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Jason Bean, Lance Leipold Reflect on KU QB’s Legacy after Guaranteed Rate Bowl MVP Performance

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By Michael Swain

 

PHOENIX, Ariz. (247Sports.com) – Jason Bean was a popular man after KU football’s 49-36 win over UNLV in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. It was a much different scene than the one Bean was a part of nearly 365 days ago. But a tough decision, followed by hours of work in the dark and the ability to be ready for the moment allowed Bean to complete the full circle and achieve redemption. Oh, and he made history along the way, too.

Flash back to Memphis, Tenn. on December 28, 2022, shortly after 8:50 p.m. local time. Bean had just walked off the field after his attempted pass on a two-point conversion fell incomplete, cementing KU’s 55-53 loss to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl. Up until that moment, Bean expected the bowl game to be his final one in college. But the game ended on a sour note and the quarterback had blame heaped upon him in the immediate aftermath.

Bean didn’t like the way it ended, so he elected to return to KU for a final season. Except in doing so he cemented that he would be backing up the eventual Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in Jalon Daniels. Little did he know that he would be the one tasked with leading KU for 10 of KU’s 13 games during the 2023 season.

“You’ve heard me say it many times, probably one of the most improved football players on our team the last two fall camps, it was Jason Bean,” Leipold said. “So to see it come together and him have that opportunity, and never once — and I’ve said this before — never once did he ever have bad body language and mope around that he didn’t get an opportunity or come in my office and talk about why he doesn’t get a chance or something like that.”

Bean was ready when his number was called this season and the quarterback was a major factor in KU clinching back-to-back bowl games for just the second time in program history. There were big moments along the way, like KU’s win over Oklahoma to notch a sixth win. Or KU’s road win over Cincinnati that saw Bean play a complete game. But the Guaranteed Rate Bowl offered Bean the ability to do something else, redeem himself for his shortcomings.

So, 363 days after the 2022 Liberty Bowl, Bean stepped between the lines at Chase Field, looking to help KU to its first bowl win since 2008 and just the program’s sixth-ever nine-win season.

Bean went on to throw 449 yards and six touchdowns as the Jayhawks scored 49 points. Like other performances this season, Bean wasn’t perfect. He threw three interceptions but showed the mental fortitude to bounce back and make another play. He now holds the program record for passing touchdowns in a bowl game and is tied for the program’s single-game record.

Postgame, Bean was named offensive MVP for the game.

“It’s a lot better ending than last year,” Bean said. “I’m just thankful for the way that this team played tonight. They played their guts out.”

Shortly after 11 p.m. local time, Bean was the most popular man inside Chase Field. As he stepped off the stage with his MVP trophy, teammates, coaches and staff members came by to congratulate him. Some used the moment for a hug, others asked for photos with the signal caller. There was a particularly long embrace with quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski, who had a front-row seat and played a key role in Bean’s development.

As Bean lifted the offensive MVP trophy above his head, his teammates chanted “Bean, Bean, Bean.” Defensive end Jereme Robinson remarked to teammates around him “he’s our hero.”

“For him to have this opportunity in this bowl game, to be up on that stage and be one of the players of the game and everything else, you could see the joy that his teammates had for him,” Leipold said.

In the end, Bean’s three seasons as a Jayhawk will etch his name into the KU record books. He wrapped up his KU career ranked No. 2 all-time in passing touchdowns with 38 and No. 7 all-time with 4,662 passing yards. He started the first game of the Leipold era and started the final game of year three under the head coach, as the program crossed off a massive milestone.

“These past three years, it’s been a journey,” Bean said. “There’s been ups and downs, and I’ve learned plenty of lessons, good and bad lessons. I think the credit goes to my teammates, though. The coaching staff, the support staff, and everybody that’s in the building each and every day. Because of them, they’re the reasons I was able to be great, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Leipold feels Bean’s legacy is a simple one and one many should look up to.

“His legacy is not only going to be as a player,” Leipold said, “but what a great teammate he was as well.”

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