When he stepped under center in 2018, David Ternosky was uniquely prepared for his second season of tackle football.
Over the previous five years, he worked with Gladiator Sports Training under the guidance of coach Nick Bryant. Ternosky also took the time necessary to prepare for football season.
“Gladiator Sports was founded on the philosophy that a strong athletic foundation must be built before implementing too much game play,” he said. “That’s why I concentrated more on training and development at this young stage and less on accumulating any personal stats.”
The statistics will likely be very impressive in seasons to come, but Ternosky continues to build a strong base while developing into a solid QB.
“I train every day,” said Ternosky, who calls Uniontown, Ohio home. “I look forward to working with the NFA staff and coaches in 2020 and beyond.”
Working to improve his quarterback skills have reached beyond training with NFA.
“Over the past year, I learned to hit a baseball 260 feet and throw a baseball 64 miles per hour,” Ternosky said. “I trained my arm to throw a high school size football 30 yards and worked tirelessly at drills to try and perfect footwork both in the pocket and on the run.”
In addition to the massive amount of time he has put in with Gladiator Sports, Ternosky added even more knowledge and skill when he started training with NFA in 2018.
“NFA has made me a better quarterback by breaking down my throwing mechanics and footwork and giving me pointed direction in order to perfect it,” he said. “The basics of the R4 system have accelerated my learning of defenses and given me a better overall understanding of the position. The NFA coaching staff has really fueled my passion for football, and most importantly, NFA’s message of leadership traits, accountability and strong Christian beliefs have added the most to my ability to be a QB.”
Earning a Duel bid at a three-day camp in Charlotte, N.C. last March, Ternosky finished in second place among incoming fifth graders at NFA’s July showcase competition held in Nashville.
“It was a serious confidence boost for me, and it gave me a gauge as to where my training has me positioned within my age group,” said Ternosky, a Sraight-A student at Green Intermediate School. “I am sure my confidence will carry over to the upcoming football season but finishing second at the Duel leaves room for improvement and will act as an igniter to help get me better.”
Needless to say, Ternosky was looking forward to putting on the pads and getting on the field for the Bulldogs last season.
“I am going to strive to better my teammates and better my team with my efforts, on and off the field,” he said. “And of course, I want to move the chains.”
When he looks back on the season, Ethan Fritz is going to have multiple reasons to be proud.
In July, the quarterback from Brunswick, Ohio, finished in first place at the Duel, NFA’s showcase competition in Atlanta.
“Winning the Duel, it reassured me how much my hard work has paid off and gave me the desire to keep going,” Fritz said. “I am confident in the abilities I have been acquiring through hard work with this accomplishment, and I appreciate the help I’ve gotten from my parents, teammates and coaches.”
After coming out on top among incoming freshmen at the Duel, Fritz quarterbacked the Brunswick High School frosh football team to a 7-3 record.
“I am really proud with how much we improved as a team and built chemistry together,” he said. “As an individual, I am happy with how much better I have gotten going through my progressions and how much better my footwork has gotten.”
While guiding the Blue Devils to a winning record, Fritz showed impressive precision while completing 71 of 93 passes (76 percent) for 1,301 yards and 15 touchdowns. The numbers would have been even better, but he was lifted early in seven games after Brunswick built lopsided leads.
Fritz also put up stellar stats on the ground, rushing for 642 yards and 9 TDs.
It was a great season in every aspect, not that the rising QB is completely satisfied. “I’m working to improve my footwork, my skills on reading defenses, my mechanics, my pocket presence, and my overall skill of being a team leader,” Fritz said.
In the seven years he has been playing quarterback, Fritz has made steady improvement in all phases of his game. “I think I’ve gotten better and better keeping my composure under pressure,” he said. “I have the ability to process information quickly, and I typically make good decisions on the field. There are times I try to do too much in tough situations, but I’m realizing there will be another down.”
