Van Gorden transfers to Azusa Pacific |

Van Gorden transfers to Azusa Pacific

Steve Yingling

Mikey Van Gorden has been a quarterback since his Pop Warner playing days in South Lake Tahoe and living in sunny California for as long as he can remember.

A year without each of those staples of life influenced South Tahoe High’s most prolific quarterback to date to make a few changes.

The 2004 Northern Nevada 4A All-League quarterback has transferred from Montana State University to Azusa Pacific in Southern California. Along with the change of address, Van Gorden switched back to his natural position – quarterback.

Van Gorden redshirted last season at Montana State while converting to wide receiver. But Van Gorden became irritated that the Bobcat coaching staff didn’t give him at least a shot at QB and he never could get used to the Montana lifestyle. As a senior at STHS, Van Gorden tossed a Northern Nevada 4A record 27 touchdown passes. He spent most of his redshirt season as a piece of the scout offense.

“It was a little bit different,” said Van Gorden, who received a championship ring for Montana State’s 2005 Big Sky Conference co-title. “People went hunting every day, and people on the team would do it between classes, practices and things,” Van Gorden said.

Chances of playing in future games looked grim from Van Gorden’s vantage point, so he didn’t delay making a change.

“I didn’t want to waste two years of eligibility when I didn’t need to,” he said. “It was a lot different from high school ball. Everything was faster and you have to be stronger, bigger, faster and better. I learned a lot, but I just wanted to play quarterback.”

Van Gorden settled on Azusa Pacific because the Cougars welcomed him as a quarterback and the school offered a curriculum in graphic design.

The transfer from a NCAA Division I-A to a NAIA school means Van Gorden won’t need to sit out the season. But the 11th-ranked Cougars are well-stocked behind center, meaning there will be little chance for immediate playing time.

“This year is especially going to be a huge learning year,” Van Gorden said. “It’s nice being behind center again; it feels more natural.”

Cougars’ incumbent quarterback Rudy Carlton, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound grad student from Denver, has helped Van Gorden relearn the position’s fundamentals and understand the offense.

“It took a while for everything to slow down and it took a while to adjust to the speed, but I’m definitely getting it back,” Van Gorden said. “Everything is starting to flow and I’m feeling more confident every day.”

The Cougars’ roster includes six quarterbacks, four of whom are either freshmen or sophomores. If Van Gorden has an edge on any of them at this point, it’s his foot speed. He’s the fastest QB on the team.

Azusa Pacific is also home to former South Tahoe High catcher A.J. Russo. Russo chose Azusa Pacific after a big sophomore season at Yuba College.

Van Gorden stepped out of the pocket for one season and he didn’t like the look of his new life.

Change can be a good thing.

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