Multi-sport and incredibly talented student-athlete is looking to reach the same pinnacle as a quarterback as he has in a sport that doesn’t always come to mind
Airing it Out
When we first heard about Jadon Brisendine of Vanden (Fairfield, Calif.) the thought was the title of the story should be “Airing it Out.”
Vanden finished 8-4 and made it to the California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs second round before losing in a 62-42 slugfest to Sacramento Inderkum. Brisendine aired it out for 301 yards and four scores in the loss.
Not only does this 6-2, 180-pound incoming senior play a pretty mean quarterback, Brisendine also punts, kicks off and kicks conversions, and sometimes even kicks field goals.
Also, Jadon does it at a school where a high percentage of the students come from nearby Travis Air Force Base, where his father is an officer in the Air Force and where Brisendine and his family live.
Obviously “Airing it Out” would have been a very appropriate title for Jadon’s story, however you’ll understand the switch after his other accomplishments are unveiled.
From deployment to the dojo
When Captain Frank Brisendine returned in 2003 from deployment in Saudi Arabia, where he served evacuating critically injured soldiers by air transport, he told Jadon that if the then six-year old stayed enrolled in the beginner karate class at a local dojo run by a military member, he would join and they would get their black belts together. A pact was made.
Jadon excelled at a record pace and won Grand Champion in his first tournament. After five years at the very strict school the father/son duo underwent a grueling eight-hour black belt testing session consisting of a 5K run at 5 a.m. followed by drills, questioning and self defense against a senior black belt panel ranging from 2nd degree to a 5th degree master.
In the final match father and son fought side by side and although Jadon was totally spent and bleeding from the nostrils, the duo completed the pact they had made four years earlier. They had achieved what only around three percent of martial artists ever achieve. They earned a first degree black belt in Shotokan karate.
At the time Jadon was 10-years old and the youngest student to ever earn a black belt from that dojo.
Track and swimming too!
Besides football and karate, Jadon is a member of the Vanden 4 x 100 team that has run a 42.75 top mark. The quartet recently qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet and looked possibly headed to the State Track Meet, but a dropped baton on the final leg of the qualifier squashed those hopes and dreams.
He doesn’t swim competitively but Jadon is an excellent swimmer, something you’ll read about him needing in his career plans.
Started as a linemen
“I started playing football when I was six but I played lineman until the seventh-grade. That’s when the coaches realized I had an arm,” the younger Brisendine told NFA Nation
NFA and The Range
The Brisendine family arrived at Travis in 2010 from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and Jadon met Tom Koss through his son Tyler.
Koss, a 1986 Air Force Academy D1 quarterback recruit that retired from Air Force active duty in 2010, wanted to get into coaching and helping quarterbacks.
“I was looking at numerous QB schools/academies. The overall package of NFA was the choice for me based on the instruction, commitment to developing not only great players but also great young men, and the overall integrity of (NFA Founder and President) Darin Slack and the academy’s staff,” Koss remarked.
“Coach Koss did all the research and found the NFA,” Jadon remarked.
By 2012 Koss was working with Jadon, had become an NFA certified coach, and also joined the Vanden staff as the strength and conditioning and quarterbacks coach.
That was also when Jadon was introduced to the NFA and Director of Player Development Will Hewlett.
Since then Brisendine has attended three NFA camps in Northern California and has had several private lessons with Hewlett at The Range in Livermore, Calif.
“Brisendine had a great season prior to us working together,” Hewlett remarked. “What we focused on was making his throw more fluid and getting his legs and core more involved. Saw a good increase in velocity and more consistency. Definitely some good improvements.”
“The thing I like most about NFA is their attention to detail. That’s how I was raised,” Jadon said and then continued. “When you get the small things correct the big picture really improves. Since beginning with NFA my throws have improved a great deal and my ability to read defenses has become a lot clearer.”
Besides Captain Frank, who played football and basketball in high school in Illinois, there’s Jadon’s mother Jenn Brisendine. She ran track in high school and served four years in the Air Force before attending San Antonio College. Now, Jenn is raising Jadon and his 12-year old brother Brylon Brisendine.
Just like his big brother, Brylon is a multi-sport athlete and excels in basketball, football, soccer and track.
This year’s goals
Not only did Vanden make it to the second round of the playoffs last season, the Vikings only lost one game in league to finish second in the Solano County Athletic Conference to new arch rival American Canyon.
“We ran out of time last year,” said Jadon of the 44-36 loss to American Canyon. “My thoughts are to come back and not only beat them, but destroy them. We’re eager to get back at them.”
“Overall, this year’s goal is to get back in the playoffs and not just go further than last year but win the championship.”
Jadon’s favorite player
“Tom Brady and not just because he’s so good and everybody else likes him. It’s because he was an underdog and underrated and went out and tore it up.”
There has been some Ivy League interest in Jadon, and he has interest in the University of San Diego, and possibly the Merchant Marine Academy, but not the Naval Academy, which is surprising until you hear his reasoning.
In the Navy – and guess what he wants to be
Jadon is a kid that does it all and knows where he wants to go and what he wants to do.
“When you go to the Naval Academy you come out an officer and I want to enlist in the Navy,” said the 3.5 GPA student-athlete who tells NFA Nation his favorite subject is math.”
But why, with his martial arts training, athletic prowess, and swimming proficiency, would he not consider going to Navy and becoming a Navy Seal.
“That’s exactly the plan,” said Jadon matter-of-factly and with a slight chuckle. “That’s why I’m looking at University of San Diego where Coach Hewlett thinks it would be a good fit. I want to enlist and become a Seal and they train in San Diego.”
The Right Stuff was a 1983 movie about the Air Force, Navy and Marines finest pilots.
Jadon Brisendine might not want to be a pilot, but he looks like he will be airing it out as a quarterback at the next level somewhere – and it certainly appears he has the right stuff to serve his country as a Navy Seal.
(Photo courtesy of Berry Evans)
Home on The Range: Breeding College-bound Quarterbacks
“Its a Northern California quarterback factory,” Scott Jimison, the father of Folsom (Calif.) Vista del Lago junior quarterback Matt Jimison, who threw for 3,238 yards and 37 TDs last season
“Home on the Range” is the state song of Kansas, and while its verses talk about Buffalo roaming and Deer and Antelope playing, The Range in Livermore (Calif.) has a different brood being bred, and that’s college-bound quarterbacks.
What happens at the state-of-the-art facility on Patterson Pass Road isn’t happening by chance, it’s occurring because of Will Hewlett, the latest and at 33, the youngest of the West Coast quarterback gurus.
Hewlett, who operates out of The Range as the Director of Player Development for the National Football Academies (NFA) , has a pretty impressive list of successful pupils that goes back to even before the native Australian moved to the San Francisco East Bay area from Florida just over four years ago.
Hewlett’s biggest success
Before he even took a varsity snap as a starting signal-caller, Hewlett’s prize pupil Morgan Mahalak, who just completed his senior and only season starting at quarterback for Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic, received multiple major Division I offers before settling on committing to Oregon.
“We met Will through a family friend when we were looking around for someone to work with me, and we decided to take a trip out there,” Mahalak told NFA Nation. “Thank God we did because it’s the best decision we ever made.”
After starting with Hewlett around three years ago, Mahalak developed into one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation as rated by every major recruiting service.
Mahalak was also the first to be an Elite 11 selection with no varsity film, and this past Elite 11 he was a finalist.