Training with NFA since he was in the fourth grade helped Fritz develop into a top caliber QB. “NFA has helped me with my mechanics,” said Fritz, who received his Duel invitation at an NFA camp in Indianapolis. “Using NFA’s R4 system has helped me read defenses, and NFA has really helped me understand how much you have to go through as a leader. Two of the things I really like about playing quarterback are being in the position to lead and having the ability to impact the game.”
As good as he is on the football field, Fritz is equally adept in the classroom. He has a 3.88 GPA while taking honors classes.
“School helps me realize the importance of following details,” Fritz said. “The multi-tasking that I have to do on a daily basis throughout school also helps me as well. School provides me with multiple life skills such as discipline, personal responsibility, and the necessity of good decision making.”
SOCIAL MEDIA INFO:
Twitter: Ethan Fritz @EthanFritz13
Hudl: Ethan Fritz (Brunswick, Ohio)
Jacob Winters was back where he belongs this season.
Moved to offensive line as a sixth grader in 2016 due to weight limitations, Winters played quarterback as a seventh grader this year and had a spectacular season for the River Valley Middle School Raiders in Bidwell, Ohio.
To sharpen his QB skills before the season started, he finished in first place at the Duel among incoming seventh graders. Winters received his Duel invitation at an NFA camp in Indianapolis.
“After not being able to play quarterback my last year in youth football because I was too big, it reassured me that I was going to have a good year, especially since my team was made up of seventh and eighth graders and we played against all eighth grade teams this year,” he said of the Duel success.
Winters shook off the one season layoff, and he didn’t flinch while competing against older competition. While leading the Raiders to a 5-3 record this year, he completed 49 of 92 passes for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 1,086 yards on 99 carries while scoring 13 TDs.
“Heading into the season, I wanted to help my teammates be better football players and I wanted to win,” Winters said. “Team-wise, I was happy that we continued to get better throughout the season and I was happy with the growth from my teammates. Personally, I was happy because we installed the R4 system. I got to the throw the ball a lot and run the inverted veer, where it allowed me to make reads. I also was happy to earn the respect of the eighth graders.”
In his sixth year of playing quarterback, Winters was thrilled to be under center again this season. “I really like being able to lead my team and make decisions,” he said. “And of course, being able to have the ball in my hands in critical situations.”
Training with NFA, where his father Chuck is a Certified Coach, the last three years has added additional polish to Winters’ already advanced game. “I think my strengths as a quarterback are I’m mechanically sound, knowledge of the position, dealing with pressure, ability to make the correct reads in the pass and run game, and to build confidence in my teammates,” he said. “I sometimes dwell on my mistakes too long instead of moving on to the next play, so I’m working on that. I want to be perfect.”
An honor roll student, Winters is able to take what he learns in school and use it on the football field. “My favorite subjects are Math and History,” he said. “I like solving complex math problems and I think that helps me solve problems during critical situations on the field. And I’m always looking up football history, especially on QBs, and trying to find something they had done that I can take and learn from.”
Every year, a new crop of talented young quarterbacks begins training with QBA and begins blazing their paths toward success.
This year, Brogan Stephey is in that category.
Only a fifth grader at Troy City Schools in Ohio, Stephey actually started training with QBA three years ago. In July, he received his first Duel invitation, qualifying at a camp in Indianapolis.
Stepping up and showing what he can do against a talented group of incoming fourth and fifth graders, Stephey finished in third place.
“I felt good for it being my first time at the Duel,” he said. “I was really nervous the first day and was aiming instead of throwing. I was also nervous about the finals, and that helped me realize that I need to just focus and do what I do.”
Stephey settled down nicely en route to placing third, and he left QBA’s showcase competition already looking ahead to the summer of 2018. “I want to win it all next year,” Stephey said. “I think I can.”
All good quarterbacks are confident quarterbacks, and Stephey already fits that profile.
Building off his Duel success, the straight-A student played QB for Troy Fish and Game and helped his team go 5-2. In addition to passing for 820 yards with 6 touchdowns (and only 1 interception) and rushing for 950 yards and 8 TDs, Stephey led Fish and Game in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles.
This is the fourth season Stephey has played QB. “I like the responsibility, making decisions and setting the example,” he said.
