Overcoming adversity is a critical part of playing football, and Wallace Gibson IV has been dealing with a heavy load.
In August of 2017, Wallace lost his father in a tragic boating accident. “Wallace and his dad were inseparable,” said his mother, Angie Gibson. “He was Wallace’s biggest fan. I think a lot of his drive and commitment are to honor his dad. His dad was always encouraging, never hostile towards him, even when he was not playing well. Wallace’s life has been severely impacted by his loss but he works hard to do the very best he can.”
An eighth grader at McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., Wallace Gibson IV has shown incredible maturity since losing his father. “Wallace has reached out to coaches, mentors, he has consistently done whatever he could possibly do to be a better athlete, leader and to make his dad proud of him,” Angie said. “And he did this all on his own.”
Wallace’s father would be extremely proud of his football accomplishments this season. Playing quarterback for the McCallie Blue Tornado, he started four of five games and threw 7 touchdown passes, including 3 in one game against a challenging opponent.
A QB for eight years, Gibson has impressive throwing ability, leadership skills and the drive to be the most prepared he can for every game. “I like being able to lead the team and leading them to be the best they can be,” he said.
Before the season, Gibson received an invitation to the Duel at an NFA camp in Atlanta. He placed fifth among incoming eighth graders.
“Being in the Top 5 at the Duel was truly a dream come true,” Gibson said. “It pushed me to work even harder and gave me the confidence to know I could succeed if I was willing to put in the work.”
Gibson has been training with NFA for a year and it’s helped him improve in all phases. “NFA has taught me that many things come together to be a better quarterback – character, hard work and education,” he said.
Speaking of education, Gibson has a 3.4 GPA while taking rigorous courses at McCallie School. “Playing football is so much a part of who Wallace is,” Angie Gibson said. “The best way I know to explain it is if he couldn’t be on the field, it would effect how he performs in school and vice versa. School teaches Wallace to be disciplined and trains his brain to be the most effective quarterback he can be.”
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His future is incredibly bright, and Maverick Chance is also thriving in the present.
After finishing in second place among incoming fourth and fifth graders at the Duel in July, Chance helped the Brentwood Blaze win the Tennessee Youth Football League championship.
“Heading into the season, the goals were getting better every week and making it to the league championship,” Chance said. “Being able to participate in a championship with my team was great. I really enjoyed playing in an offense that allowed me to throw and run.”
Quarterbacking the Blaze, Chance led his team to a 9-1 record. “ I focused on becoming a better leader and being consistent each game,” he said.
Only 11 years old, Chance showed impressive accuracy throwing the football and an ability to escape pressure and punish opposing defenses. “I’m working to improve my footwork within the pocket,” he said. “And I want to have better awareness of the pass rush.”
Chance wrapped up his fourth season playing QB on a very high note. He’s right at home at the high-profile position.
“Playing quarterback, I like being involved on each play and influencing the game,” Chance said. “I like being a leader for my teammates on and off the field.”
A strong showing at the Duel helped him get ready for the season. Chance received his invite to the event at an NFA OSD camp in Nashville.
“It was good to be around other boys at the Duel that were working like me to get better,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to compete with them on a larger stage. I loved the crowd cheering and the competitions at the end of the sessions.”
Finishing second among a talented group of young quarterbacks helped Chance get ready for his season with the Blaze.
“It definitely made me feel prepared for competition going into the season,” said Chance, who has been training with NFA for two years. “I felt even more ready for any challenges during the season.”
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He’s only in fourth grade, and Brody Hasquin has only been playing quarterback for three years.
“I’m working to improve my throwing technique,” he said. “And my foot speed, I’m also working to improve that.”
As Hasquin grows older and gains more experience, he’s sure to make positive strides in all areas of the challenging position. But so far, the young QB has been very good.
“I really like the leadership that comes with playing quarterback and the responsibilty that comes with playing the position,” Hasquin said. “Heading into the season, my goal was to become a better passer in the scheme of the offense. I’m really happy with the way my overall game has improved on a daily basis, and my leadership skills are growing even faster.”
