From way back, I have to admit I was always partial to quarterbacks.
It all goes back to 1978, when coach Willie Jeffries, now in the College Football Hall of Fame, hired me as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Wichita State, my alma mater. That's when I had the pleasure of coaching Prince McJunkins, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound quarterback from Oklahoma who went on to become the first player in NCAA history to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 2,000 yards in his career.
Prince helped me develop a system called the trap option, and he made me look good running it. He was a two-time Offensive Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference and went on to play in the Canadian Football League.
As an aside, Prince's son, Prince Jr., signed a scholarship earlier this month to play at Georgia Southern next year, which has made me a fan of the Eagles. I'm really looking forward to going to the Eagles' practices in August to meet Prince Jr. and see his dad for the first time in 31 years. That will be wonderful.
Prince was one of the first great, young quarterbacks I coached, and I suppose he helped develop my soft spot for signal-callers. Of course, it didn't hurt that I've had the chance to coach many great quarterbacks, including my son, Chris, who earned a scholarship to Murray State.
Another who comes to mind was Rickey Foggie, a four-year starter during my time at Minnesota who made great efforts on and off the field to help the Golden Gophers make it to two bowl games. Rickey was an exceptional athlete from Laurens, S.C., who decided to come to Minnesota. After graduation, he also played several years in the Canadian Football League.
I've had the pleasure to coach a number of talented quarterbacks since coming to the Lowcountry, too.
In 1989 and1990, I was coaching at Hilton Head High School, where Jason Frazier was our excellent quarterback. If that name sounds familiar, it's because his son, C.J. is now the quarterback at Bluffton High School. When I saw C.J. play against Battery Creek this past season, I couldn't help feeling he has the same running and passing abilities as his dad and Prince Sr.
Another Beaufort County quarterback, Whale Branch High School's Stedmon James, reminds me of Rickey Foggie because of his similar size and athleticism. I coached Stedmon a little at Battery Creek in 2008 and coached him a little last summer as Whale Branch began building its football team. Stedmon is an excellent option quarterback and a great sprint-out passer. He could be a Rickey Foggie.
Beaufort High's Alex Gregory is another young quarterback I'm high on. When coaching Gregory in 2009, I found he is a strong-armed passer like Spence Fischer, a quarterback I coached at Duke in the mid-1990s. At 6-foot-4, Alex is as tall and as athletic as Spence was. Alex was a backup last season, but I hope he will be coach Mark Clifford's starter this season.
Like any good, young quarterback, C.J., Stedmon and Alex must be committed to a few important aspects in order to be successful quarterbacks and become college recruits. First, they must raise their mental toughness in spring and preseason practices to become excellent decision-makers. They'll have to be able to adjust plays at the line of scrimmage during a game and make perfect passing decisions to eliminate interceptions mistakes that could cost their teams games. They'll also have to learn to be team leaders; having a quarterback who is a strong leader is essential for an offense to be successful. The quarterback has to understand all parts of the offense in order to aid teammates when they have problems focusing on assignments.
I outlined all of those keys to strong quarterback play in my "Thoughts for Quarterbacks," which I gave to the quarterbacks I coached in college. If you have a young "wannabe QB," send me an e-mail, and I'll send you a quarterback training video I made with my son.
Like I said, I have a soft spot for young quarterbacks.