By Jon Mahoney, Special to SI.com, from RISE
Like Brantley's father, Bell played quarterback at Florida. Bell finished his collegiate career with then-SEC records of 7,585 yards passing and 56 touchdown passes and went on to play 13 years of pro football in the NFL, CFL and World League.
That experience made Bell the perfect teacher for Brantley. Bell, who became Trinity Catholic's first head coach when the program started in 2002, installed a pro-style offense predicated on timing and quick decisions. Anyone learning the offense would need time to study it before being thrown into the fire. Still, Brantley was far too valuable to just be carrying a clipboard on the sidelines.
"I had a senior that year who knew the system, but I also had a kid who had so much talent that I couldn't sit him," says Bell of Brantley's sophomore season.
So senior Seth Varnadore would play the first and third quarters of every game, while Brantley saw time in the second and fourth quarters. Even while splitting time, Brantley made a strong impression by completing 64 of 114 passes (56.1 percent) for 1,201 yards, 17 touchdowns and just one interception as the Celtics went 8-3 and lost in the Region 2-1A semifinals.
Brantley followed up his sophomore season with an even better junior campaign as the full-time starter. He completed 174 of 277 attempts (62.8 percent) for 2,835 yards, 41 touchdowns and only five interceptions to earn All-State second team honors and help lead unbeaten Trinity Catholic to the Class 2B state title.
"You could just see before your eyes that he had grown tremendously," says Bell. "He got to the point where he knew what he was doing and didn't have to think about it."
One decision Brantley did have to think about was his college commitment. Many recruiting experts thought Florida would be a no-brainer for him, especially with the connections from his father, uncle and coach. In fact, Brantley's mother, Karen, even graduated from Florida's school of nursing.
But initially, the Gators didn't even make Brantley's final two schools. The original choice came down to Texas and Alabama, with the Longhorns winning out this past April. Eventually, though, Brantley went back on his decision and decided to keep the Florida tradition alive.
"There's three qualities to being a great quarterback," says Bell. "You've got to have great feet, the ability to make all the throws and all the intangibles. A lot of times you get one out of three or maybe two out of three. This guy has all three. As he matures, I think he has the physical abilities, if he continues to work hard and progresses, to be a John Elway-type of player. I only say that because he has those three qualities."
Looks like all that practice on his parents' bed has paid off.