More than a coach
“Will has meant the world to me but not just in football, although it was kind of scary how fast I improved my mechanics and the way I throw the ball, tightening things up and even the little things he picks up on,” remarked Mahalak.
“He’s always been there for me like a second dad,” continued Mahalak. “I was in a bad accident last spring and although it turned out I was all right, they rushed me to the emergency hospital. Will was there in less than a half hour.”
In the beginning up to the NFA
It all started when Hewlett moved to Tampa, Florida from Down Under and played quarterback in high school.
He then became the first Australian-born quarterback to play NCAA football. His college experience included Nevada Reno and University of Dubuque. His playing career extended to the pro ranks with a stint in the Arena League.
From there he started with the National Football Academies after returning to the Tampa area.
Currently, as Director of Player Development for the NFA, Hewlett is involved with conducting more than 70 youth development camps in 30 states annually for youth and high school athletes. Hewlett has consulted with the NFL, UFL, and NCAA coaches, and continues to work with quarterbacks in the SEC, ACC, Big 10 and other conferences. Hewlett is a top speaker at the Glazier Clinics tour, the largest football coaching clinics in the country with over 26,000 active members.
Hewlett is constantly traveling throughout the country working with quarterback prospects and has several that fly in to the Bay Area to work with him at The Range.
Will to Succeed
How Hewlett does it with three young children and his wife Julia operating a business adjacent to The Range is amazing.
Part of it is a desire by Hewlett to be at the top of his game.
Just like his first name Hewlett has an unbelievable will to succeed but not in a flashy manner.
“My goal is to communicate to the world in a humble fashion that I work harder at my craft than anyone because I want to become the best mechanics coach in the country.”
Early top achievers
There are several top-notch quarterback coaches in California but that hasn’t stopped Hewlett from attracting the top talent.
San Ramon Valley quarterback Cameron Birse was an early Northern California trainee.
“I don’t even know how to start telling you how much Coach Will has meant to me,” Birse told NFA Nation after a workout at The Range.
“I met him in my sophomore year and came in as a guy that could throw a baseball hard, and he turned me into a guy that could throw a football hard and with accuracy. If it wasn’t for Coach Will I’d be at a JC somewhere,” continued Birse, who despite only one year as a varsity starter, is now at Arkansas State on scholarship thanks to Hewlett and playing football while studying pre-med.
For Mahalak, who came shortly after Birse, Hewlett worked almost like a magician.
“We built a special recruiting video that showcased his abilities and we were careful with the camera angles. Then, we promoted it in our extensive network of college coaches, and within 48-hours it had gone viral in the coaching community with over 800 views.”
Formula for success
Mahalak had been training with Hewlett about 11 months when the video was created, and within four months he had committed to Oregon.
The approach Hewlett uses includes biomechanics and other creative technology, getting kids to buy into making significant changes, and creating failure.
“A big part is teaching kids how to overcome the pressures of failure while trying to help them work through new things.”
Not just a coach to the kids
Hewlett does a lot more for his students and the parents, and on an entirely individual bases.
“The way Will treats these boys and brings each one along at their own pace shows they’re more than football players to him. He has a vested interest in these kids, plus he’s a coach to the dad’s too,” said Scott Jimison, the father of Folsom (Calif.) Vista del Lago junior quarterback Matt Jimison, who threw for 3,238 yards and 37 TDs last season.
Hewlett is a coach to the moms as well.
“Will knows just where to zone in on where Mitch’s technique needs work. At the Elite 11 camps Mitch went in totally prepared for every drill,” said Michelle Daniels, the mother of Concord (Calif.) junior quarterback Mitch Daniels.
Hewlett with rising star Mitch Daniels of Concord (Calif.)
(Photo courtesy of Berry Evans)
“We’re letting Will guide us through the camps process and I like what I see about NFA. We’re still learning, but I trust Will, and when you trust him with your kid’s future you have to rely on that relationship,” remarked Chris O’Brien, the mother of Hilmar (Calif.) quarterback Jonathan O’Brien, who was recently featured in NFA Watchlist.
Young ones as well
Not only does Hewlett work his magic with elite quarterbacks, he also works with youngsters, and sometimes from far away.
On the day of the interview Birse’s session was followed by an eighth-grader that had flown in with his father from Alaska.
“My philosophy is to find a way to bridge the gap in explaining a complex concept so a 13-year old can digest it,” Hewlett said.
Starting April 1 Hewlett will have 5-week Intro To Playing Quarterback program at The Range for 4th through 7th graders.
Nationwide, the recipe Hewlett uses has produced some remarkable results over the past 12 months alone.
His 2014 class of quarterbacks has received over 50 college offers. In Northern California beside Mahalak, Petaluma Casa Grande QB JaJuan Lawson, Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman’s Keaton Dunsford and Sacramento Inderkum signal-caller CJ Spencer have all received offers.
Besides his Northern California senior and junior classes the sophomore class is also solid. El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge star Ian Book is a pupil as are projected starters Hunter Bishop at Mountain View St. Francis, Darius Peterson at Marin Catholic, and Hunter Petlansky at Modesto Central Catholic.
“To see the improvements just since August in the mechanics and his physical progression, and none of it would be been possible without Will. The transition has been amazing,” said Bishop’s father Randy Bishop, whose oldest son Braden Bishop starred at St. Francis and is now playing baseball at Washington.
“The Range is the real deal,” remarked Inderkum assistant coach Terrance Leonard.
Perhaps the elder Jimison summed it up best.
“Will has everything to offer that a quarterback needs to make it in college. It’s a Northern California quarterback factory.”
Hewlett posing with Morgan Mahalak on signing day.
Farm town quarterback making big noise in the Big Valley
Although he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the southern portion of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Sac-Joaquin Section, it hasn’t been hard for Jonathan O’Brien of Hilmar (Calif.) to be flying under the radar.
Since nearby Castle Air Force Base in Atwater was decommissioned in 1995 and turned into the Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center, they don’t really use radar there any longer for takeoffs and landings.
Besides that, not many folks know about the tiny agricultural town five miles south of Turlock.
None of that matters to O’Brien or his ability to sling a football. He just keeps on launching.
No drought on the football field
The lack of rain has really affected farmers in the California Central Valley, including Jonathan’s family that has been farming the same farm in Hilmar since 1902 after arriving from Sweden.
The almonds, alfalfa and corn they grow have been hit hard by the drought.
While there has been a drought rain-wise in the Big Valley, on the football field in Hilmar it’s been raining footballs.
Last season in leading the Yellowjackets to a 13-1 record, and the most wins in school history, O’Brien had excellent numbers despite the offense having a lot of players that could run the ball and Jonathan getting pulled early in several blowouts. By most accounts he had the greatest season in school history.
Jonathan finished with 2,110 yards on a school-record 143-of-224 passing, a school-record 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions for a school-record 128 QB rating. The 6-foot, 190-pound junior also led the bevy of running backs in yards and TDs with 506 yards and nine scores.
Along the way O’Brien got the team within a game of playing for a CIF Division IV Northern Regional Bowl Game title when the team lost 24-10 to eventual state champion Central Catholic of Modesto in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game.
For his efforts Jonathan was named the Trans Valley League Offensive MVP and the Merced Star First Team Quarterback.