Before playing quarterback for the Troy (Illinois) Titans this season, Hasquin received an invitation to the Duel at an NFA camp in Nashville. He placed fifth among incoming fourth and fifth graders at the showcase competition in Atlanta.
“It was a great experience, I loved it,” Hasquin said of his strong showing at the Duel. “Doing well boosted my confidence for the season and I was able to use that as a stepping stone.”
Hasquin, the son of Granite City High School football head coach Brad Hasquin, recently started training with NFA. “This is my first year, and I’ve already registered for Year 2,” he said. “Training with NFA has already helped improve my throwing technique. They’ve helped me become more confident and my awareness playing quarterback has increased.”
Hasquin attends Henning Elementary School and is an Honor Roll student. “Doing well in school helps improve my intelligence of all aspects of the game,” he said.
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Instagram is @broman0813
Twitter is @coachhasquin
Quincy Crittendon is a thoughtful young quarterback. He is also loaded with confidence.
“I want to be the best quarterback ever to come through Austin,” he said. “I want to always be throwing the football. I want to win games. I want to win all of them.”
Those are some pretty lofty goals, but Crittendon has been backing them up as he continues to demonstrate impressive development at QB. “I’m very confident in myself, and I’m confident in my team,” he said.
As the starting freshman quarterback at Austin High School in Decatur, Ala., this season, Crittendon guided the Black Bears to a 7-1 record. He averaged nearly 3 touchdown passes per game.
Before moving into Austin’s powerhouse football program – the varsity Black Bears won their first 11 games this season and outscored the opposition 499-116 – Crittendon closed out his middle school playing days on a high note. As an eighth grader, he led Cedar Ridge Middle School to a 7-1 record and the Tennessee Valley state championship.
Crittendon has been playing quarterback since he was in fifth grade. “I like everything about the position,” he said. “I really like throwing the football. I run sometimes when I have to, but I like throwing the ball.”
With more than 40 touchdown passes over the last two seasons, Crittendon is obviously very good at throwing the football. Training with QBA the past three years has helped him become a prolific passer in a state that is crazy about football.
“QBA has helped me a lot,” Crittendon said. “They’ve helped me with my throwing mechanics and technique, and they’ve also helped me become more confident and a better leader.”
As he prepares to lead the Austin H.S. varsity program to more glory, Crittendon displayed his skills again at the Duel in July.
It was his third trip to QBA’s showcase competition, and Crittendon placed fifth among incoming freshmen. “The first time I went to the Duel, I came in sixth place,” he said. “The second time, I came in third. This time, I came in fifth. I wasn’t down about this year. I’m very honored to have finished in the Top 5 but I know I can do better.”
Crittendon, a talented guard on the basketball court, has been getting progressively better on the football field. “I’ve been working on getting faster and improving my all-around game,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the future. I’m going to keep on working to be the best quarterback I can be.”
At the start of the season, Mason Maddox had one major goal. “I wanted to lead my team to our fourth championship in a row,” he said.
An eighth grader at Jim Satterfield Middle School in Hartsville, Tenn., Maddox and the Yellow Jackets fell short of that goal, going 3-4. But the season was hardly a loss for Maddox, who was voted Satterfield Middle School Athlete of the Fall in football. “I am happy with the fact that I was out on the field with my teammates knowing that any down could be my last one,” he said.
Maddox stayed healthy, and his dual skills at QB were on display for the Yellow Jackets. He rushed for 638 yards and 6 touchdowns and passed for 482 yards and 3 TDs.
“My main strength is being quick on my feet and reacting to anything that is thrown at me,” Maddox said. “I still want to improve my accuracy when I throw the ball. I want to be able to be consistent throwing passes with perfect accuracy.”
Qualifying for his first Duel at a QBA camp in Nashville, Maddox showed strong accuracy while finishing fourth among incoming eighth graders at the showcase competition in July. “I came in fourth place in the Duel, but I will always be striving for that first place,” he said. “And after that, the journey still isn’t over.”
Finishing fourth against such a strong field of quarterbacks helped Maddox heading into his season with the Yellow Jackets. “It did,” he said. “After my performance I knew if I could perform that well in a competition that important, then I could accomplish anything out on the field.”
