Going undercover as an aspiring college quarterback prospect (cont.)
On my first three-step-drop, Chris Miller, the former All-Pro Atlanta Falcons quarterback, eyed my movement and said, "If you have a hitch like that in your three-step during a game, you are going to be throwing from your guard's butt."
Not the vantage point I was looking for, so consider me motivated. From there I crossed my thumbs and yelled "set-hut!" I took more three-step, five-step and seven-step drops and learned to look off defenders. Though my snap handling was seamless, there were snafus in my stance. Enter Briner, the resident hip and vertebrae critic. "You have to stand up straight when you're releasing," he said. "Let the cheerleaders see that number. Puff your chest. They want to see effortless power, not powerless effort."
Briner took a piece of chalk and outlined at midfield the quarterback position in three sports: boxing, golf and tennis. By establishing your feet in a boxer's mold, he said, the foundation of the throw is set by channeling power from the lower body to the high reaches of the index finger -- the last body part to touch the ball. Continuing the pugilist metaphor, he said the steps a quarterback takes prior to release should be short and compact. "You don't want to throw haymakers when a jab will work," he said.
He then explained that my hip movement needed to be like that of a golfer -- swinging out -- not simply shifting. And then he served the final step, which was to bring the ball high up and then smack down like a tennis player. "Ninety-six, I like what you've got for about half way," he said. "But really bring that hip thru!"
Some of what he said sunk in as we spent a classroom session watching film. So much so that I was pumped for my next on-field close-up. I threw a five-step, 10-yard out completion, then hit another quick slant. A post-cross pattern combo went well for one of my receivers, who was able to get open, but the pass came up a bit short. And though there were some balls I threw that defensive backs and coordinators could play Duck Hunt with, there were also spirals that sang. "They're not paying you enough!" shouted Krueger.
With dollar signs in my eyes and nothing but lunch money in my pocket, I felt like a real recruit. If I played well enough here, maybe word would spread on Rivals.com and across message boards. Perhaps there were cameras recording my performance and I could launch the footage on YouTube. Was Rutgers coach Greg Schiano secretly watching me through a two-way mirror in the stadium's upper reaches? I could hold onto my commitment as a valued commodity until the best offer came. Maybe I would announce a press conference date and time, then cancel it and hold another a month later. The possibilities were endless.
Those were dreams, but there was also a dose of reality. While I was sitting in a meeting room, the mother of a New Jersey quarterback asked what high school I attended. My stomach sank a little as I thought she had made me as an impostor. Was Dateline's Chris Hansen going to sidle next to me and ask, "Well, Kevin, what are you doing in a high school camp?" No such questions were asked. My cover was still good. After a pause, I said: Nanuet High -- which, in real life, was my hometown New York high school.
"Oh, I have heard of that," she said. "How is your recruiting going?"
Seeing that she had taken the bait, I said the mailman might need shoulder surgery since I get so many letters. She smiled politely and said her son mainly gets e-mails.
"The worst are the phone calls," I said. "I think my parents are going to get me a second phone just for recruiting."
Looking a bit confused, she said, "Oh, well they're not supposed to call until after May 31."
I smiled and answered, "Yes. I've heard that, too. But you know coaches, always finding another way."
She nodded in agreement.