Stephey is happy with his passing accuracy, athleticism and footwork at quarterback. He is working to improve his pre-snap reads and wants to become a more vocal leader.
Already off to an impressive start as a young QB, Stephey is sure to shore up any potential shortcomings in his game.
Continuing to train with QBA will help him soar to even higher heights down the road. “I really like the feedback and instruction I get from QBA,” Stephey said. “I like being told what I’m doing wrong and how to get better.”
The South Charlotte Patriots and NFA continue to making impressvie strides together.
In 2015, South Charlotte quarterback Jack Curtis received an invitation to the Duel and he placed second among incoming sixth graders.
This past summer, another Patriots product stepped up at NFA’s showcase competition in Massillon, Ohio. Brooks Arant, a fifth grader out of Marvin Elementary School in North Carolina, finished fourth in his Duel debut.
“It was my first time so I really wanted to just stay calm, learn and do my best,” Arant said. “Of course, I also hoped to make the Gauntlet.”
He accomplished that goal, and while slipping from third place to fourth during the most grueling test at the Duel, Arant learned a lot about himself and quickly established a future ambition.
“I was very happy to make the Gauntlet my first season and it gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I was a little disappointed at how I performed in that part of it, but it gives me goals for next year if I’m lucky enough to compete again.”
Given the impressive skill he’s already shown, odds are very good Arant will be back at the Duel for years to come.
This season, he guided South Charlotte to a 5-4 record which was capped by a Patriot Bowl win. Arant missed two games due to injury, both which ended in losses.
The season as a whole was anything but a loss. “I was happiest with having a winning season and learning to become a leader on a new team with players that I did not know,” he said. “The goal was to have a winning record and win a bowl game, and we accomplished that.”
Arant completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for the Patriots. He threw for 5 touchdowns, ran for another score and did not turn the football over. “My personal goals for the season were to limit turnovers, learn new plays and be successful with my teammates,” he said.
Home at QB
Playing football since the first grade – and tackle the last two years – Arant has played multiple positions. As his showing in the Duel clearly indicates, he’s found a home at quarterback.
“I like the opportunity to be involved in every offensive play and to be in a leadership role,” Arant said. “I also like to have a lot of chances to make plays.”
Consistently connecting with his receivers at such a young age is already a strong point of his game. “I am an accurate passer for my age at short and intermediate routes, and I throw good spirals,” Arant said. “I am also a good runner and am able to pick up new plays quickly.”
Even with all of the early success, Arant is working to take his game to an even higher level. “I would like to improve my arm strength and accuracy on longer throws and continue to improve my leadership skills,” he said.
Training with NFA the past year has helped Arant fortify his strengths and improve any shortcomings.
“The NFA camps and drills are great to improve throwing mechanics,” he said. “Additionally, the NFA coaches are great at teaching players how to be leaders.”
In football, individual statistics don’t always add up. Numbers can be very deceiving.
Meet Justin Tibbels. As the starting quarterback for Danbury High School in Lakeside, Ohio as a sophomore, he passed for almost 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns.
As the starting QB for Danbury as a junior this season, Tibbels’ passing stats were way down, but not because he had an off year.
The Lakers headed into the season with only 18 players on the varsity roster, and six were freshman. They were vulnerable at wide receiver due to graduation losses.
Rather than run a spread offense that would have exploited Tibbels’ passing skills, Danbury switched to the Wing-T and primarily kept the ball on the ground.
“A spread offense is better for my stats, but I like winning football games, too,” Tibbels said. “The Wing-T helped us win all of our games this year. Some games, we passed the ball maybe one time. I was more handing it off and running the ball, but that’s what we needed to do to be successful.”
While rushing for 9 touchdowns and passing for 5 more, Tibbels guided the Lakers to a 7-4 record. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Danbury also advanced to the playoffs for the first time in school history.
“Before the season, the goal was to have a winning record and get to the playoffs and try to go as far as possible,” Tibbels said. “We just took it one game at a time, didn’t really try to do too much or look too far ahead. Just play one game at a time.”