Maddox received another big invitation, to the Bret Cooper Junior Academic All-American Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 31. He’s an honor roll student at Jim Satterfield Middle School. “I can apply leadership skills in both the classroom and on the field,” Maddox said.
Training with the Quarterback Academy the past two years has helped him on and off the field. “QBA has helped me by improving my all-around skill set, from the quickness of reacting to defenses to just throwing a football,” Maddox said. “QBA has helped me to get to where I am today.”
Maddox is in a very good spot at quarterback, a position he’s been playing since he was 6 years old. “I love the fact that everyone on the field looks up to me,” he said. “That makes me want to strive to be great whether that’s in the classroom or on the field.”
Things are looking up at Father Ryan High School.
Quarterbacking Father Ryan’s JV team, comprised mainly of freshmen, Tabscott helped the Irish to a 4-3 record playing against teams that were mostly sophomores and juniors. In addition, two of the teams were ranked in the Top 4 in Tennessee.
“I was really proud of our team, and especially the O-line,” Tabscott said. “I was really proud of how we came together as a team towards the end of the season.”
Tabscott had a fabulous JV season, completing 90 of 135 passes for 1,060 yards and 9 TDs. The 6-foot-1, 150-pounder finished with a 66 percent completion rate and 94 QBR/passer rating.
Going into the season, Tabscott’s goal was leading the JV Fighting Irish to an undefeated record. But given the caliber of the competition, the season was an unqualified success.
“Just try to develop the program here,” Tabscott said. “Father Ryan hasn’t had great football in the last couple of years. With the talent we have, I think we can really have something special. With the JV, help develop the team and bring them to the highest level possible.”
Training with QBA the last three years has helped Tabscott smooth out his delivery. It’s also helped him develop his strong leadership skills.
“I’ve been playing quarterback since sixth grade,” he said. “I love the leadership aspect, I love being able to serve my team and do whatever it takes for the team to win and have a great game. I want the ball in my hands. At the end of the game, when it’s close, I don’t want the game to be out of my control. I want to be able to say I’m in control, you guys can look to me as your leader. You can trust me. You can depend on me, I’m not going to let you down.
“I love that part, having the chance to help my team be the best they can be,” Tabscott continued. “I love the competitiveness of it, that everybody’s looking at you. You get all the glory but you also get all the blame. I don’t mind taking the blame for my team. That’s a great thing, to be able to lead my team and be able to take some of the pressure off your shoulders.”
Getting his second Duel invite last year, Tabscott was thrilled to finish fourth among incoming freshmen. “There were some really good QBs there,” he said. “(First-place finisher Kalen) Shoemaker was unreal. I think it showed me I can play with the best. I can play with anybody I need to and it gave me confidence going into the season in this highly competitive league I play in. It showed I can trust myself. I don’t have to go into a game timid or not believing I can do anything. I’ve always had that mindset that nobody’s going to beat me. But doing well at the Duel helped me see the tangible part that I can play.”
Keep an eye on Caden Buckles. A very close eye.
As he prepares to move on to Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic High School next year and play in the Fighting Irish’s renowned football program, Buckles can look back fondly on his progression as a quarterback.
“I love this position not only because it’s fun to throw a ball, but I love the feeling of running onto the field with my brothers knowing that I am the leader and have to control things when they get hectic,” he said. “I love being able to find a certain relationship with every single player on my team. From my right tackle to my left outside linebacker, I have a special relationship with all of them. I know what can get my boys fired up and what makes them keep their cool. Overall, I love this position truly because I love the role of leader that I play.”
This season, the eighth grader at Karns Middle School led the Knoxville Catholic Youth Fighting Irish to a 10-2 record. Buckles had a stellar 70 percent completion rate while passing for 1,800 yards and he rushed for 380 yards.
“My goal was to win a championship and to give all I have every game for my team,” Buckles said. “We made the finals but lost in a great game. I am really happy with how well all of us bonded. At first, we had a lot of new guys and it became more than a team, it became a brotherhood. Not only a brotherhood, but one that can’t be broken. Individually, I am most pleased with how I gave it all for my team and the numbers I put up for the season.”
