By Jon Mahoney, Special to SI.com, from RISE
Trinity Catholic senior quarterback John Brantley's first foray on the football scene came when he was 3 years old. He'd put on his plastic Florida Gators football uniform and head for his parents' king-size bed, where he'd play for hours pretending he was in a game.
Brantley would even sometimes invite friends over to join in the fun, which made the bed sort of a youth league gridiron.
"I think as Johnny elevated his game on the bed, we got him a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform," says his father, John Brantley III (the younger Brantley is officially John Brantley IV).
It turns out those football games on the bed were the start of what has become a stellar career for the younger Brantley. These days, the 6-foot-3, 192-pounder, who has committed to Florida, is rated Florida's No. 1 quarterback and the nation's No. 25 overall recruit in the Class of 2007 by RISE.
Brantley started playing football at such an early age because, well, it was in his genes. After all, his father was a quarterback at Florida from 1975-79 and started for the Gators in 1978, while his uncle, Scot, starred at linebacker for Florida from 1976-79 and played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1980-87.
After graduating from dodging pillows and comforters on the bed, the younger Brantley started hitting the real gridiron in the fifth grade when he joined the Marion County Youth Football League, which his grandfather helped start in 1970.
"That was my first organized league," says Brantley, who was named MVP of the 2006 Elite 11 Quarterback Camp last summer. "It got me to where I am today."
That's also when Brantley started putting in serious practice time with his dad. While most quarterbacks his age were just figuring out how to handle a snap, Brantley was working on footwork, three-step drops and looking off safeties.
Brantley's dad coached him throughout youth football and on Trinity Catholic's JV team as a freshman. The hard work the two put in together translated into a quarterback who was advanced for his age, both physically and mentally, and was ready to handle varsity coach Kerwin Bell's advanced offensive attack by the time Brantley entered his sophomore season.
"My dad taught me pretty much everything I know," says Brantley. "When I went to Kerwin, he helped fill in the blanks."