Introduction to Will Hewlett
There aren’t a lot of top-notch quarterback coaches in the Central Valley portion of California, and Jonathan’s mother Chris O’Brien had taken him on a 250-mile round trip to one San Francisco Bay Area QB coach but the two didn’t click.
In January, one of the Hilmar assistants suggested they consider checking out NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett and his The Range facility in Livermore.
The local coaching community was aware that Hewlett was working with Hunter Petlansky, the sophomore quarterback of the Central Catholic team that knocked Hilmar out of the playoffs this season.
For the last nine weeks since the introduction was made in January, Chris has brought Jonathan to The Range on what is now a 150-mile round trip.
“If Will was closer by I’d like to go to him every day,” Jonathan joked. “With his changes in my mechanics I’m definitely seeing improvement in the way I can throw the ball – and my grip is better.
“It’s too soon to say because I haven’t used what he’s taught me in competition, but what he’s done is give me the confidence that with improving my mechanics I’ll be the best quarterback I can be – and I can get to the next level.”
Despite the short time together, Hewlett likes what he sees.
“Jonathan has displayed one of the smoothest and accurate releases I’ve seen in a while. His improvement has been in his footwork and adding velocity to his current throw. With his athletic ability, O’Brien has a college career ahead of him.”
O’Brien’s follow through is going to look different after working with NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett
Chris has seen things as well from the way Hewlett interacts with her son.
“He’s so positive with the kids. Jonathan always comes away with good feelings.”
Remember, Castle Air Force Base doesn’t have radar any longer, and Jonathan is out in the middle of the Central Valley, and although he attended a Rivals camp he hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure.
Not only is Hewlett whipping him into shape by improving his mechanics, he’s putting O’Brien on the radar screen.
“Will has really given me exposure to camps and meeting the right people. I know he’s working on getting me into the Elite 11 Camp and I’m really hoping it can happen.”
His brother a mentor
Jonathan’s brother, Wesley O’Brien, played on the 2008 Hilmar team that beat Central Catholic for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship, and was considered for the D4 CIF State Bowl game but not selected. He went on to play at UC Davis.
Rich history at Hilmar leads to lofty goals
Hilmar has won six CIF Sac-Joaquin Section titles, and besides the 2008 team Wesley played on the 2011 team upset defending CIF Division III State Bowl champion Escalon, so goal setting is easy for O’Brien.
“Definitely win another league championship, go for the section title, and if we can do that and then get to state, absolutely, that would be a dream to be part of.”
This spring and summer and NFA
O’Brien’s introduction to Hewlett also meant an introduction to NFA, and both Jonathan and his mother are ready.
“We’re letting Will guide us through the camps process and I like what I see about NFA. We’re still learning, but I trust Will,” Chris remarked. “When you trust him with your kid’s future you have to rely on that relationship.”
“If he says jump I’ll say how high?” said Jonathan.
Can O’Brien jump high enough to register on radar? We’ll see.
Dual threat O’Brien jumping around to escape trouble.
Backup to top QB in Wisconsin gets a start he only dreamed of, and a trip to the West Coast in April he really anticipates
When you’re the backup to the Wisconsin Gatorade State Player of the Year, the only playing time sophomore quarterback Zach Simons of Xavier (Appleton, Wisconsin) usually got was in mop-up’s of blowouts, and with as good as the Hawks were, it was pretty ample.
That all changed when star starter Matt Ferris injured his back in a 30-20 Wisconsin State Division 3 quarterfinal victory over Seymour. The win meant Xavier qualified for the D3 Final Four.
With Ferris deemed out for the semifinal start, the coaches pulled Simons aside after the Sunday weight training session and broke the news. Zach was starting in the semifinals against Greendale.
“I got a rush of adrenalin,” Zach told NFA Nation. “I always wanted to start. I was excited.”
And was there pressure on Simons?
“I tried to go out there like any other game and do my job – and try and come up with a win,” said the 6-foot, 190-pound Simons, who also started every game at outside linebacker and was named All Conference at that position.
Zach was 7-for-12 passing and led the team on a 65-yard scoring drive, and he had a 16-yard rushing touchdown against Greendale, but the Hawks suffered a 44-20 defeat.
Still, the Xavier faithful got a snapshot of what is to come from their dual-threat quarterback next season.
Dual threat but mostly a runner
Simons’ prowess as a runner resulted in four rushing touchdowns last season to go along with two TDs in the air. The team also lined him up at Wildcat after touchdowns, and he scored six two-point conversions during the playoffs.
Go west young man
Famous 19th Century statesman Horace Greely of New York coined the phrase “go west young man,” because Greely saw the fertile farmland of the west as an ideal place for people willing to work hard for the opportunity to succeed.
Simons will be coming west in April for almost the exact same reasons.
Although he’s been to five NFA camps, Zach’s ability to fulfill his long-term goal of playing quarterback at a Division I level college means he has to sharpen the passing skills portion of his dual-threat abilities.
To do that he will be coming to the West Coast the first week of April to work with NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett at The Range in Livermore, Calif. From there ho goes to Seattle to work with NFA Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and Lead Camp Coach JC Boice.
And what do you think is the first thing a young man from a suburb of Green Bay, in the frozen reaches of Eastern Wisconsin, would say about coming out west?
“I can hardly wait to see some warm weather,” mused Zach, who maintains a 3.0 GPA at academically challenging Xavier, named one of the Top 50 Catholic schools in the nation.
And aside from the West Coast weather?
“My dad say’s he (Will Hewlett) is the best NFA quarterback coach. So he felt I should train with him and get some one-on-one work with him. What I’m looking to accomplish is to hone my mechanics and get them solid, improve my coverage reads and really plug into the R4 NFA system.”
Boice, who has worked personally with Simons four times before, likes him a lot and was the one that suggested he come out west to work with Hewlett.
“Zach is another NFA QB that I’m personally VERY excited about. He’s a blue collar tough kid that will give you everything he has. He’s also powerfully explosive both as a runner and passer. He’s fast and strong and plays with attitude. You can’t help but love QBs like that. We (NFA) just need to polish him up. With Zach’s work ethic and talent our job will not be too hard to have him ready for a major breakout year.”
Zach may have never been out west or to California, but his father, Mike Simons has. In fact Mike was a fullback at Merced Junior College.
“I’m really thankful that my dad has put all this time, effort and money in me and my football. Every weekend we work together at gym work, on footwork and gap escapes. Other times I throw to him.”
The baby of the family has an older brother and sister. Jared Simons, a senior offensive lineman and teammate at Xavier this past season, is someone Zach really looks up to.
Sister Lauren Simons played basketball in high school, something Zach also does as a varsity reserve guard at Xavier.
Goals next season
Xavier has won the Eastern Conference title 11 of the past 13 years, been in the playoffs 11-straight years and has won two state championships, so setting goals is no easy task. For Zach it’s pretty simple.
“Lead the conference in completion percentage, passing and rushing yards, win the conference and a state championship.
What Simons has gotten from NFA camps personal workouts with Boice
“The NFA training has definitely helped. It’s a lot about leadership and having faith in yourself and the team to get the job done.”
“With JC, the most important thing I’ve gotten from him is helping me to recognize and read defenses.”
Now, Zach comes to California to work with Hewlett, a quarterback coach that strives to be recognized as the best mechanics coach in the country.
Hewlett is looking forward to working with Simons.
“Zach’s relentless drive and preparation have allowed him to have a successful jumpstart to his career.” Now, we (NFA) have to help him get to the next level.”