After the Lakers bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, the stunning accomplishment of making it to the postseason really sunk in for Tibbels.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “It made me feel very proud. The community came together and it was something like I’ve never experienced before.”
Danbury’s small roster forced Tibbels to stay on the field the entire game. He was the quarterback on offense, free safety on defense and long snapper on special teams. A knee injury forced Tibbels to miss parts of two games, but he enjoyed the heavy workload.
“I loved it,” Tibbels said. “There’s nothing better than being on the field for every single down.”
Tibbels also loves winning, and that’s why he adapted so well to the Wing-T this season. He also played wide receiver as a freshman at Danbury, but the 6-foot, 185-pounder has been a QB since he started playing the game in flag football.
“I like the pressure that comes with playing quarterback,” Tibbels said. “I like just being able to work out of the pressure and make things happen.”
Before the season, Tibbels made his first trip to the Duel and he finished first at NFA’s international quarterback competition among incoming juniors.
“I had no clue,” Tibbels said of the Duel. “I didn’t know what to expect. But I was really happy because I was not expecting to go in there and win it. I was expecting to have a good experience and learn some things. When I won the Duel I was really happy and it made me feel more confident. But I understand that I can’t be overconfident. I still needed to work hard and do other things to get better. You can always get better.”
Tibbels hooked up with NFA a year ago and he said the training has helped make him a better quarterback.
“I like the throwing techniques that they taught me at the camps,” he said. “I would do most of the NFA drills, throw between the goal posts, under, I did that in my pregame. And I used the R4. We didn’t pass that much but I’d still use it.”
Jacob Winters has been playing football since the second grade, and he’s always played quarterback at a very high level.
Now a sixth grader at River Valley Middle School in Bidwell, Ohio, Winters is making an impact as an offensive lineman this season. The position switch doesn’t mean he no longer likes playing QB.
“This season has been different,” Winters said. “I have to play on the offensive line because we have a weight limit of 130 pounds and I am currently 5-foot-8 and weigh 145 pounds.”
As a natural quarterback who has grown to appreciate the protection provided by his offensive line, Winters is actually enjoying his temporary shift to the trenches.
“Playing the line has taught me to appreciate the guys up front a lot more in what they do,” he said. “I have learned so much about blocking schemes and that will definitely help me out in the future in understanding what goes on up front. And by not playing quarterback this year, it’s allowed other guys the opportunity to get reps running the football which will help our team in the future.”
While he played on the line for the River Valley Raiders and helped pave the way to 4 wins in the first 5 games, Winters has kept his quarterback skills sharp.
“I have had the opportunity to be the scout team quarterback for River Valley High School this year, so I have been working on my accuracy and velocity,” he said. “If I can make the throws now against a high school defense, I definitely will be able to compete as a freshmen in high school. I have also had the opportunity to be the signal guy for our high school team and that has tremendously helped me understand the whys and hows behind our offense.”
Training with NFA the past two years and learning the R4 System has also helped Winters understand what it takes to run an offense. “I’m working to improve in all areas,” he said. “Specifically, at the high school level, my dad (Chuck Winters) is the offensive coordinator and we have implemented the R4 system. I have been studying it and preparing myself for junior high.”
Winters will return to quarterback in junior high next season, and he can’t wait to get back under center. “I like playing QB because I get the opportunity to help my teammates achieve their goals,” he said. “We do a thing at my school where every time we get a break we say ‘family,’ and I think my teammates are my family. By being in this position, it allows me to help them achieve their goals. Playing QB has a lot of responsibilities that I enjoy having. I love competition and the ability to lead.”
Winters’ love of competition has been quite evident the past two summers at the Duel, NFA’s showcase event. Before his fifth grade season, he finished third. This year, Winters delivered another third-place finish.
“My goal at the Duel was to compete with the best quarterbacks around the country, to continue to learn and of course, win it,” Winters said. “I feel pretty good about how I did and I know I have to continue to get better every day.”
