Charlotte 49ers quarterback Hasaan Klugh sought two things in his college football career – the opportunity to start, and the opportunity to win.
Klugh had those opportunities two years ago at N.C. A&T, but he was back on the sideline after three games.
Now with the 49ers, Klugh has earned another shot at starting and is making the most of it.
Klugh, a Concord native, will make his second start this season on Saturday, when Charlotte (2-4, 2-0) hosts Conference USA rival Florida International (2-4, 1-1) in its homecoming game at Richardson Stadium.
“All I ever wanted was an opportunity,” said Klugh, a redshirt sophomore. “You’ve got to seize the moment when the opportunities come, but they’re blessings, too.
“I knew my opportunity was going to come, but I knew that throughout the process if I was going to get a shot, I was going to have to be ready for that shot. So I tried to prepare myself, knowing that if I ever got my shot I had to show I could play quarterback.”
Showed promise at N.C. A&T
Klugh’s athletic ability was apparent to college recruiters when he was at Central Cabarrus High.
As a starter, Klugh had a 19-6 record (including a school-record 11-2 season in 2013) with the Vikings. He made the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team after passing for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns his senior year.
That led to more than a half-dozen scholarship offers. Among them was Charlotte, which Klugh said was the first to offer.
Klugh opted to attend N.C. A&T, primarily because the 49ers had an offer accepted by quarterback Brooks Barden.
“I was very thankful for (Charlotte’s) offer, and I was going to commit here,” Klugh said. “Then I figured out that spot was taken up. But I saw it as a good thing, because God works things out in his own mysterious ways.”
As a freshman at N.C. A&T in 2014, Klugh was the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Kwashaun Quick. When Quick was injured late in the first half against Howard, Klugh replaced him, leading the Aggies to a 38-22 win.
Klugh started N.C. A&T’s next three games. The first game was a 13-0 loss to S.C. State, but he won his next two starts (against Hampton and Delaware State).
But when Quick returned, Klugh was back on the sideline. He took just a handful of snaps in one more game.
Klugh insists that didn’t play a role in his decision to transfer to Charlotte. Rather, it was the chance to play closer to his family, he said.
“It was my opportunity to step up and play,” Klugh said of his time at N.C. A&T. “I was just a freshman at the time, and they gave me the chance. But being here at Charlotte was better for me, just being back home.”
Watching, learning from sideline
Because of NCAA transfer rules, Klugh sat out the 49ers’ 2015 season.
He could practice, work out, attend meetings, all the other things teammates were doing to prepare for the next opponent. However, Klugh watched from the sideline on gameday.
“I actually saw it as a good thing,” Klugh said. “It gave me a chance to actually learn some things. I learned some things about my mechanics, I learned about the plays, and even got into my schoolwork more. It helped me learn to be a better player and a better quarterback overall.”
When the 49ers’ spring drills began in April, Klugh established himself as the No. 2 quarterback behind junior-college transfer Kevin Olsen in a competition that included 2015 starters Barden and Lee McNeill, and graduate-student transfer Cody Keith.
‘He was always prepared’
With Olsen as the starter, Klugh saw spot duty in Charlotte’s first five games.
He made the most of those opportunities. Klugh ran for a team-best 62 yards in Charlotte’s win against Elon, and he threw two touchdown passes in a loss to Eastern Michigan the next week.
With the 49ers’ offense and Olsen struggling, Charlotte coach Brad Lambert shook things up, naming Klugh the starter for Sunday’s Conference USA game at Florida Atlantic.
“That’s the thing about Hasaan I’ve always admired - the way he’s approached every day, whether it’s the scout team or competing for the (starting) job,” Lambert said. “He was always prepared. He was always doing extra work and studying. That’s what set him up to be ready when he got the call.”
Klugh delivered, throwing for 233 yards (the most by a 49ers quarterback this season) and three touchdowns. He ran for another score in Charlotte’s 28-23 win, its first-ever in Conference USA.
“That first start, there were a few nerves,” Klugh said. “But I knew the team; they were behind me. That got me fired up to play.”
Klugh said he wants to help deliver another win Saturday, simply because of what he witnessed on the field and in the locker room after beating Florida Atlantic.
“That was amazing,” Klugh said. “Seeing the guy’s smiles, seeing them happy, seeing those guys feeling like they had a sense of relief. It’s going to be a huge part of our season now.
“They know how to win now. They know the feeling of winning, and that’s the best thing I took out of that game.”