How to (maybe) raise an NFL quarterback

Monday Morning Quarterback has a fascinating, though long, read of the attributes of the newest NFL quarterbacks.

We talk about them the most when we talk about quarterbacks. Yet we rarely discuss where they come from, or how a passer goes about acquiring them. For many quarterbacks who end up in the NFL, this grooming process often begins all the way back in Pop Warner. But how, exactly, do you raise and mold a quarterback? And what traits make QBs rise and fall in the eyes of NFL decision-makers?

For answers, The MMQB examined the youth football careers and family backgrounds of the 15 quarterbacks who were drafted in 2016 (a record number). They are not all coach’s sons, nor are they all sons of ex-athletes. And while a certain basic requirement for arm strength unites them today, it didn’t link them when they were first handed a football as kids.

After consulting with experts in the field of training and evaluating quarterbacks, and after interviewing more than two dozen parents and coaches of these newly minted NFL passers, we identified several key life experiences that appear to be predictors of success:

13 of the 15 quarterbacks grew up in homes that were valued near or above the median home value in their respective state, according to public records and online real estate figures. Seven families lived in homes that were more than double the median values: Goff, Hackenberg, Carson Wentz, Connor Cook, Jeff Driskel, Kevin Hogan and Jake Rudock.

13 of the 15 quarterbacks in the 2016 draft spent their early childhoods in two-parent homes. (Of note, a majority of the 30 parents hold four-year college degrees.)

On average, the 15 quarterbacks taken in the 2016 draft began playing the position at age 9, with only two having taken up the position in high school.

At some point before high school graduation, with many paying significant fees or traveling great distances to do so, 12 of the 15 received varying degrees of individual instruction from a QB coach who was not a parent or a team-affiliated coach; 12 of the quarterbacks also participated in offseason 7-on-7 football during their high school careers. …

Many of the 15 quarterbacks selected in the 2016 draft have benefited from factors such as parental involvement, family wealth, individual instruction and offseason competition—or some combination that increased opportunity not only for personal growth, but also to be noticed by coaches and scouts along the way. It begs two obvious questions: How much do these factors separate NFL draftees from the rest of the crop? And who is being left out?

You might find this part really interesting:

At Michigan State’s pro day on March 16, Chris Cook paced nervously behind a row of bleachers assembled in the middle of Spartans’ indoor practice facility. An imposing man with a broad smile, Chris had played tight end at Indiana from 1982-84 …

Chris’ involvement in his son’s affairs and his outsized, sometimes abrasive personality were noted by several NFL evaluators as potential red flags for Connor Cook, who fell to the Raiders in the fourth round. After the Michigan State QB was drafted, screenshots of aggressive and homophobic tweets apparently published years ago by Connor’s father surfaced in media reports and provided a public glimpse of what teams had known for months. According to a source close to the Spartans’ program, Chris called coach Mark Dantonio at the beginning of last season and expressed concern that the team’s decision to not make Connor a captain would damage his draft stock. …

“A lot of it comes down to resources,” says Bruce Feldman, author of The QB: The Making of the Modern Quarterback. “The position is so nuanced, you don’t have guys showing up in college with very little experience and having success at quarterback like you see with other positions. Rarely do guys all of a sudden become quarterbacks.

“At the same time, I remember Oliver Luck telling me, you can’t force it on the kid. If they don’t really love it, they’re not going to be doing the extra work and doing all the stuff that it takes to be really, really good.” . …

What all of these quarterbacks have in common—even the outliers in this study—is empowerment. Along the way, their efforts were first validated by parents or guardians, and then by multiple people whom each athlete respected in a football sense. From California to Louisiana, parents of quarterbacks who make it this far are often described by people using the same words: devoted, intense, and very supportive. The high school coach of former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, a first-round pick of the Broncos, describes David and Stacie Lynch as having been “very involved.” …

Kevin Hogan, the former Stanford QB and fifth-round pick of the Chiefs, was once ferried by his parents from a summer basketball tournament in New Jersey to a 7-on-7 tournament his high school football team was playing in at the University of Virginia—all in the same weekend. “They were just very supportive of everything Kevin did,” said Joe Reyda, Kevin’s head coach at Gonzaga High in Washington D.C.

The Dolphins’ seventh-round selection, Brandon Doughty, is a local kid who grew up in Davie, Fla. In order to get on the recruiting radar, his father took him to camps as far away as Boston College and Ohio State. “I’m gonna be honest man, my dad’s my best friend,” says the former Western Kentucky quarterback. “I don’t even know why I remember this, but we were at N.C. State when Michael Jackson died, and I just remember exactly where we were. The recruiting stuff was a bonding time with me and my dad. It’s something I’ll hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life.” …

One of the major benefits to youth quarterbacks is the progressive effect of empowerment, according to Dr. [Kevin] Elko, the sports psychologist. “All coaches are not created equal,” Dr. Elko says, “but the really good coach will show you how you’re better and convince you you’re better. That’s especially important for quarterbacks, because we know the best quarterbacks have a confidence that’s not really related to anything tangible. They just believe.”

The upshot is that these potential future NFL stars’ parents support and help them (often to financially large extent), but, unlike Cook, aren’t overbearing problems to their sons’ high school coaches. I’ve seen a fair number of overbearing problem parents. I have yet to see any of their children become professional athletes, and few end up having an impact even at the Division III college level. And once their playing days end, then what?

A sports editor I know points out it’s much easier to get an academic scholarship to a college than it is to get an athletic scholarship.

 

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