Even though he played line this season, Winters improved himself as a quarterback. “Not getting to play QB this year was disappointing, but with the success I had at the Duel it has helped me to assist the younger quarterbacks on our team,” he said.
Training with NFA and coaches like Andy Hall and his father Chuck, who is recently certified, has also helped Winters become a better quarterback. “I want to thank NFA for everything that I have learned up to this point,” he said. “My goal is to play college football some day and with the fundamentals and techniques I have learned, it will help me achieve this dream of mine.”
Heading into his season with the Rush-Henrietta Junior Comets in the Rochester (N.Y.) Youth Football League, Shaker Reisig was already brimming with confidence.
Not only was the fifth grader on the upswing from his first year of training with NFA, Reisig finished first at the Duel in July. “I feel proud of myself at how well I did at the Duel,” he said. “When I got there, I just wanted to have fun and do my best.”
That’s exactly what Reisig did at NFA’s showcase event in Massillon, Ohio. He had a blast competing against fellow fifth grade quarterbacks from across the country, and he emerged as the winner from his age group.
“Having success at the Duel helped me by giving me more confidence that I can do this,” Reisig said. “It was a really great experience.”
Through his first three games of the season with the Junior Comets, the mulit-talented QB threw 2 touchdown passes and also ran for another TD and a pair of extra points. Reisig also had over 10 catches at the midseason mark.
As a rising young quarterback, the touchdown passes have given him the greatest satisfaction. “The team goal is to win more games this season,” Reisig said. “My personal goal is to be more accurate on hitting my receivers.”
That’s where working with NFA the past year has come into play. Playing such a challenging position at such a young age can be difficult, but Reisig is already thriving under center. And as he showed at the Duel, his passing ability is already at an advanced level.
“I’m happy with my footwork, which is one of my strengths playing quarterback,” Reisig said. “I am working to improve my throwing on the run and leading my receivers. NFA has helped me improve, and learning the R4 system has also helped me.”
Reisig started playing football five years ago, and he was a quarterback in his first two seasons playing flag and the last three playing tackle.
“I’ve always like playing quarterback,” he said. “I like calling the plays and throwing the football.”
Vincent Cajano III is a young quarterback on the move. His rapid rise up started at the Duel in July and has continued to surge during his current season. Cajano, a sixth grader at Dyker Heights Intermediate School 201, is the starting quarterback for the Staten Island Seminoles in New York and his team is 4-0 to open the season. “We all get along and pull together,” Cajano said. “I’m really happy with the way I’ve been throwing the ball, and our team has been able to throw the ball and run and move the ball. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Competing in the rugged Staten Island Boys Football League, which was formed in 1959, Cajano is not only playing against tougher competition this season, he’s taken his game to a higher level. Through four games, the Seminoles are averaging almost 37 points per game. Cajano is 12-for-20 passing with 3 touchdowns. He has also thrown for a PAT and run for two more. “I just try to work as hard as I can and go out and help my team,” he said. “I try to get better game in all areas of the game.” When he started playing flag football, Cajano was a quarterback. But when he moved to tackle football, he was a tight end and linebacker last year for the Staten Island Pop Warner Lions. When the Lions’ regular QB couldn’t make a game, Cajano stepped in and knew he was at the right position. “I really like playing quarterback,” he said. “I like to throw, I like to run and I just really like running the overall offense.” While he is already having a spectacular season, Cajano is focued on taking his game to an even higher level. “I’m working hard to improve my drops and improve my footwork,” he said. “I’m trying to be the best in every possible area playing quarterback.” Being a straight-A student has also helped Cajano become a better quarterback. “I’m able to understand what’s going on with the offense and recognize what the defense is doing,” he said.
Winning the Duel really helped Cajano roll into his season with a full head of steam. “It was my second Duel and I knew it was going to be a challenge,” he said. “I just wanted to do my best.” Cajano did just that, placing first among incoming sixth graders. “It really helped my confidence,” he said. “It showed that if I do my best and work my hardest, good things can happen. It showed that I could go there and compete.” Competing and winning against top-flight competition from around the country is no easy feat, but Cajano made it happen. “I was a little surprised,” he said. “In the back of my head, I thought I had a chance. I didn’t doubt that I could compete. Doing so well at the Duel, it made me feel that I could be a strong leader for my team and help us win games.”