Before the season, Buckles found himself in a familiar place – the Duel. He finished first in QBA’s international competition for the second time in three years. Buckles also won the event in 2015 and finished second in ’16.
“Success in the Duel is huge for not only me, but many others,” he said. “This competition isn’t just who can throw a ball well. You can bring success out of this competition even if you don’t win. Something I hope all participants have realized is that they are there for a reason. This competition can make you not only more respectable on the field, but more respectable in the world. Every coach at QBA has their own story and their own experiences. The amount of life skills you can learn from them is absolutely astonishing if you just listen. Personal success such as winning is just very reassuring. If you win, you are learning that you can compete with talent from all over the nation at your position.”
Buckles qualified for this year’s Duel at a camp in Atlanta, and the standout QB has been training with QBA for five years.
“QBA has helped me become a better quarterback by not only teaching me mechanics, but teaching me how to keep composure and how to lead a team down the field,” Buckles said. “I can’t thank them enough for their tremendous contribution in my journey as a QB.”
As he prepares for high school football, Buckles is going to stay sharp playing basketball and he’ll continue training with QBA and Coach Sean McEvoy.
“I am working to improve on timing and distance,” he said. “This is my last year of middle school and when I get to high school, balls need to be able to be thrown accurately and on time and with a lot of distance if needed. Accuracy is always needed, and timing will need to be on point due to much faster speed of high school players.”
As always, Buckles is going to put the work in to succeed as a high school QB. “I would consider myself an accurate quarterback, but the accuracy doesn’t come with just skill,” he said. “I have thrown probably over 1,000 balls to my receivers to build chemistry and find out their speed to judge where the ball should be.”
Briz Trapp is still a young quarterback, but he is already showing veteran ability when it comes to dealing with adversity.
When his DeKalb County (Tenn.) Tigers Junior Pro football team opened with a 0-4 record, it would have been easy to give up on the season. But Trapp and the Tigers roared back.
“At the beginning of the season, the goal was to win the conference championship with my teammates in our last year in Junior Pro football,” Trapp said. “After a slow start to the season, we won our final three games to make the playoffs.”
In one of those games, a 33-0 win over Cumberland County, Trapp was named Player of the Week by the Smithville Review after completing 9 of 11 passes for 206 yards and connecting on a pair of 2-point conversions. He also rushed for 11 yards on 3 carries and had 2 extra points.
Through seven games with the Tigers Junior Pro team, Trapp completed 57 of 81 passes (70 percent) for 825 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also rushed for 226 yards and 3 TDs.
“I am happy that I got to throw the ball more in our new offense,” said Trapp, a straight-A student at DeKalb Middle School. “In school and in football, you have to study and prepare if you want to succeed.”
Not only has he had success with the DeKalb County Tigers, Trapp also played for the ROCO Warriors travel team this season.
He’s been playing QB for six years. “There’s a lot I like about being a quarterback,” Trapp said. “I like the pressure that comes with the position, I like running the offense and being a servant leader to my teammates.”
Trapp qualified for the Duel in Nashville, and he placed fifth among incoming sixth graders in July. “It was an honor to be invited to compete in the Duel against so many good young QBs,” he said. “Making the final gauntlet was great and it made me very eager to work even harder to make it back. Doing so well at the Duel definitely boosted my confidence. I came into the season more confident and mentally prepared than ever.”
Trapp has been training with the Quarterback Academy for four years. “NFA has helped me in so many ways to be a better quarterback and a better person,” he said. “I have so much confidence in my throwing. My mechanics and my ability to read defenses are much better, and I know where to go with the ball when I break the huddle. NFA also showed me the importance of serving my teammates and other people.”
While he has had a banner season, Trapp is working hard to become an even better quarterback. “I continue to work on my mechanics, especially my footwork, arm strength, accuracy and a quicker release,” he said. “Some of my strengths as a QB are recognizing defenses and coverages and knowing where to go with the ball. I’m working to carry out my play fakes on run plays on a consistent basis.”