Things should be jumping at The Range in early April.
Zach Simons (L) and his buddy and fellow sophomore linebacker Drew Hinkens. Simons started every game at linebacker and made All Conference.
Sophomore named starter in Northern Nevada’s toughest league despite being undersized
The big football team in the “Biggest Little City in the World” is the University of Nevada-Reno Wolf Pack, and wolves are known to roam the snow-capped mountains that surround Reno, however the kind of wolves sophomore Hunter Triplett of Earl Wooster of Reno encountered were a little different.
At one time in the 52-year history of Wooster, the school was a force to be reckoned with in Nevada high school football. It was also a big-time wrestling power.
The Colts won eight state football championships between 1976-1998, still the most in state history.
Since then, however, Wooster is still known as a wrestling school, but the football program has been down. In fact, since 1998 the Colts have not made the playoffs, and they have rarely been at .500 in the ultra-tough IA Northern League.
After a 2-8 season in 2012 with only 23 players on the roster, and with the starting quarterback and back-up both graduating, the job was open.
“Wooster had been down because kids weren’t coming out for football,” Triplett told NFA Nation.
That changed in 2013 when 41 boys came out, including Triplett, the starting JV quarterback as a freshman.
Actually the coaches asked Hunter to move up at the end of the 2012 JV season, but in order to do so they told the at the time 5-foot-9, 125-pounder he’d have to gain 20 pounds.
Six meals a day and protein shakes, plus weight training
With a goal of becoming the varsity starter, Hunter turned to the coaches he trusts for a game plan, NFA Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and Lead Camp Coach JC Boice, and local NFA Coach Rod Robinson.
Coaches Boice and Robinson put him on a weight gain regimen of six meals a day and weight training. “A lot of protein shakes,” Triplett mused.
Within five months Hunter had gained the pounds.
Thrown to the Wolves
Hunter competed with an incoming junior over the summer and prior to the season beginning he was named the starting quarterback.
Triplett came into the season at 5-10 and 145 pounds and started and played every game in Northern Nevada’s toughest league.
His numbers weren’t spectacular, but he did pass for 1,694 yards and 22 TDs with 13 interceptions.
More importantly, Triplett led Wooster to a 4-5 record, the best record at Wooster since 2001. For his efforts, he was named Second Team All League.
“Hunter is a real up and comer that got thrown to the wolves early as a young sophomore, but he made the most of it,” Boice remarked.
“By his senior year everyone will wonder where he came from,” continued Boice. “He has all the tangibles and just needs to grow and continue to work. “His film at moments is pretty impressive. He’s already getting some interests from schools despite his record and stats because some coaches can see his upside.
Maintaining the game plan
Because the 3.57 GPA student-athlete, who’s taking advanced courses in the International Baccalaureate school-within-a-school at Wooster, is super busy, the telephone interview had to be done at 6:30 in the morning.
“I’m up at 5-5:30 because I have a lot to do before school,” Triplett said. “I have to get ready and prepare all my meals for the day and arrange my clothes for school and work.”
Triplett has a part-time job at an athletic training facility where the money he earns pays for the speed and agility sessions he takes there.
Besides the training sessions, Hunter is still using the diet regimen Boice and Robinson laid out for him.
“I’m currently 5-11, 151, but I need to weigh 165 pounds going into the season.”
To reach his ultimate goal Triplett’s weekly goal is to gain a half pound.
“Every Sunday I contact Coach Boice and he reviews my diet and weight I’ve recorded throughout the week.”
What he gets out of NFA
As is evidenced by the work Boice has done with Triplett above and beyond football, the NFA experience has transcended a big part of his life.
Since he was 11-years old, Hunter has been to nine NFA camps, worked personally with Boice for and extended period, worked around 15 times with Robinson, and recently came to The Range in Livermore, Calif. to work with NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett over a two-day period.
“When I went to my first NFA camp I thought playing was just about throwing the football. I didn’t know anything about mechanics and getting the footwork right.”
“For me the most important thing I’ve gotten out of NFA is the stress and importance they put on leadership and doing the little things right. I’ll never forget the leadership speech by Coach Slack (NFA founder and President Darin Slack).”
“As a team our goal is to grow as a team, get above .500 and go the playoffs for the first time in 16-years, and win a state championship in the next two years. I want to be a success personally, but doing whatever I have to do to get us to the playoffs is my goal.”
“My long term goal is to get the attention of college coaches, whatever or wherever, but eventually to start in a D1 program. From there I’ve dreamed of playing pro since I was six.”
Despite his smallish stature Boice still likes what he sees.
“I still consider him an ‘under the radar’ kid for the moment. However as he continues to grow and mature and develop that is going to change and change fast. He has all the tangibles especially leadership and intelligence with very strong throwing mechanics, so he has a high ceiling. The Hunter we saw be effective this year as a sophomore varsity starter is going to grow into an extremely competitive senior quarterback a year and a half from now.”
Triplett can’t control his height, but he’s working diligently on his weight, and for a kid that’s up at 5 a.m., maintains outstanding grades, and works a part time job on top of football, no one can question his work ethic and desire to succeed.
Jonathan Hillel of Mount Si High in Snoqualmie, Washington, actually got more time at free safety on defense, and most recently as a starter on the basketball team, than he did last season at quarterback.
Much like NFA standout Morgan Mahalak (Marin Catholic, Kentfield, Calif.), who received an offer from Oregon before starting a varsity game because he was an understudy to current Cal quarterback Jared Goff, “JoJo” as his father Jean Hillel nicknamed him as a baby, has had to be a backup to Nick Mitchell.
Mitchell accepted an offer to Oregon State because of his prowess, so JoJo had to bide his time.
Hillel had to be content with three interceptions including a pick six on defense, and a mop-up role at signal-caller on a team that finished 9-2 and went to the second round of the Washington Boys State Football Championships 3A division eventually won by nationally-ranked Bellevue, perennially the top team in The Evergreen State.
Best back-up in the state
Hillel isn’t where Mahalak was at this stage of his career, and he doesn’t have any offers, but since he began working with NFA Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and National Lead Camp Coach JC Boice three years ago, and attended 15 NFA camps, he’s more than on the radar screen.
Not only has he impressed Boice, but he has been impressive in several other camps since as early as 2008. As a result he heads to Las Vegas where he’s been invited to participate in next weekend’s Elite 7-on-7 put on by Pylon Elite Camps Football.
“JoJo Hillel was without a doubt the best back-up in the state of Washington last year,” Boice said.
“I expect very big things for JoJo in 2014,” continued Boice. “Aside from being a very good athlete that has all the physical tools, he is also one of the more intelligent young men I have worked with, and his leadership is a very big plus as well. He has a great attitude and kids like being around him.”
“As a quarterback JoJo is tough in the pocket but also has ability to escape and extend plays. He is just a real playmaker. What a lot of college programs are soon going to discover as well is that JoJo is very young. He is going to graduate very young and has a lot of natural maturing to do physically speaking. He is a full year younger than athletes in his class. Give him another year of growth and he is going to be even more explosive.”
Mount Si head coach Charlie Kinnune agrees with Boice about the 6-foot-2 Hillel and his goal of getting to 180-pounds fairly soon and developing more physically with workouts and lifting five days a week.
“He does need to get stronger so he can develop more speed at the point of attack.”
