A physically imposing, dual-threat quarterback, Pike has been an offensive force at Dixie Heights. He has collected 1,585 passing yards, 448 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns his senior year, cementing his reputation as a top recruit. Pike committed to Auburn in April.Read More Below
If you've never heard of Dixie Heights High in Crestview Hills, Ky., you're not alone. It's nestled in the northernmost tip of the state, maintaining a student enrollment of 1,400. Its most famous alumni, Ron Ziegler, served as White House Press Secretary during the Nixon administration. Its football program is strikingly mediocre: It hasn't had a winning season since '07, and had just one player, former Cincinnati fullback Doug Jones, play for a Division-I school in the past 17 years.
It's not a place Auburn coach Gene Chizik would go looking for the next Cam Newton.
That is, until Zeke Pike came along. A senior quarterback and the son of former Buffalo Bills linebacker Mark Pike, Pike committed to Auburn after his junior year.
"This is completely uncharted water for us," said coach Tom Spritzky. "People wonder if he can really play at Auburn."
It's clear what the Tigers see in him. Pike is a strong-armed thrower with an accurate deep ball. He's a trusted decision-maker, completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,585 yards through eight games in 2011. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, he has prototypical size, mirroring that of another celebrated Auburn quarterback (Newton is listed at 6-5, 248).
Still, his recruitment was unlikely. It took a family connection to make it happen.
Zeke's father, Mark, played with Tigers' defensive coordinator Ted Roof at Georgia Tech in the early 1980s. He sent Roof his son's highlight tape, impressing the staff enough to earn Zeke an invite to Auburn's camp. Pike's performance did the rest.
After weighing his options, Pike committed to Auburn in April. He cited his comfort with the program -- and several conversations with Newton -- as his deciding factor. The BCS National Championship and Newton's Heisman campaign also helped.
"I was real high on Auburn," said Pike. "Then they had the season they did."
He hasn't stopped working since. He trained with Trent Dilfer at Nike's Elite 11 camp. He worked with George Whitfield Jr., the quarterback guru who mentored Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. He has consistently made efforts to improve, to ensure he's in top shape upon arriving to campus. "Cam's shoes are huge to fill," he said.
That's all too clear. Three players -- Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier -- completed passes in last week's win against Florida, depicting Auburn's uncertainty under center. Pike could be asked to start as early as next fall.
"They're struggling to find an identity on offense," said Pike. "I think I can compete anywhere I go."
If his recent performance is any indication, he may be up to the task. He racked up 36 passing attempts, 32 rushing attempts and five touchdowns in last Friday's 35-14 win, upping his season total to a team-high 23 scores (10 passing, 13 rushing). He's putting Dixie Heights on the map.
He's also ready to enter the SEC spotlight.
"He'll do whatever we ask him to do," said Spritzky.