Caden Buckles played for a new team this season, and he had his same old success.
As the starting quarterback for the Knoxville Catholic seventh-grade team in Tennessee, Buckles and the Fighting Irish rolled to a 10-3-2 record. “I’m actually quite pleased with how the season went,” he said. “It was a new offense for me, and I really liked it. On my team last year (Hardin Valley), it was a run-heavy offense and this year it was mainly a passing offense. It was a big change, and with the skill level of our team I was really pleased with how we played.”
Knoxville Catholic peaked at just the right time, beating two teams from North Carolina in bracket play and another team from Detroit in the finals to win the Battle in the Rocky Top national tournament in the seventh-grade division.
“It was a tough competition,” Buckles said of the annual Battle in the Rocky Top. “It’s a really hard tournament, so it was exciting to win it because we found out we can compete against teams that play on a high level. It was a really fun experience.”
From start to finish this past season, Buckles had plenty of fun and success. Running out of a read option offense, he was always in the shotgun and was able to throw or run the football.
“It was a lot of fun,” Buckles said. “This season, knowing I was going to have good receivers and with my ability at quarterback, I enjoyed the fact I was able to throw to them and it gave me the confidence I can play in a good passing offense.”
Buckles averaged close to 100 yards passing per game and scored roughly 30 touchdown on a combination of passes and rushes. “I was very happy with the way I played,” he said. “Coming from an offense that ran the ball so much and not having as many options in the throwing game to having more passing targets and more read progressions, I think I did pretty well.”
While also getting some playing time at defensive back for the Fighting Irish, Buckles delivered a pair of touchdowns – one on a Pick 6 and the other on a fumble return. “I think being a quarterback helped me play defensive back,” he said. “Knowing what the plays might be and where the other quarterback was going to throw in certain coverages, I was able to get to the right place and make plays.”
Before the season, Buckles made his second trip to the Duel and finished second among incoming seventh graders. He won NFA’s international competition in July of 2015.
“Going into the Duel this year and being the defending champion, I wanted to go in and give it my best and know no matter how it turned out, I was going to be happy,” Buckles said. “It would have been really cool to win it again because it was such a good honor. But I was still really happy coming in second, knowing that I’m in one of the top parts of the NFA seventh-grade quarterbacks.”
With his first season with Knoxville Catholic in the books, Buckles is getting right back to work in preparation for eighth grade. He is looking forward to continue training with NFA and Coach Sean McEvoy.
“This off-season, I’m going to work on accuracy,” Buckles said. “I need to get my completion percentage up and I need to work on my read progressions because going into the new offense and having more targets to throw to, I need to work down the pre-snaps of who I’m going to throw to. I’ve been training with Sean McEvoy lately one-on-one and he’s really helped me a lot.”
At this time next year, Quincy Crittendon will be a freshman at Austin High School in Decatur, Alabama. With an eye to the future, the eighth grader has set his football goals extremely high.
“I’m already looking forward to my freshman year,” Crittendon said. “I’ll be looking forward to playing varsity.”
Living in a state that is crazy about its football, Crittendon isn’t just dreaming about playing varsity for a Black Bears team that is an impressive 17-6 over the past two years. This season, he has shown advanced talent at quarterback.
The starting eighth grade QB for his Cedar Ridge Middle School team, Crittendon led the Black Bears to a 7-1 record and the Tennessee Valley state championship.
“I was overwhelmed with joy,” he said of the successful season. “We had some great wide receivers and running backs, a great offensive line. We also had a lot of great defensive players who always were making big plays.”
Heading into the season, Crittendon said his personal goal was to throw 30 touchdown passes, a staggering total. He finished with 20.
“I think I did pretty good,” Crittendon said. “I was really happy with the way I delivered the ball and making it to the championship game. Heading into season, the team goal was to make it to the championship game and win it. Personally, I wanted to throw 30 touchdown passes and be the best leader possible. I’m pretty happy but I think I have room to improve even more. I can get better reading coverages and I can get better with my gap escapes.”