On being a back-up
“Its been tough, especially when the coaches tell me I could start at almost every other school, but Nick is a great quarterback and I’ve watched him and learned from him,” said the 3.2 GPA student-athlete whose favorite subject is U.S. History.
“Now that I’m getting my opportunity I want to prove I’m more than a back-up and I have a lot more to offer,” continued JoJo, who gets his football roots from Jean, an enterprise architect that’s been coaching all levels of football for 25 years and who played at the college level growing up in Quebec.
New rivals and expectations
Snoqualmie, 20-miles southeast of Seattle, is growing, and so has the enrollment at Mount Si. This coming season they are moving up to 4A, so they won’t play Bellevue. Instead, the Wildcats will play Skyline and Eastlake of neighboring Sammamish, and Bothell, all perennial Washington big-school powers.
“Our goal is to win a 4A state title,” JoJo told NFA Nation. “It’s a lot to ask for, and maybe some teams won’t take us seriously, but we’re going to come out every day and make it happen.
Best attributes and what JoJo likes about being a quarterback
“Our system is flexible enough to fit JoJo right in,” Kinnune said. “He’s lanky but very athletic so we’ll put him on the move. His other best attributes are his ability to change direction, a nice touch, and he’s pretty savvy.”
JoJo on the move as a back-up
“I’ve always liked being the quarterback since I began playing at seven,” said JoJo. “You take command of everything. When you win or lose a game it’s on you. You’re the one everyone looks up to when you’re going out there every day and grinding.”
“My favorite player is Chris Schlichting (a 6-5, 270-pound Mount Si lineman). We’ve been best buddies since the second grade. My favorite quarterback is Cam Newton. He’s pretty exciting to watch.”
What NFA and working with Coach Boice has meant
“When I came into NFA I knew nothing about mechanics. They tuned me up.”
“JC has come a long way with me. He always has something new to fix. He’s been very helpful.”
“At camps I’ve talked to a lot of college coaches and now I know going into the college camps I have to show them what they want and what I’ve learned from people like JC.”
“For me it’s about going and getting an education. That comes first. Hopefully the school I choose has a top football program.”
The way JoJo is progressing and impressing people like Boice, chances are a top program very well lies in the future of Jonathan “JoJo Hillel, a back-up no more.
Oh Boy, were the doubters and the naysayers wrong about this New Mexico-bound star shown with his quarterback coach and mentor, and NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett
JaJuan Lawson of Casa Grande (Petaluma, Calif.) has always been a quarterback and always wanted to be a quarterback from the time he began playing football at nine-years old.
In order to understand where Lawson is going, and that’s to New Mexico as a quarterback, means we have to look first at his high school and then his early career.
While the community of Petaluma (40-miles north of San Francisco) is very progressive and somewhat liberal politically, it’s an old-time ranching and farming town of around 60,000, and now also has many vineyards in its location at the entrance to the Sonoma County Wine Country.
It used to be the chicken capitol of the world, the town’s biggest event is still Butter and Egg Days, and at one time it was even home to the World Wrist Wrestling Championships.
While the Casa Grande campus serves the east side of town, which is newer and more modern suburban in nature, it still has had a small number of African-American student-athletes that have starred as Gauchos in comparison with an urban area or a suburb closer to an urban area.
One of the exceptions to that were JaJuan’s parents Marcell and Shayna Lawson. Marcell, a plumber and also the Casa Grande offensive coordinator, was a running back for the Gauchos and also still holds the school record of 10.6 for the 100-dash. Shayna, an accountant, played softball.
When JaJuan took over as the starter in 2011 he was following Nick Sherry, a 6-foot-5, 222-pound prototypical pocket passer now at Nevada Las Vegas that had led the team to the semifinals of the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section Division II playoffs.
Lawson was 6-foot, 185-pounds, and like his dad was known for his athleticism and prowess in track.
Not only that, but not only had Casa Grande never had an African-American quarterback, there had never been one that was a D1 prospect in the Redwood Empire area of the North Coast Section. That’s a 400-mile stretch covering everything north of San Francisco to the Oregon border.
The pundits, prognosticators and self-proclaimed experts were way off
The chit-chat started right away but JaJuan and his coaches and parents were prepared for the naysayers.
“A lot of people stereotyped JaJuan and they didn’t know he came from a family that was from Petaluma,” Casa Grande head coach Trent Herzog told NFA Nation. “They said he’s just an athlete, he’s not tall enough, not accurate enough, but he kept working with Will (NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett) and he got better each year.”
So much better that this past season he led Casa Grande to a 13-1 record and the North Coast Section Division II title game they lost in a hard fought 41-28 defeat to Miramonte of Orinda.
Along the way Lawson passed for 2,203 yards with 23 touchdowns and only two interceptions for a 133 QB rating. He also rushed for 1,102 yards and 13 TDs with a 10.77 yard average per carry. JaJuan also had 38 tackles and two interceptions as a safety on defense.
For his three-year career at Casa Grande, that included no worse than a quarterfinal playoff appearance, the now 6-foot-1, 195-pound Lawson threw for 6,277 yards and 62 TDs with 19 interceptions. He also rushed for 2,189 yards and 30 scores. The 92 total TDs makes that list in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Lists.
Still, the pundits, prognosticators and self-proclaimed experts saw his not signing early at signal-caller as an indication he might not have the right stuff to play quarterback at a major college. Word circulated in the chat rooms that a lot of colleges wanted him because of his fierce hitting on defense.
Oh Boy, were they wrong!
“I didn’t think we had a chance to get him,” New Mexico head coach Bob Davie told NFA Nation.
“I remember the first time we watched him last spring before his senior season, we felt he was a fit for where we are going with our unique program. At the quarterback position in particular it has to be a perfect fit and JaJuan is just that,” said Davie, who just completed his second season at the Lobos helm.
“Obviously his athletic ability and willingness to run the ball jumps out at you,” continued Davie. “But after we got past the physical stuff and once we got to know him, it was his personality and leadership that was what we really liked and makes him a unique kid.”
And what about the doubters Coach Davie?
“Maybe others did but we never even thought of him as anything other than a quarterback. As the (recruiting) process went on I think he started to feel as connected to us as we felt with him.”
It turns out Davie was correct.
When Davie says he originally thought they didn’t have a chance to get Lawson, his concerns actually lasted right to the end. Despite him telling Davie he was committed prior to signing day on Feb. 5, JaJuan decided to do it his way.
With Herzog’s cell phone ringing off the hook with colleges trying to get Lawson to flip, JaJuan had not yet arrived by 8:10 for the 8 a.m. signing ceremony at Casa Grande with teammate and Cal-bound running back John Porchivina.
It turned out the Lawson’s hadn’t faxed the signed letter to Davie.
“I had committed to my decision and told Coach Davie in early January but I had my own process and made a decision to wait until signing day,” Lawson said.
JaJuan had a process but he didn’t have a fax machine at home and had to do it at school. Hence his late arrival to the classroom where the ceremony was held.
“New Mexico was a little worried and called my dad at 7:55 to ask if I was still signing. Everything was signed. We just don’t have a fax.”
Time to go back in time
What the naysayers and doubters didn’t know about was what Herzog eluded to, Lawson’s secret weapon, his quarterback coach Will Hewlett.
Hewlett has been such a dedicated mentor to Lawson the last four-plus years that he got up at 5 a.m. and drove 100-miles each way in commute traffic to join well-wishers at the signing.
