For the first eight years of his football career, Dawson Neighbors was a running back.

When he was a freshman at Warner High School in Oklahoma, Neighbors was preparing to be the backup running back on the Eagles’ varsity. But during a scrimmage a week before the season opener, Warner’s starting quarterback went down with an injury.

And, just like that, Neighbors became a QB. “They just kind of threw me in there,” he said with a laugh. “But I wasn’t very nervous, and it just kind of worked out.”

It worked out well enough that Neighbors quickly emerged as the Eagles’ starter, and he played quarterback as a freshman and a sophomore.

This year, he is playing for Hilldale High School, a bigger, more competitive program in Muskogee, Okla.

Neighbors has gotten some playing time at QB for the Hornets, and he’s also played defense.

But with senior Jaron Nail getting most of the snaps for the varsity, Neighbors stayed sharp by starting 8 games for Hilldale’s JV team. “I got some really good work playing with the JV team,” he said.

The Hornets were 10-1 heading into the quarterfinals of the state playoffs this year. Next season, Neighbors’ goal is to be the varsity starter at quarterback.

“That is the plan,” the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder said. “There’s no doubt in my mind I can play there. My goal is to lead the Hornets to the state finals and be recruited to play at the college level. I really like playing on a team that has a strong desire to win.”

As Neighbors has shown since he moved from running back to quarterback, he has strong skills at the position. “I really like being in control of the offense,” he said. “I have the ability to be a duel threat. I just need to improve my arm strength and reading defenses.”

Training with QBA for the past year has helped Neighbors make a solid transition from playing running back for eight years to QB. “QBA has helped me to correct myself when I’m throwing the ball and taught me how to be a better team leader,” he said. “I want to give a special thank you to Coach (Jonny) Ulibarri and Coach (Dub) Maddox. They helped me learn more about the QB position than anyone, and my success at the Duel is because of them.”

Receiving his Duel invitation at a QBA camp in Jenks, Okla., Neighbors finished second among incoming juniors at the July competition in Atlanta. “I was honored to be invited and never thought I would do as well as I did,” he said. “It felt good to finish second. I didn’t think I was going to do as well as I did. I figured there would be a bunch of good quarterbacks there. I was just trying to do what I could and it worked out great.”