When you have an inordinate amount of free time, it’s not unreasonable for one to do some serious soul searching.
Mitch Guadagni let his mind wander quite frequently due to unforeseen circumstances last fall.
Let’s just say those endless pondering sessions weren’t particularly enticing for the 2015 Hudson graduate.
“It sucked at times,” Guadagni admitted.
Pardon the 22-year-old former star quarterback for the Explorers for not being particularly congenial.
Look at it this way: How would you feel if you waited three years for your chance to shine and when it finally happened, it’s coldly snatched away in a nanosecond?
Unfortunately, that was the case for Guadagni, who had a promising season fall to pieces thanks to injuries.
It sure started well, though.
Guadagni, a redshirt senior at the University of Toledo, was named the Rockets’ starting quarterback before the 2018 season.
He didn’t disappoint.
Guadagni completed 11-of-16 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns in his season debut, a lopsided 66-3 victory over Virginia Military Institute.
Two weeks later, Guadagni reminded his hometown fans of the good old days during Toledo’s 63-44 win over the University of Nevada, Reno.
The athletic signal caller completed 15-of-24 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 151 yards and two more touchdowns on 15 carries.
It took a little longer than expected, but the former high school superstar, who led the Explorers to the Division I state semifinals in 2014, returned to his rightful place on the throne.
“It was definitely awesome when I played,” Guadagni said. “To have it all come together with the majority of my classmates, it was an amazing feeling.”
Then his honeymoon hit an unexpected pothole during a 49-27 loss to Fresno State University in Week 4.
Guadagni was forced to leave the field after suffering a concussion late in the second quarter. The injury also kept him on the sidelines the following week against the Rockets’ main rival, Bowling Green.
Guadagni returned to the field in Week 6, but Toledo hit a roadblock. The Rockets lost two Mid-American Conference games in Guadagni’s next two starts.
And then he found himself in a hospital again when he suffered a broken collarbone during Toledo’s 51-24 victory over Western Michigan University in Week 8.
As a result, Guadagni didn’t line up behind center the rest of the season.
“There’s always a level of frustration,” he said. “As a competitor, you’re killing to be on the field. You can’t take it personally. I definitely learned about myself when I got hurt.”
He learned quite a bit from his roommate, who also happened to be his backup.
Eli Peters, a redshirt junior, led the Rockets to a bowl game after replacing Guadagni at quarterback. Thanks to its gifted second-string passer, Toledo closed its regular season with three wins in its last five games.
The Rockets’ offense was especially potent down the stretch. Toledo scored more than 50 points in its final two regular-season games.
Peters also had a prolific passing game during the Rockets’ 35-32 loss to Florida International University in the Bahamas Bowl. Toledo ended the season with a 7-6 record, including 5-3 in the MAC.
Oddly enough, that time of restlessness and inactivity after his season-ending injury might have been the best thing that ever happened to Guadagni.
That’s because he could do something he couldn’t do if he still called plays in the huddle.
He became his best friend’s No. 1 fan.
“I was so happy for Eli,” Guadagni said. “It brought me back to enjoying the little things. I enjoyed my best friend’s success and I enjoyed our team success.”
Watching his comrades finish strong gave Guadagni a greater appreciation for just being one of the guys.
But the college football season doesn’t last forever.
It was time for Guadagni to focus on something a bit less pleasant than hanging around his closest friends every day on the gridiron.
That would be a lengthy, arduous rehabilitation program to heal his damaged collarbone.
“After I had surgery, I couldn’t lift for five months,” Guadagni said. “I was just trying to get my mobility back. It was tough. I’m usually a very active guy.”
The inactivity didn’t affect his schoolwork.
Guadagni graduated in May with a degree in marketing sales and a minor in management.
He will continue his education at Toledo to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree.
And he’s ready for some football, too.
Now fully healthy, Guadagni is hoping his swan song will be his best ever.
“We want to beat BG and get to Detroit and reclaim that MAC championship,” Guadagni said.
One particular person believes Guadagni can fulfill those goals. That person will be barking in his quarterback’s ear quite often in the next five months.
“Mitch is a very athletic guy and a very talented runner,” Toledo offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Wright said. “Not only that, he’s an accurate passer. He puts your offense in positions to score points.”
Wright and coach Jason Candle have some heavy-duty thinking to do themselves prior to the Rockets’ 2019 opener against the University of Kentucky.
That’s because they have to choose between two quality quarterbacks.
Does that mean Guadagni, whose patience has been tested throughout his collegiate career, will continue his role as a spectator?
Don’t count on it.
“When we line up for practice, I expect Mitch to be running plays with the first team,” Wright said.
Regardless of what happens on the field, Guadagni has cherished his time living in northwest Ohio.
“Going to Toledo has been an absolute blessing,” he said. “I had the opportunity to play college football and I’ve established relationships in all walks of life. I’m definitely grateful.”