They jumped all over it
“When I first saw JaJuan in sixth grade I never questioned from day one that he had the potential to be a D1 quarterback,” said Herzog. “I knew his family, he came to our camps, and he had the god-gifted talents. He just needed to work on mechanics and change his delivery from a Bernie Kosar sideways release – and that’s what Will taught him.”
Prior to finding Hewlett but knowing his son had the right stuff Marcell began to do his homework.
“My dad did a lot of research and looked at a lot of different quarterback coaches,” JaJuan said. “We had heard about Will and when he moved out here we jumped all over it.”
A rough start
Two years after Herzog saw him as a sixth-grader Lawson began working with Hewlett at Monte Vista High in nearby Danville, where Hewlett was working out the kids prior to opening the state-of-the-art The Range facility in Livermore, CA.
“In the beginning the first couple of sessions were pretty rough,” remarked JaJuan. “He was teaching something totally different, mechanics, and for years I just threw the football.”
Now, almost five years down the road, and with 60-70 sessions with Hewlett and all the Northern California NFA Camps under his belt, Lawson is ready for New Mexico and its run and gun offense.
“After coming down the road with Will these past few years you can see how the ball comes off now and then. It all comes together and makes sense about what he’s teaching.”
No doubts from Hewlett
It might seem odd, but as many times as the two worked together, and the 2-3 games a season Hewlett attended (particularly when Casa Grande played league rival Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman and its Hewlett QB prodigy Keaton Dunsford) Lawson’s mentor and QB coach had no idea there were doubters and naysayers about JaJuan’s prospects as a D1 quarterback.
“I never knew about the pressures,” Hewlett remarked. “He never said a word and never showed it, and that’s a lot about what makes him an amazing quarterback.”
“Not only that, but even if I had heard that kind of stuff, although I may listen I usually ignore those things. I’m very confident in my opinion of what I see. It took me years to trust it,” Hewlett said and then continued.
“I look at every kid individually. If they want to put the work in why put limitations on background and demographics. That means nothing to me. When I identify someone as being talented at quarterback I’m going to go with what I see. With respect to JaJuan I didn’t realize how athletic he was and what a stud he is when I first started with him.”
Steady progression and attitude has led to success
“For a two-sport athlete that has never had a season off JaJuan’s focus on football has been very steady and he’s put in the work to prove it,” Hewlett said.
“Also, when you meet JaJuan and get to know him you’d never guess he’s had the kind of success he’s had by how he presents himself. He’s a humble young man.”
What’s JaJuan doing until summer?
Running track and keeping up his grades.
There were some that thought he might give up track this season but those people don’t know JaJuan. Besides, he wants to get a 10.9 personal best 100 closer to the 10.6 of Marcell.
“I’m a two-sport athlete so I’m never going to stop running. My dad’s school record was a 10.6 so we’ll see how low that 10.9 goes this year,” said the 3.5 GPA student-athlete that’s worked hard to get his grades up.
Is there something to prove at the next level and why New Mexico?
“Oooh yes,” said JaJuan slowly and emphatically, and looking upward with a sly grin like he really has something to show when asked about the doubters.
“I have a ton to prove, continued Lawson, who plans on majoring in business management at New Mexico. “People can say what they want, but I’ve seen Russell Wilson win a Super Bowl and I know where I want to go. I believe in New Mexico and what the coaches there are doing. I feel like we’re going to be playing for some conference championships real soon.”
So does Davie, Herzog and Hewlett, and maybe even some of those that still have doubts.
How can anyone deny JaJuan Lawson a path to success after all the hard work he’s put in and the dedication he’s shown?
There’s really no doubt about that answer.
Lawson signing his letter of intent on Feb. 5 at Casa Grande High School
Trent Banner: Young, tough and ready to start
Despite not being able to do much in the way of workouts due to a broken fibula, Trent Banner of Foothill High (Palo Cedro, California) came into the OpC4 camp in early January determined not to let his lack of activity or the pressure of the camp dissuade him.
“I honestly didn’t let the pressure get to me,” said Banner, who just turned 14-years old and was one of the younger participants at Tampa. “I just did my thing and I thought I did pretty good doing it.”
The fact that Banner was even able to attend the OpC4 camp is a story in itself.
As a freshman and as the starting quarterback for the Foothill freshmen team, Trent was having an exceptional season under a new coaching staff, and the dual-threat signal-caller was even leading the team in rushing.
About halfway through the season he got hit in practice with a helmet to his left leg, and although he felt a sting he hopped off the field.
“The sports trainer said it was just a major contusion and the coach said I was all right,” Banner remarked.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Banner missed the game against arch-rival Enterprise of Redding, but in his first game back he threw for two TDs out of a new shotgun formation and played the last three games of the season.
Eventually, it was determined Banner had completely broken his fibula and the doctor that was very surprised he could play on the leg sidelined him until Christmas, less than two week’s before the OpC4 camp.
How was the young man going to prepare for the camp?
Banner had been going to NFA camps since he began playing quarterback at age 10, and he’d been working with NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett for over a year.
He couldn’t do anything on the leg, but that didn’t stop Trent from working hard on everything else.
“My first real workouts on the leg were at the camp, but in late November we went down to Will on four weekends to work on my throwing but no footwork.”
That’s a mere 500-mile round trip.
“I also hit the weight room to work on upper body, and it’s paid off because now I’m able to do things with my upper body and chest I was never able to do.”
The commitment showed in Tampa.
“Trent gave that great effort consistent with what you expect from quarterbacks who aspire to the next level,” said NFA Founder and President Darin Slack. “His commitment to do things the right way at every turn will definitely open the doors at the collegiate level for him.”
Hewlett echoed those sentiments and went even further.
“Tough, no quit attitude. Trent Banner has matured into a rising prospect in Northern California. Quick delivery, accurate and above all makes great plays under pressure.”
Besides Hewlett and Slack, Banner credits other NFA coaches for his progression, including NFA Director of Product Development Dub Maddox, and Kyle Miller.
But will all the hard work and development he’s gotten from four years at NFA camps allow the 3.8 GPA student-athlete to compete for the starting job?
“I believe I can start and I’ll get a chance to compete. We’ll just have to see if the coaches want to risk it with a sophomore.”
If this kid can play on a broken leg, anything is possible.
Nick Patterson: Likes being pushed to the limit
Like many of the other young invitees to the NFA’s first annual OpC4 camp in Tampa in early January, Nick Patterson of Lakeside High School in Evans, Georgia, had limited varsity experience.
That didn’t matter to the sophomore who has been on the radar screen of the NFA from the time he was in grammar school.
“Until the Tampa camp I’d never really worked with Will Hewlett but when I was in sixth-grade he liked me on Facebook and that’s what got me interested in NFA,” Patterson said.
In 2011, when he was in the seventh-grade, and in his fourth year of organized football, NFA did a story on Patterson after he had already attended NFA camps and worked with NFA Founder and President Darin Slack.
Now, after showing the kind of overall improvement needed to be invited to the exclusive OpC4 camp, Patterson did not disappoint.
“I think the main reason I was invited to Tampa was I’ve shown in NFA camps I’m a competitor,” Patterson remarked. “Since I started with NFA my goal has been to strive to get better at each camp and I feel I’ve improved every time I go to one.”
Ready, willing and able
The OpC4 camp is like no other but the 6-foot, 175-pound Patterson was ready after having worked with Slack so many times in the past.
