, himself, and his future.
Q: I’ve had some arguments over this before with some friends and I want to clear up the confusion once and for all. Do you or do you not pronounce the J in your last name?
Fajardo: Ah, everybody always asks me that. So, I have a Spanish background, so technically it’s Fa-har-do and you don’t pronounce the J. But, since so many people have butchered my name over the years, I’ve figured out that it’s just easier for people to say Fa-jar-do with a hard J for some reason.
Q: Which game would you say last season best defines your overall talent as a player?
Fajardo: I’d have to go with the Cal game or the Arizona game, both of them being Pac-12 opponents. You know the Cal game, playing away first game, we don’t even know how good this team is and we just went out and shocked the world. We just kind of showed how the pistol offense works, how it works to my advantage, and how beneficial I am in that system.
Q: What would you say was the most significant thing you took away from last season?
Fajardo: I’d have to go with film study. The year before that I was terrible at watching film and I realized it affected my play on the field. So this past year I tried to watch more film and put more hours in and I saw a lot more different things which helped me play a little bit better, and so this year I hope to get even more time in the film room and get even better. You know my first year you’re kind of just watching film and I’m like “oh hey I know that guy, oh hey I know that guy, oh that guy is good” but really this past year I was like “Okay they’re running this defense, they’re throwing blitzes on third downs” so my film watching became more situational other than just being impressed by watching film.
Q: What have you personally concentrated on most this offseason in preparing for next year?
Fajardo: Well I go by “bigger, faster, stronger,” so that’s my three things. If I can get bigger, faster, and stronger then you know it will help me out on the field in every situation. So I’ve done it all from running on the beach to dropbacks in the water in crashing waves with Coach Steve Calhoun, the quarterback coach at Orange County, and he’s done a tremendous job with me. And as far as up here in Nevada, I’ve just been running out here, our weight training coach, Coach Eck, he’s been doing a great job putting me through quarterback programs to build my arm strength and all those little muscles in my shoulder. So I’ve just been doing it all. Also I feel like I need to be more of a vocal leader now that I have two years under my belt, and a lot of guys look up to me on the team, so I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone and start leading guys, and hopefully take them to a great season.
Q: Can you explain how OC Nick Rolovich has influenced and helped develop your overall game and mindset?
Fajardo: Well first of all, Nick Rolovich is the man. You know he almost left us for Temple, and I probably called him 10-15 times one night, just trying to get him back, and when he said he was coming back I was so happy. He’s a great person and coach, and as a player in the run and shoot offense he’s thrown for over 5,000 yards, he threw more touchdowns in one game than I had in my first year. He had eight touchdown passes against BYU in one game, and I had six my first year, and I was like holy crap. So you know the guy that coaches you and that has been successful at the D-1 level, you just have that much more respect for the guy because you know he went through the same thing you have. I listen to everything he tells me, especially pass-game wise, he’s not exactly used to the run-game stuff, so I help him out with that while he helps me out with the passing.
Q: How will the loss of Stefphon Jefferson impact next year’s offense?
Fajardo: I think a lot more pressure will probably be on me in the run game. We have a lot of running backs, but no big name standout guy like Stefphon. A lot of teams might say “hey just let this running back beat us and let’s take the quarterback out of the game” So as far as our offense goes, I can’t really say much because I don’t know how every team is going to play us, but were definitely losing a guy who ran for 1,000+ yards and 400-something carries, it’s gonna hurt the team, but the running backs we got now, I have all the faith in them. We got a JC guy who just came in who did a really great job in the spring, but you know any running back in this offense is gonna succeed just because how the system is built. So all we got to do is get the line going and we’ll be alright.
Q: What are your expectations for the team next year? Have you made any personal goals for yourself?
Fajardo: As far as personal goals I haven’t thought about it season-wise. I just set a goal each day, and just get better at one little thing each day. When you start having these extreme goals and you don’t reach them, it’s kind of a shot at your confidence. So by setting these reachable goals every day you start to feel better about yourself.
As far as the team goes, you know we got a tough schedule. We open against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, which is pretty awesome for a lot of our guys because a lot of us are from LA. Florida State is going to be another tough one, flying all the way out to Tallahassee. You know we don’t exactly know what to expect, were just going into the offseason trying to get bigger, faster, stronger like I said before and just let the football take care of itself.
Q: Of course it comes with the territory, but due to your success and similar style many have started comparing you to former Wolf Pack QB Colin Kaepernick — clearly a compliment that comes with high expectations. Have you been able to reach out to Colin for advice or anything?
Fajardo: A little bit, he comes around and I talk to him, and he’s an awesome guy as well. I texted him the day of the Super Bowl actually I think it was like eleven o’clock, and the game was at one or two or something like that, and he texted me back within minutes, and I was like “holy crap.” He’s got the Super Bowl on his mind and was able to take the time to text me back just to say “thank you,” but to me that really showed a lot about his character and made me respect him a lot more. And while he was here, my first year, I was probably annoying with how many questions I asked him, but you know he never seemed too annoyed or too ticked off with me so we have a pretty good relationship. Whenever he comes back he helps me out and you know I ask him questions and he’s a good little mentor for me. He’s really a great leader and when we did well in 2010, he led that team all the way down to the end, you know the good, bad, and ugly he was there for the team, so I think the leadership aspect is what I took most away from him. Just the way he carried himself, the way he talked to the guys on the team, if he’s yelling at you he’s just trying to bring you up and bring confidence in you.
Q: What next steps do you think you need to take in your game to compete at the next level?
Fajardo: Probably in the passing game. In the NFL there’s not so many running quarterbacks, but they’re trying to transition to a running quarterback, which will help me out as well, but you got to prove yourself as a passer since you’re a quarterback that’s what you do — you throw the ball. I feel like the film study will help me become a better passer as well, and that’s my main focus. With Coach Rolovich coming in and instilling some of his Hawaii offense packages we’ll be pretty good passing-wise and we should be pretty dynamic.
Q: I think you’ve scored enough touchdowns to earn a nickname; did the team give you one yet?
Fajardo: No not really, we’re not really big on nicknames. You know there’s “Johnny Football” and like “Optimus Klein,” the only thing I’ve ever heard was “Cody the Kid” because we run the Pistol Offense in reference to “Billy the Kid,” but that’s the only thing I’ve ever heard.
Q: Next year you have notable matchups against UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State, Boise State, Fresno State, San Jose State, and BYU, is there any team in particular you’re looking most forward to playing against?
Fajardo: It’d have to be UCLA. I can’t overlook that game. It’ll be tremendous especially because I’m from that area. You know maybe I’m a little bitter about them not offering me or taking any time for me because I’m right there in their backyard. So I don’t want to go out there and try to do too much, but it would be awesome to go out and beat them in their own stadium on opening day. If we can do that then it’s our next game and that’ll be UC Davis, then after that game it will be Florida State, so I’m not really looking forward to one particular game other than UCLA, it’s just that next game that we play will be the one I’m looking forward to.