Every quarterback can improve, be it on the NFL level or in eighth grade. But Crittendon showed he already has impressive skills by finishing third in the Duel, NFA’s high-profile competition held every July.
“My goal was finishing in first place,” he said. “But I was happy with how I did and where I finished. I had coach Kraig Campbell work with me and he really helped me get ready for the competition.”
This was Crittendon’s second Duel invitation. He finished sixth on his first trip to Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon, Ohio. “This time, I felt better throwing the ball and hitting my targets,” he said. “I was more comfortable and I was able to compete like I know I can.”
With his eighth grade season in the record books, Crittendon has moved into basketball season. He is a prolific point guard and shooting guard, but football has always come first. “Football has always been my favorite because I like to play quarterback and lead my team,” he said. “And I really like to throw the ball.”
While basketball helps keep Crittendon in shape for football, he lifts weights throughout the year to prepare for the contact. He’s also been training with NFA the past two years.
“NFA has helped me a lot,” Crittendon said. “They’ve helped me with my throwing mechanics and my technique. I’ve become a better passer and they’ve also helped me become more confident and be a better leader.”
Aaron Swafford didn’t know he was going to be starting at quarterback for Meigs County High School this season until the week of the first varsity game. When he did get the nod, the freshman was well prepared. Less than two months earlier, Swafford competed in his third Duel and finished first among incoming high school freshmen. “I mean, you’ve got some of the best quarterbacks in the country that go to the Duel,” Swafford said of NFA’s showcase event. “To go up there and win it, that really satisfies you as a competitor and it really helps you think that you can hang with the best.” Not only is Swafford starting at QB for Meigs County, which is located in Decatur, Tenn., he is thriving. “Winning the job the the week of our first game, it felt really good and it boosted my confidence a lot,” Swafford said. “I was playing middle school football at this time last year, so it’s much better competition at this level. You’ve just got to prepare for it a lot more.” With Swafford under center, the Tigers are off to a 3-1 start. Their lone loss was against Marion County High School, which was ranked No. 2 in Tennessee last year. “I didn’t play too well in that game,” Swafford said.
No apologies necessary. Swafford is playing a challenging position at an advanced level, and he’ll only get better. That was quite evident after the loss to Marion County. Facing unbeaten Silverdale, Swafford threw touchdown passes on each of Meigs County’s first three possessions of the game. He ran for two more scores in the third quarter to spark a 32-19 win. Needless to say, Swafford has been accepted very well by his older varsity teammates. “At first, I think they were kind of sketchy,” Swafford said. “But as soon as we got on the field I’m sure they just wanted what was best for the team, and they saw we were playing good with me playing quarterback. I think they’ve been fine with it.”
Standing almost 6 feet tall and weighing 170 pounds, Swafford has been playing QB since he was 8 years old. “I like quarterback because you’re in control of the game and you’re a leader at that position,” he said. “Everyone looks up to you and you’re the one everybody needs to make plays.” If he keeps making plays at quarterback, Swafford is likely to achieve his primary goal as the Tigers’ varsity starter. “I want to make it pretty far into the playoffs,” he said. “Last year, this team didn’t make the playoffs. I’m looking to turn that around and go deep.” Training with NFA the past three years can only help Swafford reach that goal. “They’ve helped me a lot with my mechanics and a lot with becoming a leader on the field and how my personal standpoint is on and off the field,” he said. In addition to playing QB as a freshman, Swafford also starts at safety for Meigs County. He was one of the top tacklers while tying for the team lead in interceptions through the first four games. “Playing quarterback definitely helps me play safety,” Swafford said. “I can get in the other quarterback’s heads and read their eyes a lot of times. That helps me know what they’re going to do.”
Sparked by the strong play of two quarterbacks with NFA ties, the Hardin Valley Hawks program based in Knoxville, Tennessee, has become a powerhouse Youth Football League.
Zak Acuff plays for Hardin Valley, and so does Caden Buckles, who won the Duel in July for the incoming Grade 6 division.
In the off-season, Buckles and Acuff train together. The pairing has provided mutual benefits.
