Qian Magwood, Ball State freshman wide receiver, woke up to his alarm each day at 5 a.m. throughout high school.
However, it wasn’t a clock ringing or his cell phone buzzing. Instead, it was his mother making sure he was up in time to catch the school bus for another full day of classes, social life and athletics.
Growing up in the Hilltop neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, Magwood competed in football, basketball and track and field while attending Walnut Ridge High School. However, it wasn’t until halfway through his junior year when Magwood knew he wanted to pursue a collegiate football career.
Playing varsity all four years, Magwood led his high school team to an undefeated regular season his senior season while receiving the team’s offensive MVP award. At the same time, Magwood received offers to compete at the NCAA Division I level from not only Ball State, but Cincinnati, Youngstown State and Miami (Ohio) as well.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Magwood on choosing where to compete. He said it came down to “the last second” before accepting the Cardinals’ offer this past February.
“It was kind of crazy,” Magwood said. “What I was kind of looking for going into the recruiting process was somewhere not too far from home but somewhere away — where I could just have my own little space.”
For Magwood, not only did Ball State provide just that, but developing a positive relationship with the Cardinals’ coaching staff also played a key role in his decision.
“I really trusted the coaching staff, and they never lied to me from day one,” Magwood said. “They were very consistent throughout their approach. I felt comfortable with this team.”
Finishing his high school career with 1,831 receiving yards — second all time in his school’s history — it was a whole new ball game for Magwood when he first stepped on the field as a member of the cardinal and white. Prior to the Mid American Conference’s initial postponement of its 2020 football season, Magwood said, he felt nervous yet excited to begin a new chapter of his football career.
“The guys welcomed me in, they meshed with me and I fit in,” Magwood said. “I hang out with them now. They’re my brothers, and I really appreciate that.”
Ball State wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Alex Bailey labeled Magwood as “the ultimate competitor.” He joins a wide receiver group that features two other freshmen: Justin Campbell and Austin Hill.
“I think he’s very, very talented,” Bailey said. “That’s not hard to see with him playing multiple sports. You turn on his basketball tape, and you’ll fall in love with it. I think the thing that makes him different from a lot of people is his competitiveness, attitude and mindset.”
A unique aspect of Magwood and Bailey’s relationship is they both hail from the same hometown: Columbus, Ohio. Prior to earning his bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State in 2007, Bailey played wide receiver for the Penguins from 2001-03.
Bailey said he and Magwood share a simple goal: to represent their hometown in the best way possible.
“You come from a place where there’s some really, really good players,” Bailey said. “I can relate to him a lot in terms of what he can do and his upbringing. For me being a coach and for him being a player, you want to represent the people back home.”
When it comes to football, one of Magwood’s biggest role models is his own cousin, Ki-Jana Carter. A native of Westerville, Ohio, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Carter No. 1 overall in the 1995 NFL Draft. After spending four seasons with the Bengals, Carter played with the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints before retiring in 2004.
“I’ve watched a lot of [Carter’s] tapes,” Magwood said. “You could see his speed — I would really try to emulate what he did. I know every aspect of him, but he comes off as a pretty laid-back guy.”
Prior to his NFL experience, Carter played college football while attending Penn State University. He earned the 1995 Rose Bowl MVP award and finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist that same year. When reminiscing on his first season with the Nittany Lions — something Magwood is experiencing now with the Cardinals — Carter said the transition from high school to college can have its growing pains.
“College is a different animal,” Carter said. “I was happy to go to Penn State, but when you get into practice and you’re tired, you want Mama’s cooking or you want to be a little pampered. That’s not there anymore, so it’s somewhat of an adjustment you have to do to yourself to get yourself prepared.”
Similar to Magwood, Carter played basketball and ran track and field prior to transitioning to Penn State. Living in Florida, Carter said he hasn’t had many opportunities to watch Magwood play in person, but the two keep a close relationship.
“I remember when [Magwood] was first playing pee wee football. He was like, ‘I want to be like you, cousin Ki-Jana,’” Carter said. “I was like, ‘You can be anything you want — you go out there, and you play for the love of the game.’”
When the MAC announced plans to play a six-game, conference-only fall football season Sept. 25, Magwood said he felt relieved knowing he’ll have a chance to hit the gridiron soon as a member of the Cardinals.
“It felt like a big weight was lifted,” Magwood said. “Coming here with the season getting canceled and people on the team being affected by stuff like that, everything being weird on campus — that was kind of a moment of everything coming and going away.”