SAN JOSE — David Fales had been all set to travel to Hawaii for a bowl game in December 2009 when then-Nevada coach Chris Ault called the backup quarterback into his office.
Ault told the freshman what he already had started to suspect — he'd likely never play a meaningful snap for the Wolf Pack, not after Colin Kaepernick transformed the pistol offense into a fast and formidable running scheme. If he really wanted to start someday, Ault recommended Fales transfer.
In the nearly four years since, Fales has gone from a castoff to a junior college standout to a rising NFL prospect. He will get a chance to showcase his skills — and his remarkable journey — to a national audience when he leads San Jose State (1-0) against No. 5 Stanford on Saturday.
Just making it to this stage might be considered a success.
In the summer before his junior year at Palma High School in Salinas, Fales sat out all of preseason practice with mononucleosis. He returned a few weeks into the season, then the starting quarterback got a concussion and Fales was forced into the leading role, thriving despite little practice time.
Fales eventually left Nevada and transfered to Monterey Peninsula College coach Mike Rasmussen. Even at the junior college, playing time wasn't guaranteed.
Fales said he "really learned how to compete and be in the moment and not take anything for granted" at Monterey, and his consistent play caught the attention of San Jose State.
"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the nation," Stanford coach David Shaw said this week, touting Fales' accuracy and poise under pressure.
Fales led the nation with a 72.5 percent completion percentage last season. He threw for 4,193 yards and 33 touchdowns to lead the Spartans to a school-record tying 11 wins, including a Military Bowl victory over Bowling Green and a No. 24 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.
If Fales can come anywhere close to duplicating those performances as San Jose State moves into the Mountain West under new coach Ron Caragher this season, some scouts believe he could be among the top five quarterbacks taken in next year's NFL draft, possibly even a late first-round pick.