The success started in July, when Noah Gillon attended his first Duel and finished second among incoming fifth graders. He’s continued to ride the impressive wave into September.
Playing football in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, Gillon has helped the Eagles roar out to a 3-0 start. “I am most excited that we are 3-0,” the 10-year-old quarterback said. “Each week I gain more confidence and look to get better. Our team goal is to win the Super Bowl. We won it last year and want to win again. My personal goals are to get to know my teammates better, to improve my throwing accuracy, to get stronger and to learn how to read more defenses. ”
That is an extensive to-do list, but Gillon knows how to get things accomplished on the football field. While guiding the Eagles to lofty heights last season, he passed for 850 yards and 15 touchdowns in just eight games and also rushed for 660 yards and 11 more scores.
Through three games this season, Gillon has connected on 24 of 33 passes for 338 yards and 6 TDs while running for 102 yards and 2 scores. He’s also caught a 64-yard touchdown pass.
Home at QB
Gillon has already established himself as a player that can excel at multiple positions, but he is most comfortable at quarterback. “I’ve been playing tackle football for four years and I’ve been playing quarterback for three years,” he said. “I love playing QB because you get to control the offense and I am involved in every play.”
Gillon seems to get better with each play. “I think my strengths are throwing the short pass accurately, and I’m calm under pressure,” he said.
Even though he’s had so much early success, Gillon isn’t satisfied. “This year, I am working on my footwork,” he said. “I’m also trying to get better at throwing the deep ball, reading defenses, and I’m working to get stronger.”
Gillon has been attending NFA camps for three years, and he credits the training for allowing him to grow as a quarterback. “NFA has helped me a lot,” Gillon said. “They’ve helped me with play fakes, my footwork in the pocket, throwing mechanics, gap escapes, throwing accuracy and much more.”
All of those skills were put to the test when Gillon headed to the Duel. An obvious competitor, he traveled to Massillon, Ohio with one thing on his mind.
“My goal heading into the Duel was to win and do my best,” Gillon said. “Honestly, I wanted to do better. But I enjoyed the chance to compete with kids my age from all over the USA.”
Almost winning still sent Gillon into his current season on a high note. “The Duel gave me confidence and made me feel like I could go home and compete,” he said. “I would like to thank NFA and Coach (Darin) Slack for teaching me how to be a good leader on and off the field.”
Blake Phillips started training with NFA when he was in fifth grade. Looking back on it now, it was a very wise decision.
“NFA has been vital to my development, and not just on the football field but in the classroom,” Phillips said. “I already see myself thriving in the business world just with the character traits that have been developed through (NFA President/Founder) Darin Slack and Coach (Adam) Britt, Coach (JC) Boice, Coach (Will) Hewlett and a lot of other coaches. Having that kind of exposure at such a young age really helped me develop into a better football player and a better person.”
To show his appreciation, Phillips started giving back. In June, he participated in the NFA Mentor program and assisted Coach Boice at the Detroit regional group training camp.
“It was my first time, and I’m going to do as many as I can over the next couple summers and springs and winters,” Phillips said. “Help out as much as I can and give back. It means a lot. You see kids who are in the same situations you used to be in. It’s good to be there to help everyone out. There are a lot of kids I could see from the one day I spent with JC, I could see they grew a lot mentally and physically. It’s good to experience that first hand. Going back and seeing a lot of kids that kind of look up to you and call you coach, it’s a great experience.”
After playing high school football at Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville, Phillips has moved on to the college level at University of Findlay in Ohio.
“Blake was among the hardest working boys we’ve had come through the academies,” Coach Slack said. “He really struggled early on catching up to the teaching. But when his body and strength caught up to what he understood about playing quarterback, the result was something many wouldn’t have said was possible if they had seen him at the beginning. He overcame adversity and a slow start to become exactly what he said he would be, a successful college quarterback, and he remains one of NFA’s great success stories!”
