IRVING, Texas - Quincy Carter cherishes the spotlight in Dallas. After all, how many other young men can shake your hand and say they're the starting quarterback for the Cowboys?
"A lot of things are expected of me," Carter said this week. "But I expect big things anyway. I enjoy being around another environment just like at Georgia, where people want to win. It's just a lot of fun."
He has seen this scrutiny before. In his three-year career with the Bulldogs, Carter went 20-9 as a starter - but most people would rather talk about the heartbreaking losses to Florida or a five-interception debacle at South Carolina?
Carter doesn't care. He believes he played as hard as he could for Georgia. Now, his only football concern is helping the Cowboys recover from back-to-back 5-11 seasons and return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Not that the hierarchy in Dallas makes his new job any easier. Monday, Carter learned that Chad Hutchinson would start the Cowboys' third preseason game tonight against the Atlanta Falcons - despite Carter's status as successor to Troy Aikman and a return to his hometown.
The company line from Dallas is that first-year offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet - a longtime NFL assistant and former head coach for the Bengals and Jets - always starts his backup in the third preseason game so the first-string quarterback can experience playing the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third.
"It's part of the business," Carter said. "What I've done for this football team speaks for itself, and that's the only thing I should be worried about. I believe in God and I have faith that everything that God has for me is going to be for me. That's just how you put it. There's no other way to put it."
Hutchinson, a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1995, hasn't started a football game since his senior year at Stanford in 1997. He gave up on a minor-league career with the St. Louis Cardinals when Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones came calling with a seven-year contract in January.
Hutchinson's $3.1 million signing bonus only fueled speculation that Carter wouldn't last long in Dallas. Everyone from Jones, Coslet and head coach Dave Campo has tried to dispel that notion.
Carter also knows his injury history in college and the pros suggests he's unlikely to start all 16 games. He missed eight games last year with thumb, groin and hamstring ailments.
"I think it's good for our football team to know what our backup quarterback is going to have to prepare for throughout the season because, knock on wood, you never know what's going to happen to me," Carter said. "We've got to have another guy prepared. He's a backup. He hasn't played in four years and I understand what our organization is trying to do."
Dallas just wants the quarterback carousel to stop spinning. In their past 32 games, the Cowboys have had six starters. Last year, Carter started the first two games, but hurt his thumb. Anthony Wright made three starts, Clint Stoerner two and Ryan Leaf three before Carter returned and led Dallas to three wins in its last six games.
"When I'm healthy my play speaks for itself," Carter said. "I don't brag. I don't talk back to people. People say I wasn't going to be able to do it as a freshman at Georgia. People said I wasn't going to be able to come here as a rookie and do what I've done here with the Dallas Cowboys."
Indeed, Carter's three victories last year were two more than Aikman has as a rookie when Dallas went 1-15 in 1989.
"Back in high school I had to compete for my job as an 11th-grader," Carter said. "People didn't even know that. So I've been driven by so many people telling me what I can't do and I've always been able to come out up with answers and find ways to go out on Saturday, whether it's Friday, Saturday or Sunday and make plays."