“Zak really pushes me, and that helps me push myself,” Buckles said. “Zak helps me because he is a great quarterback I try to play up to his level and train at the same level he does. It really motivates me to work harder and train harder so I can get to that level.”
Buckles is already doing a standout job playing up to his own level.
Playing for 11U Hardin Valley in the Knox County Youth Football League, Buckles and the Hawks got off to a 2-0-1 start this season. He connected on 80 percent of his passes and threw for 4 touchdowns in the first three games.
“We are a run-heavy team, but when we do pass I use the best of my mechanics and I try to find the open receiver,” Buckles said.
Running out of a Single Wing offense, Hardin Valley has a lot of success running the football. When opposing defenses load the box to try stopping the run, Buckles is able to roll out and he uses his quick release and accurate arm to hit open receivers.
“I like playing quarterback because I get to be the leader of the team,” said Buckles, who also makes a major impact on the defensive side of the ball. “I get to motivate my teammates, encourage them. I get a lot of respect and I give that respect back. I just try to help others around me before I help myself.”
Last season, he played for 10U Hardin Valley and the Hawks went 6-3-1 while losing in the semifinals of the playoffs. Buckles completed 65 percent of his passes and threw 14 touchdowns.
After attending five NFA camps the last three summers, Buckles received his first Duel invite and headed for the showcase event in Massillon, Ohio, in July.
“My expectations were to do the best I could,” he said. “I wasn’t really expecting to be in the Top 5 for my first one, let alone first place. I just gave it my all and the best came out. I was pretty mind blown. It was really exciting to hear my name called as the winner. I wasn’t really expecting it.”
Finishing first against such stout competition has helped Buckles take his game to an even higher level this season. “It definitely did,” he said. “It gave me a jolt of confidence in knowing that I can compete under pressure and play to the best of my ability.”
Buckles learned how to respond to pressure in 2012-13, when he was competing against older players. The last two seasons, he has lined up against players his own age.
“It helped me because we did win some games when we were playing up,” Buckles said. “That just lets me know I can play very well against similar competiton. But even when I’m playing older, better competition, I can still use my mechanics and play well.”
Not surprisingly, Buckles does very well off the football field as well. All of his classes in school are at the Honors level, and he has been a member of the All Knox County Honors Chorus for the last two years.
Given his playing background, Kennith Minchey Jr. is patterning his game around the right quarterback.
Minchey, who plays for the Hendersonville Junior Commandos in Tennessee, keeps a very close eye on Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. “I like the way he is able to throw the ball and run the ball,” Minchey said. “He’s a lot of fun to watch.”
The same can be said about Minchey, who primarily played running back in 2014 while rushing for 7 touchdowns. He also took some snaps at quarterback and showed some serious potential while completing 3 of 4 passes for 2 TDs.
This season, Minchey moved from running back to quarterback, and he has sparked Hendersonville to a 5-1 record. “I like playing quarterback a lot,” Minchey said. “It’s a lot of fun. I like getting the chance to throw passes and getting the chance to run the offense. It’s the first time I have run an offense and I’m just working to get better and better.”
While the Commandos are primariy a running team, Minchey has shown they can also be dangerous through the air. Through the first six games, he has connected on 9 of 14 throws for 6 touchdowns. Minchey has also rushed for 3 more scores.
“I’m a little surprised,” Minchey said of his initial success at quarterback. “I just try to do the best job I can and be a good leader. Leading is something I like to do. At quarterback, you have the football in your hands and you have to move the offense. I like to keep everybody together.”
Minchey is in fifth grade, but the Commandos’ roster is primarily made up of sixth graders. There are 36 players on the team and only eight are in Grade 5.
“It is very good competition,” Minchey said. “I just try to get better every game and I’m trying to become a better passer, a more accurate passer. We have a Wing-T offense and we run the ball a lot, but running is something I like to do.”
Minchey showed off his passing skills at the Duel in July, finishing second in the NFA showcase event among incoming fifth graders. The success at his first Duel helped Minchey prepare for his current season.