Phillips was redshirted last season, so he still has four years of eligibility at Findlay. He used the down time to learn the Oilers’ system and bulk up.
“Redshirting definitely helps your character and helps you grow you into athlete,” said Phillips, who is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.
Findlay’s No. 1 quarterback is Rhys Gervais, a Western Illinois transfer and likely Preseason All-American candidate. Phillips is not backing down from competing for playing time.
“Right now, I’m battling for the second-string spot,” he said. “There is going to be competition in all parts of your life, football, business, whatever field of life you’re in. You can’t shy away from it.”
If he gets on the field for the Oilers this season, or at some point down the road, look for Phillips to be a difference maker.
“I think whether it’s on the field or off the field, I’ll make an impact,” he said. “I just look forward to progressing in the program. I want to develop trust on the field since I’m not as battle-tested as a lot of the guys at the college level. I want to be able to show I can take the hit and move the chains every series. Spring went pretty well for me, I got a lot more reps. I’m definitely excited to show the coaches and my teammates what I can do.”.
In the first scrimmage heading into his junior season at River Valley High School in Caledonia, Ohio, junior Jax Harville took a big hit and knew something was wrong.
“It was pretty bad,” he recalled. “I was supposed to be the starting quarterback as a junior, but I missed the entire year with a shoulder injury.”
Harville had surgery to repair a broken left humerus, and the initial disappointment was completely understandable. “It was hard, definitely,” he said. “Watching the team play after you worked all summer to get ready and all of the sudden it’s slipped out from under you, and there’s nothing you can do about it, it was tough to deal with.”
In time, Harville began making the most of a difficult situation. “It was my non-throwing arm, so that was good,” he said. “And I learned some different things from that position than I would have starting at quarterback. I tried to focus in on the mental side of the game versus the physical side. That helped me in different ways. But it was hard, for sure.”
The Road Back
In late January of his junior year at River Valley, Harville was healthy and able to start gearing up for his senior season. “I was extremely motivated,” he said. “There was a little unfinished business to take care of.” The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder went out and had a big senior year this past season, passing for 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns while helping the Vikings to a 6-4 record. “I was just happy with the experience of being on the field and staying injury free all year,” Harville said.
When Harville took his final snap for River Valley, his football career did not come to an end. Last month, he committed to play at Ohio Wesleyan University. “I went for the first visit and I loved it,” Harville said. “I got in touch with the football coaches and let them know I was interested. I went to camps over the summer and did an overnight visit and a game-day visit. When I committed, it was really exciting. It was a long recruiting process because I had two other schools I was interested in. It was a long process, but I think I made the right decision. When it came down to the end, it wasn’t hard. I wasn’t worried I was going to the wrong spot.”
With Dominick Orsini returning for his senior season at Ohio Wesleyan, Harville can ease in as a freshman. “I’ll be able to learn the speed of the college game,” he said. “I’ll be able to get scout team reps against the No. 1 defense, so it will be a huge developmental year to get me ready.”
Harville has been playing quarterback since he was in fourth grade. When he was a freshman, he seriously started thinking about the next level. “I always kind of thought about it,” Harville said. “But my freshman year, my parents and I sat down and had a discussion on whether I wanted to play college football or not, if that was a goal, and what we needed to do to get there.”
Training for three years with NFA as a young quarterback definitely helped mold Harville and kept his career arrow pointing up.
“The mechanics I learned at NFA camps, it was huge,” Harville said. “My dad (Greg) was an offensive tackle in high school so he didn’t know a lot about throwing mechanics. And the message NFA sent at camps, as a quarterback be the leader, your job is to move the chains, that was something I took to heart. I actually still wear the Passio Bellator bracelet every day.”
When he arrives at Ohio Wesleyan, Harville will study Pre-Med. The straight-A student wants to be an Orthopedic Surgeon.
