A “pass” at the Elite 11

Dru Dawson receives nomination to have a chance to be in the ‘Elite 11’


Jim Parker Photos

Varsity Quarterback Dru Dawson sets up for a play against Hendrickson.

Sumerlyn Yudell and Cady Grace Wynn

In the fall, more than 14,000 high schools put 11 players under the bright lights to play tackle-football on Friday nights. Each team is led by a quarterback, a point man the players can look to for direction and pushes the team to be their best.

Junior quarterback Dru Dawson found out he was nominated for the prestigious honor of being one of the 11 quarterbacks selected throughout the nation for the “Elite 11”  On Jan. 22. Well sought out and desired, the program picks 12 quarterbacks to compete in the final, where they select the one “Elite 11 MVP” and the other 11 boys for the “Elite 11.”

“Dru has always been one of the hardest workers on the team, he’s the first one to practice and the last one to leave,” quarterback coach Michael Byrne said. “This past year when he got a starting position, he became a lot more vocal and really took on a position as a leader on the team. He works hard and he plays well and that ensures respect for him.”

Dru has earned a lot of respect from his teammates and remains a role model to those around him.

“Dru’s pretty calm under pressure. Being a first year starter, he didn’t have any hiccups or bad games,” second string quarterback Ryan Back said. “He was cool headed, open minded and consistent.

Dru qualified to be selected by sending in his football tapes highlighting his quarterback skills, along with his stellar football record. It was no easy task getting in.

“My journey as a quarterback has definitely been a lot harder than I thought,” Dawson said. ‘It has taught me so much about how to be a leader and to keep pushing through even when things aren’t going your way. I’m very grateful for the success our team had this year.”

Planning to play football in college, the Elite 11 nomination will draw in recruiters and promote his name. Dawson trains with his coaches and teammates year-round, as well as individually outside of school.

“Dru has grown a lot since I started working with him,” Byrne said. “His ability to process information has improved. Fundamentally he has always been able to throw the ball really well, but now he’s getting the ball out quicker and he’s gotten a lot smarter. It’s been so fun to see him progress even though I’ve only been working with him a year and a half now.”

Both Dawson and Back train with Byrne. Being a quarterback is a unique position on the football field because it’s the one position on the team where the player must know what everyone does, not just his job.

“I like being a quarterback because it means being a guy people can look up to,” Dawson said. “Being a quarterback can have a lot of pressure, but I love it. I would be very excited and happy if I made it into the ‘Elite 11’. That step would just be the beginning, I would love to build off that award and keep getting better.”

Byrne is extremely proud of Dru and all he’s accomplished.

“As a coach, all you want is to have your kids succeed, and when they do you just feel happy for them,” Byrne said. “When they do succeed, you know how much work and effort they’ve put in. When coaches see kids get that, I don’t feel any sense of pride personally, but man, I’m just ecstatic for that kid, he deserves an opportunity like this. Dru worked his tail off and produced one of the best districts in the State; He’s done a great job.”

Dru and the Vipers produced one of the best records in school history, finishing 12-1 and making it to the third round of the playoffs. The returning team is looking forward to seeing how they can top it next season.

“Of course, [I’m optimistic of Dru’s upcoming season] I was always told when I was young ‘success is a byproduct of hard work.’ and he proves that,” Byrne said. “He works hard, and when you work hard it’s going to produce results, whether it’s in football or anything else he did this last year. I’m sure with Dru’s work ethic, he will do just as good, if not better this upcoming season. I’ll be excited to see it- he’s just growing and growing.”