“Our team goal this year is to win as many games as we can and have the best possible record,” he said. “Doing so well at the Duel helped my confidence a lot. I just concentrated on competing and hitting the targets. With the success I was able to have, it made me feel like I could go out and play quarterback and help my team win.”
Before getting the Duel invite, Minchey attended two NFA camps.
“NFA has helped me a lot,” he said. “They helped me on getting to zero with my throwing mechanics, with my footwork and dropping back, and they worked with me on my handoffs. I was able to make more accurate passes and that helped me to hit the targets when I was at the Duel. They also helped me to read defenses.”
Chad Voytik is from Cleveland, Tennessee, and he is the starting quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh.
Not too far down the road, college football coaches are likely to be returning to Cleveland to recruit another standout QB.
Tucker Pope is still developing his game as a seventh grader at Lake Forest Middle School in Cleveland, but he is already making a big impression.
In the Bruins’ first four games – all wins – Pope has passed for a staggering 736 yards and 13 touchdowns. “Our team has never had a perfect season so that’s what we’re shooting for this year,” he said. “Our goal is becoming the county champions.”
While he already has impressive statistics, Pope is far from being satisfied.
“I think I can do better overall,” he said. “I’ve thrown 3 interceptions. I can make better reads overall and cut down on that. There’s always room for improvement.”
Pope worked over hard over the summer to improve his game. All of the effort really paid off when the 12-year-old quarterback attended his first Duel and finished third among incoming seventh graders.
“I was trying to get into the Top 5, at least,” Pope said. “I had a bad first day and then I had a really good second day and finished in third place. It was my first time at the Duel, so finishing third is a pretty good spot for me. It gave me a lot of confidence for the season.”
Pope is fresh off his first Duel appearance, but he’s been training with NFA for three years.
“NFA has really helped me with my overall mechanics,” Pope said. “They helped me make throws down the field and they helped me improve in the short passing game. They also helped me become a better leader for my teammates.”
In addition to NFA, Pope’s older brother Tyler, who wants to be a football coach after completing college, has also helped him develop as a quarterback.
Tyler coached Tucker’s fifth-grade team that lost only one game and won the Bradley County Super Bowl.
Tucker Pope started playing flag football when he was 4 years old. He moved to tackle in the fourth grade.
At home at QB
Since he first stepped on the field, Pope has been a quarterback. “I like leading the team and helping my team win games,” he said. “I’ve always liked being involved in the offense and moving the team.”
Not only is he a successful football player, Pope is just as sharp in the classroom. He is a member of the National Beta Club, which requires a minimum 3.5 GPA. The Beta Club’s purpose is to promote the ideals of academic achievement, character, leadership and service among elementary and secondary school students.
“I’m just as excited about how he’s doing academically as I am about him playing quarterback,” said Stacy Pope, Tucker’s father. “You can’t do one without the other.”
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — DSQA-certified coach Kraig Cambell and Red Bank High School reached the quarterfinals of Tennessee’s 4-A playoffs. A blocked PAT and a 14-13 loss ended Red Bank’s bid to reach the semifinals.
Campbell is a sixth-year DSQA coach and Offensive Coordinator and QB coach for Red Bank. His squad cruised to a 48-8 first-round playoff win.
In all, Campbell has more than 15 years of coaching experience, including two years at the college level.
The DSQA staff is loaded with experienced coaches like Campbell. DSQA opens offseason training on Dec. 11 in Las Vegas. This first opportunity to get next level for your 2010 season is an exclusive, invitation-only Prospect Camp featuring ProspecTrak.
Do you have what it takes? Are you ready for this crucial step in training for the next level?
Here’s how to get started on the path to qualifying for our Prospect Camps:
- Please contact us, 866.735.3267 toll free, about your interest in our invitation-only Prospect Camps.
- Then click here to request an invitation to these limited-availability training opportunities.
- Certified DSQA coaching staff will provide detailed information on the camp and contact you for an interview to verify your ProspecTrak status.
Just three Prospect Camp opportunities left this year:
December 11 – 13, Las Vegas, NV
December 26 – 28, Orlando, FL
December 28 – 30, Orlando, FL
Get great coaching. Get trained up. Get-2-0!