CLEMSON - Cliff Stoudt couldn't help tearing up as he read the stories of his son's long-anticipated promotion and tried to comprehend the gravity of his accomplishment.
Cole Stoudt, starting quarterback, Clemson University. After three years of patience, three years of waiting his turn. An exercise Cliff knows a little something about.
"It's been very, very exciting. Haven't gotten bored with it yet," Cliff Stoudt said Wednesday, hours after Cole Stoudt's first individual press conference at Clemson. "We're just really happy for Cole that things have finally worked out to where it looks like he's going to get his day in the sun."
During a 22-minute session with reporters, Cole kept his cool, uttering controversy-free answers and acknowledging there's much more work to do before he leads the Tigers into the 2014 season opener Aug. 30 at Georgia - including holding off touted freshman Deshaun Watson in fall camp.
Stoudt's buddy and predecessor, Tajh Boyd, had a way with words in front of media members, wearing his heart on his sleeve. That's just not Stoudt's natural style.
"I've always been a listener," Stoudt said. "I've always been coachable. That's what helped with my success. I listen to what the coaches say and I don't say anything against them."
For all the comparisons people will draw from Stoudt to his father, who played 15 years of professional football, Cole's steady-Eddie demeanor shouldn't be among them.
"Yeah, he gets that from his mom (Laura.) I play it a little more like (John) McEnroe," Cliff Stoudt said with a hearty laugh, comparing himself to the famously feisty tennis legend.
"Ever since Cole started playing quarterback in seventh grade, I think he tried to emulate his older brother, who was very calm out on the football field."
Cliff's not nearly as intense in his teachings, and Cole hangs on every word his dad tells him.
"He's just a dad. He wants me to be the best I can be," Cole said. "I just do whatever he says about throwing, and I've never argued with him about it. He's the one who taught me how to be coachable, to relax and have some fun."
Cole, 21, is the youngest of Cliff and Laura's three children. Zack, 24, was recruited to Pittsburgh but finished his football and academic career at Ole Miss, while sister Cydnei, 27, played one year of college basketball at UNC-Wilmington and now lives in Washington, D.C., where she's married to a U.S. Army captain.
When Zack was a senior quarterback at Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio, Cole was a freshman. He took over as quarterback when Zack graduated.
Three years a starter in high school, three years a backup in college, and Stoudt's been known to not say more than he necessarily needs to.
"He's a laid-back guy," Clemson wide receiver Adam Humphries said, "easy to get along with."
"I'm very impressed with how even-keeled he is. Although you can't mistake that for him not being intensely competitive with an absolute hatred for losing," Cliff said.
"He keeps that hidden. He is very competitive, yet he does it the right way."
Stoudt was born in Greenville, growing up not far from Clemson. The Stoudts moved away when Cole was 3, but Cliff and Laura returned to the upstate from Ohio two years ago, and Zack plans to move to Greenville soon.
The list of Stoudt's mentors is short. Boyd and the Clemson coaches have had a large impact, but of course, an NFL dad gives him yet another voice of experience. The Stoudts routinely watch game film together in Cliff's living room on Cole's team-issued iPad.
"That's another very helpful thing," Cole said, "that we have another brain inside the house where he can speak the same football language to me."
This is where the narrative will be written between Cole and Cliff. If Cole thought the 40-game wait behind Boyd was long, he can't complain much to dad. Cliff spent 12 of his 15 years in the NFL and USFL as an understudy.
Most notably, Stoudt was Terry Bradshaw's backup for six years with the Pittsburgh Steelers - a stretch that included the third and fourth of Bradshaw's Super Bowl victories - before Bradshaw's injury gave Stoudt a chance in 1983.
"We have always talked about that you want to be the guy, and you're always one play away, so you have to be ready," Cliff said. "You're not going to get the reps in practice, so mentally you have to practice like you're going to be the starter."
With Boyd entrenched as Clemson's starter from 2011-13, Cole Stoudt accepted his backup role but refused to stay complacent.
He's completed 72.3 percent of his passes in sporadic duty during 22 games, with eight touchdowns, one interception, and the second-highest career passing rating in school history - trailing only Boyd.
With Boyd bound for the NFL, Stoudt was the presumed favorite to replace him. He was named the starter upon Chad Kelly's dismissal from the team April 14, and after beating out the younger Watson with a strong spring.
"Patience is something I had to develop when I got here. I knew since the day I came here, my time was going to come," Stoudt said. "I didn't know when it was going to come; I just knew it was going to. Now that it's here, patience has been a huge virtue. I don't regret any of it. I'm really happy with everything here, and it's going to be great."
Clemson backup quarterback Cole Stoudt calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday against South Carolina State, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.(AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)×
Photo provided Cole Stoudt with parents Cliff and Laura.×
Cole Stoudt with his parents Cliff and Laura at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Photo provided×