“It’s going to be hard, but it can be done,” Harville said. “I’ve met a lot of people that have done it. I think with time management skills and things like that, you just know you’ve got to get your work done.”
Playing college football has long been a dream for Dylan Leffingwell.
And after he signed to play football at nearby Ohio University, Leffingwell admitted he likely never would have reached his goal without the help of NFA.
“Without NFA, I’m definitely not the quarterback I am today,” Leffingwell said. “They helped me change so many things, and not all just mechanical. They taught me how to be a leader on and off the field, how to do things for others before doing things for yourself.”
The Warren High School star quarterback started attending NFA camps as a sophomore, and his three years working under Darin Slack, Andy Hall and other NFA coaches is still paying off.
In addition to coaching for NFA, Hall is also the head football coach at Jackson High School, which is in Warren’s conference.
“Dylan was a three-year starter at Warren High School,” Hall said. “He was one of the top quarterbacks in our conference for those three years and was named Player of the Year this past season. He came to me after his sophomore season to improve on his mechanics. He has worked very hard the past two off-seasons and now this spring to get ready for his college career.
“Dylan has made drastic changes in his motion and is committed to keep improving to give him an opportunity at the Division 1 level,” Hall added. “He has attended several NFA camps which has helped him in his development as well. Even though I had to coach against him for three years, he has been exciting to watch. With his work ethic and commitment to the position, Dylan has a great opportunity to become an excellent QB at the next level.”
A gifted athlete in football, basketball and track, Leffingwell knew he needed help throwing the football after his freshman year at Warren H.S. That’s when he hooked up with NFA.
“My throwing motion wasn’t very good before I went to them,” Leffingwell said. “The term they use at NFA, I wasn’t getting to zero when I threw the football. When you come through, your hand is always behind your head and your elbow’s up. I wasn’t getting that. My throwing motion was real high; my arm was straight and real high up. It was very inaccurate, so they helped me with that.”
Leffingwell implemented the changes he learned at NFA camps and went on to pass for a school-record 4,914 yards. As a senior last season, he threw for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In addition to being named the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League Player of the Year following his senior season, Leffingwell was an All-Ohio special mention honoree.
When it came down to picking a college, the 6-foot, 215-pounder decided to stay close to home and play for Ohio U., a rising power in the Mid-American Conference. Under head coach Frank Solich, who came from Nebraska, the Bobcats have played in four straight bowl games.
“I’m really excited,” Leffingwell said. “They’re doing a lot of good things and they have a lot of great people over there. I think it’s the dream of every high school player, even junior high and younger guys, to go play D-1 and make it to the big time, the big show. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
Ohio University often gets confused with powerhouse Ohio State, which is located about an hour up the road in Columbus. That’s OK with Leffingwell.
“Everyone kind of underestimates the MAC because it’s not the Big Ten and all that,” he said. “But it’s good football. Some people, when they finally watch it, they understand that. It’s top-notch D-1 football. You can’t take then lightly.”
Leffingwell is going to begin his collegiate career as a preferred walk-on, and he’ll redshirt next season.
“I think it’s a great way to get started,” he said. “This way, with the redshirt, I’ll save a year on eligibility. I’ll just try to work my way up the ladder, so to speak, and work hard every day. If they need to someone to do the scout team, I’ll do it. People might think being on the scout team is bad, but you’re playing against the No. 1 defense in practice and I think that helps you get better. I’m looking forward to doing that if they ask me to.”
Warren head coach Andy Schob is sure his star QB is going to succeed at the next level.
“Dylan has worked extremely hard, makes the right decisions on and off the field, and has displayed character in every aspect of his life,” Schob told the Marietta Times. “He has put in more time in the weight room, film room and camps than anyone I have coached or been around. This is what a coach wishes for someone that displays character and represents himself, team, and community the way he does. What a great reward. He has certainly earned this opportunity.”
As he progresses through college, Leffingwell plans on returning to NFA camps and giving back.
“I’ve definitely thought about that,” he said. “I got a lot of help, and the NFA has great camps. They do a great job teaching kids, and more than just football. They teach you about life.”