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From the Group Chat to the Gridiron: AAC Quarterbacks Face Off IRL

Tulane’s Michael Pratt and UTSA’s Frank Harris met at the Manning Passing Academy and took their friendship off the field and into a G5 quarterback group chat.

Tulane’s Michael Pratt and UTSA’s Frank Harris joke around at AAC Media Day.
Emily Van Buskirk

The American Athletic Conference championship heats up even more this weekend as UTSA travels to the Big Easy to do battle with #24 Tulane. Meanwhile, 500 miles west, SMU prepares to fend off Navy in an attempt to secure its own path to conference glory.

But the UTSA-Tulane matchup isn’t just about two teams vying for a conference title or the AAC’s best tackler (UTSA’s Trey Moore) lining up against an offensive line that has seen its QB sacked only 12 times this season. It’s also about the friendship between the two quarterbacks that sparked a movement amongst several G5 gunslingers - a joining of forces by college football’s Davids in their respective battles against various Goliaths.

UTSA quarterback Frank Harris and Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt’s friendship began like most friendships – with a common interest.

“It really all started at Manning Passing Academy, which is such a great event, such a good opportunity for all of us to meet each other and share some experiences and knowledge,” said Pratt. “And we have all stayed in touch, especially all the G5 guys – me, Frank Harris, Seth Henigan, also Austin Reed who is in Conference USA.”

The Roadrunners QB confirmed the origin story.

“We all went to Manning Camp, we’re all G5 quarterbacks, we kind of hit it off like that,” Harris verified. “Coming to a new conference, I heard a lot about Michael Pratt – I call him Mike Money. So I kind of knew who he was, I knew who Austin Reed was, and of course I knew who Seth was. You have a ton of respect for those guys, playing against them over the years.”

And the respect is well-deserved for a group that quietly puts up numbers comparable to more talked-about quarterbacks from bigger conferences. Group of Five QB’s makeup 32% of the top-25 nationally in completion percentage, with Pratt, Henigan and UAB quarterback Jacob Zeno all in the top 20.

Both Pratt and Harris struggled with injuries at the start of the season, causing them to miss several games. But both QB’s came back with a vengeance, leading their squads to 10-1 and 8-3, respectively.

Now, Harris is one of only 15 FBS quarterbacks in history to pass for more than 400 yards and rush for 100-plus in the same game – a feat he accomplished in last week’s 49-21 victory over South Florida. And Pratt, or “Mike Money” as Harris refers to him, became Tulane’s career passing yards leader with his three-touchdown, 252-yard game against FAU.

“I’m not going to make any bold statements, but there are a lot of really great quarterbacks in G5, guys we talked about – Austin, Frank, Seth, Grayson McCall, Carter Bradley, there’s a lot of really talented guys,” emphasized Pratt.

Michael Pratt and Seth Henigan at AAC Media Days
Emily Van Buskirk

Even the younger QBs know. Just ask Temple quarterback E.J. Warner.

“A lot of talented quarterbacks in this league and I think seeing it with the stats and then the quarterbacks drafted over the years out of this conference – it’s a high-level of football and a lot of explosive offenses led by these quarterbacks,” Warner told UDD.

Warner, son of legendary quarterback Kurt, currently leads the conference in passing, averaging 305.1 yards per game and boasting the fourth-most touchdowns (21). He admits that studying his conference mates film helps make him a better QB.

“I’ve watched a lot of Seth Henigan from Memphis just because he started as true freshman too,” shared Warner. “He’s a very cerebral quarterback - you can tell how smart he is. Even our defensive guys talk about how smart he was against them. I watch Frank Harris as well, one of the shorter quarterbacks like myself so its been cool to kind of support him - we are both listed at six feet. I met him at media day, he seems cool.”

Pratt’s nickname for Henigan is ‘Seth Himigan,’ which checks out. The Green Wave gunslinger also had some words of wisdom for Warner.

“I would tell him to do exactly what he is doing right now, watching the film,” shared Pratt. “Also it’s cool how we connect – I would tell him to reach out to all the guys, ask some questions, ask them what they did to take the next step from freshman to sophomore, sophomore to junior year and really just dial in on those little details.”

E.J. Warner and Michael Pratt at AAC Media Day.

Sounds like Pratt has tasked Warner with forming the next generation of G5 quarterback friendships. The junior from Boca Raton, FL even shared a snippet of what life inside the group chat looks like.

“Oh it’s all over the place,” chuckled Pratt. “There’s football stuff obviously, we talk about golf, fishing all kinds of stuff. I haven’t played golf with or seen any of them play, but they do play. I’ve been getting my golf game up – we will have to plan for that in the spring, get a little G5 quarterback golf tournament going. That would be awesome.”

G5 quarterbacks – they’re just like us!

Pratt and Harris face off Friday for, basically, the fate of the AAC. They may walk on the field foes but they will walk off the gridiron as friends. Although Harris wants him to know, he’s lucky the Green Wave aren’t traveling to Texas.

“Austin Reed told Pratt ‘yall are lucky you are not going to the Dome,’ it’s a nice venue and it gets real rowdy,” Harris said with his trademark smile. “I love playing there.”

UTSA kicks off against Tulane at Yulman Stadium at 3:30 pm E.T. on Friday. The Green Wave enter the game a 3.5 point favorite.