“Coach Slack pushes you to the limit and not just on the football field. He teaches you to be able to respond in uncomfortable situations. An example is at the camp we had to stand up and tell everyone why we were different. It wasn’t easy.”
It might not have been easy but Patterson proved himself at the camp. This is what Slack had to say.
“Nick has the calm and easy demeanor of a seasoned veteran at quarterback, with an obvious talent that should net him a starting role at the collegiate level one day.”
And what about the guy that liked him on Facebook way back when.
“He has a quick, compact release. He’s well coached, his ability to make throws on the move is just as impressive as when he’s in the pocket,” Hewlett remarked. “Patterson should have a break-out year in 2014.
They play the Masters golf tournament in nearby Augusta, but in Evans and at Lakeside, the Panthers compete in the Georgia Class 5A Region 2, said to be one of the toughest regions in the Peach State.
In Georgia the boys can play up to six quarters a week so last season Patterson was both the Panthers’ JV starter and varsity back-up. In JV action he racked up big numbers passing and rushing, including a game where he was over 200 yards on the ground and in the air for a 7-0 team. He also had four varsity TDs passing.
A backup no longer, its Patterson’s turn to run the no-huddle offense of Lakeside Coach Jarrett Troxler.
“I got introduced to the offense my freshman year. It’s the Auburn run game with a lot more passing.”
Best attributes and favorite part of OpC4
“My best attributes are I strive to limit my mistakes, that I’m a dual threat and I’m an accurate passer,” said Patterson, who has a 3.8 GPA and scored 1,420 on the PSAT.
“I’ve been to a lot of NFA camps but none pushed me this far. This camp gave us the experience of having a lot of adversity thrown at us.”
“Getting up and working out with the Navy Seals at 6 am – they pushed us to our limits.”
It’s been quite a football season in Seattle. The Seahawks have energized the city and are preparing to play Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. And a pair of rising young quarterbacks – Ayden Ziomas and Joey Echigoshima – recently wrapped up stellar seasons of their own that culminated with selections to the Team Seattle All-Stars in the FBU National Championships.
The seventh graders were teammates for Team Seattle, and both are veteran NFA campers.
Ziomas had a monster season for the Lynwood (Wash.) Royals in the Senior Division (12-13 year olds), passing for 1,574 yards and 24 touchdowns in nine games while leading his team to the second round of the playoffs. “I was really happy with the season,” said Ziomas, who is never likely to forget one game when he connected on 19 of 20 passes for 320 yards. “I feel like I had a good overall year.”
Ziomas has worked extensively with JC Boice, a Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and Lead Camp Coach as well as NFA’s Director of Business Development and Strategic Alliances. “I consider Ayden one of the top up-and-coming quarterback prospects in the Pacific Northwest,” Boice said. “He has great natural instincts for the game and as a QB. His poise in the pocket is way beyond his years and he has a good release and strong arm. He also has his head on straight and is not afraid to be a blue-collar quarterback that will grind it out to get better. He is a future star, no doubt about it.”
Taking advantage of Ziomas’ skills at quarterback, the Royals ran a spread offense this past season. “I like it because there are so many different passing options,” Ziomas said. “There are a lot of different route combinations you can run out of the spread and I tried to take advantage of that.”
Playing for the Junior Wolverines J.V. Gold team this past season, which feeds into the Bellevue (Wash.) High School program, Echigoshima led his team to a 9-1 record and berth in the league championship game. “We play a Wing-T offense, so I try to be a dual threat type of quarterback,” said Echigoshima, who passed for 14 touchdowns and ran for 10 more. “As the season went on, I think I got a lot better at throwing on the run.”
Boice raved about the athletic Echigoshima, who also excels in baseball and basketball. “Joey is just a very explosive athlete,” Boice said. “I see him more as a quarterback, but I know he has played both QB and receiver. He has a very strong arm and is a fierce competitor that just loves the game. My biggest worry is that we will lose him to another sport as he is just as accomplished as a baseball player and basketball player. If Joey decides to commit himself to football – and in particular being a quarterback – he will be another powerhouse QB from the Pacific Northwest. He has the skills and the work ethic.”
Echigoshima might be dropping basketball, but he’ll stick with baseball and continue to regard football as his No. 1 sport. “Football and baseball are kind of my two big sports because I travel around out of state with both of them,” he said. Ziomas is getting ready to start playing Arena football, and he’ll continue training for next season in the spring and summer.
Ziomas and Echigoshima were skilled enough to be members of the Team Seattle All-Stars, and they both stepped up and performed against some of the top competition in the United States and Canada. “It was a really good experience,” Ziomas said. “The competition we had to play against was just amazing and the whole team I played on was amazing. It definitely helped me out a lot. Playing against really good competition like that made me a better player.”
Said Echigoshima: “It was a really good experience. I got to play with really good players and we were able to bond, go out of state and go to hotels. I think that was the best part of it. And playing the games was great. It was so much fun to see all of the good teams from all over the nation.”
With so much talent on hand, both players had to split time at quarterback, while Echigoshima was also a starting wide receiver. Team Seattle beat Oregon and British Columbia in Washington, and then traveled to Sacramento and beat all-star teams from Utah and Orange County (Calif.). Moving on the Final Four in the nation, Team Seattle journeyed to San Antonio and lost to teams from Iowa and Indiana.
“I thought it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had playing football,” Echigoshima said. “I learned a lot and had a lot of fun playing against so many good teams.”
One of the other 19 quarterbacks from around the country that participated in the NFA’s first annual OpC4 camp held in Tampa from January 1-4, admirably called Tyler DeSue “a freak of nature.”
The eighth-grader that many consider has the best all-around athletic package from the class of 2018 has definitely been turning some heads, and not just with the guys he plays with or camp coaches.
This past summer, before he even began the eighth-grade at Princess Ann Middle School in Virginia Beach, VA, DeSue received a college offer, but not just any college offer. The offer was from the highest public academic institution in his home state, the University of Virginia.
“Honestly, it was very surprising to get that offer,” said DeSue, who since summer has grown an inch to 6-feet, and put on a little weight to tip the scales at 170-pounds.
How does a boy so young react to something so huge?
“What went through my head was I need to stay humble and hungry and not sit back because I have an offer,” said the Honor Roll student that admits he “can do even better.”
What’s interesting is DeSue didn’t even start out as a quarterback.
“I was always the biggest kid on the team so I played everything but quarterback. Then, in the sixth-grade the coaches encouraged me after seeing my arm and I decided to try something new.”
Besides a college offer, DeSue has been impressive enough to have been one of two middle-school QBs to get an invite to the OpC4 camp – and he didn’t disappoint anyone.
This is the third camp DeSue has worked with Will Hewlett, the NFA Director of Player Development.
“DeSue has proven though film and camps that he’s not just one of the greatest athletes in the 2018 class, but a talented quarterback. Mature beyond his years, you will see why he already has an offer from UVA and will get many more,” Hewlett remarked.
What did DeSue think he had to prove at the camp, and what about competing with older boys?
“I felt I needed to show I’m not just a little kid, to exceed my level to do better, and to show some leadership. Being with older guys is nothing new to me. It felt really good to get to know all the guys.”
NFA Founder and President Darin Slack liked what he saw.
“Tyler is a unique talent as an eighth-grader. Having already been offered by a D1 school, it’s clear to see why they believe he is worthy of that offer now. He can really spin the football, and his athleticism is impressive. It’s just a matter of where he will play college ball, not if.”
How have his classmates reacted to all this fanfare?
“At first I didn’t even mention it. I don’t really parade around about it because I don’t want to sound cocky,” said DeSue, who in six games this past season for the Princess Anne Panthers passed for around 400 yards and five TDs and rushed for approximately 500 yards and 10 touchdowns. All-in-all he accounted for 104 of the team’s 132 points.
And what does he feel are his best attributes?
“My dual threat capability and my leadership on the field.”
Its not surprising that at a camp like the OpC4, where the level of talent is so high, leadership is high on the list of things DeSue got from the experience.
“I think I did pretty well. The camp helped me a lot, but the most important thing is it defined leadership for me like it’s never been defined before.”
Hopefully, you’ve heeded our advice in the past two articles regarding your off-season and are well into preparation for your next season. In this third installment we want to share some tips on staying motivated, stress the importance of nutrition and rest.
This is the time of year when you are doing the lonely work, making the choices that others won’t, and sacrificing for success. During this time, it’s normal for you to become unmotivated or grow frustrated. These are powerful emotions and they can be difficult to overcome without inspiration or encouragement. Below are some tips to help keep you motivated and focused on getting better:
- Write down your goals and place them somewhere where you’ll see them every day.
- Enjoy and get excited about the small successes.
- Continually remind yourself of the “why” behind your goals.
- Visualize success both in terms of accomplishing a training goal, but during games as well.
- Watch, read or listen to something that gets you excited.
- Read about the success of others.
The most important tip of all is changing your mindset about failure. What we stress with our athletes is viewing failure as needed feedback. That means when you don’t accomplish a goal, or miss a workout or training session, use it as a learning opportunity. Take a moment to evaluate why you didn’t accomplish a goal. Ask yourself if it was due to a lack of motivation or focus. Could fatigue been an issue? Or, perhaps a lack of skill or knowledge affected your performance. Take the lessons learned and incorporate them into preparation for your next attempt at achieving your goal. Another crucial element of succeeding during the off-season is proper nutrition and rest.
Nutrition and rest determine how your body refuels and repairs itself. Ignoring one – or both – will have a significant impact or your ability to continue your development and avoid plateauing during the off-season. As an athlete, you must understand that the demands you place on your body are different than those of non-athletes. Therefore, you must eat and rest differently. Below are some general tips:
- Food is needed fuel, so take nutrition seriously.
- Eat breakfast within 45 minutes of waking every day.
- Include healthy snacks between meals.
- Eat lean protein in every meal.
- Limit sugar intake and avoid sodas, energy drinks and juices.
- Eat healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, avocado and fish.
- Drink water throughout the day.
- Re-fuel after a workout with a protein shake.
- You need to sleep to grow; this is when the body repairs itself.
Like everything else we’ve discussed, use these tips to evaluate and re-evaluate your nutrition and rest habits. If you’re serious about succeeding on the field, it needs to carry over into everything else you do, including nutrition and rest.
Before beginning to put in work this off-season, you must look ahead to next season. Football is a game that consists of rapid changes in direction on the field, and off the field as well. These changes can vary from moving up in level of play, a philosophical change by coaches, or moving to a whole new program. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure your off-season workouts are 100 percent focused on preparing you to succeed next season:
-What will physically be asked of me to compete throughout the entire season?
For example, let’s say last year you struggled throwing the deep comeback after play-action, but your offense is switching to a more quick passing game centered attack. Would it make very much sense to devote a great deal of time perfecting the skills needed to execute the play-action comeback throw? No. Another example: Your coach is planning to feature you as more of a runner in an option attack. In order to absorb the additional hits and be an effective rushing threat, you will need to add additional body mass while increasing quickness and overall speed.
Addressing these questions – and those mentioned in Part 1 of this series – you are now prepared to set specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely goals to guide your off-season development.
We at National Football Academies are big advocates of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals as they tremendously streamline the action phase, propelling your development to another level.
Let’s review S.M.A.R.T.
-The goal should clarify what actions you are going to take.
-Be able to track your effort and progress towards reaching your goal.
-At this very moment you are ready to take action, and you have the resources required.
-This goal is relevant to one of the areas of development you defined during your last season review and next season expectations.
-You can complete this goal within the off-season’s timeframe.
While setting your goals for the off-season, we suggest starting with the biggest needs first. This should be a skill, or physical or mental component you struggled with during last season. It can also be a major philosophical change from last year that requires the development of a new skill. Don’t overload yourself; pick a few goals at a time. We also suggest dividing current goals among the three areas of development – skill, physical and mental. Additionally, make sure to use the resources at your disposal. Get teammates, parents and coaches involved to encourage and guide you through the process. Lastly, remember to push the pace, limits and boundaries. Set goals that are currently above your performance level, but reasonably reachable.
We are now far removed from the days where merely playing a second or third sport provided adequate preparation for the next football season. Now, athletes must strike a balance between their current in-season sport while still investing time and energy in sport specific training for their off-season sport(s). To achieve this balance, athletes must have a well-structured and thought-out plan centered around skill and mental and physical development.
Before planning your off-season, an athlete and his parents must understand time and effort are finite resources. Trying to do too much can be just as damaging to an athlete as doing too little. Being thorough during the planning stage helps the athlete identify how much time and effort can be invested directly into an off-season sport while helping to properly prioritize their schedule. Begin by identify commitments in the following areas:
- How much homework do I receive daily?
- What are the big projects or exams that will require extra time to prepare for, or complete?
- When are evening school functions?
- When are your days off from school?
- When do they begin?
- What is the weekly practice and game schedule?
- When does the season end?
- Are there any breaks?
Social & Other Commitments
- Do you have any family trips planned?
- Are there any big family events? (Graduations, recitals, etc.)
- How much time will you spend with friends?
- When will you have time for hobbies?
- What is your work schedule?
These are just some suggestions to consider when identifying potential commitments. The next step is evaluating the past season.
Objectively Reviewing Last Season
Objective evaluation of the previous season helps an athlete make sure the time and effort invested into sport specific training is relevant and beneficial. Human nature tends to gravitate to what we already do well; as an athlete you must combat this through planning workouts. Below, we list some question to ask yourself regarding last season’s performance in order to better plan your off-season workouts:
- Did physical limitations hinder me?
- Did a lack of knowledge hinder me?
- Was I limited by my skill set?
- Did other obligations interfere with my preparation or execution?
- Did I ignore/avoid working on certain skills I’m inconsistent with?
Answer these questions as thoughtfully, honestly and accurately as possible. Often times, that is easier said than done. You must remain objective and avoid letting emotions such as disappointment and frustration interfere with your judgment. This process is not about assigning blame, but identifying where you need to grow during the off-season to be a more effective player next season. By answering the questions regarding your schedule and performance from last season, you are prepared to plan workouts, camps and events to better prepare you for next season. We will cover this process in Part 2 of the article.
Disclaimer: This NFANation.com article has been submitted by the National Football Academies and a assigned NFA staff of writer. This article should be considered for guideline purposes only. Before starting any training plan an athlete should have received full athletic physical and medical check-up within in the last 6 months. If you have not had a up-to-date physical it is highly recommended you do so prior to starting any type of athletic training. National Football Academies cannot accept responsibilities for any injury or damage suffered as a result of attempting any exercise regime on this website.
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