More than Joe Flacco's younger brother

Eastern quarterback TomFlacco's numbers exceedeven those of hisbetter-known brother,Joe Flacco of theBaltimore Ravens,when he played forAudubon. APRIL SAUL/Staff Photographer
Eastern quarterback TomFlacco's numbers exceedeven those of hisbetter-known brother,Joe Flacco of theBaltimore Ravens,when he played forAudubon. APRIL SAUL/Staff Photographer (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 08, 2013

Tom Flacco looks at people funny when they ask if he's uncomfortable with his big brother's success.

"It's like they think I'm mad he's in the NFL," Flacco said of his oldest brother, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. "I'm like, 'Are you crazy?' I think it's awesome."

On the brink of his senior year at Eastern High School, Tom Flacco has more than a notable football name.

He has a remarkable football game.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Flacco fashioned one of the best seasons ever by a South Jersey high school quarterback as a junior: 2,957 yards and 25 touchdowns in leading Eastern to a 7-4 record and a berth in the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals.

Joe Flacco never passed for that many yards or that many touchdowns in a season at Audubon, from where he graduated in 2003.

And Tom Flacco generated those numbers - the fourth-most yards in a season by a South Jersey quarterback and tied for the 15th-most touchdown passes - against the highest level of competition in the West Jersey Football League's American Division, as well as the Group 5 sectional tournament.

Here's the thing, too: Flacco wasn't healthy last season. He was hampered by a foot injury that lingered into the middle of the winter.

"I feel so much better now than I did last year," Flacco said the other day after a practice. "I'm moving around so much better. I'm much more shifty."

Flacco's running ability might be the thing that separates him this season - from defenders and from comparisons to other quarterbacks.

Flacco isn't just fast for a quarterback. He's fast, period. He ran the 40-yard dash at a Temple University camp this summer in 4.5 seconds.

At a baseball showcase at Washington Township in June - Flacco was a first-team All-South Jersey baseball player in the spring after helping Eastern to the first state title in the history of the program - he ran 60 yards in 6.43 seconds.

That's major-league-centerfielder fast.

"He has quick-twitch muscles unlike anything I've ever seen with a high school quarterback," Eastern offensive coordinator Rick Brown said. "His first step, his first spin, is special."

Like Johnny Football

In a burgeoning era of dual-threat quarterbacks - think Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M and Oregon's Marcus Mariota in major-college football, and Washington's Robert Griffin III, Seattle's Russell Wilson, and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick in the NFL - Flacco fits the mold of the sport's new wave.

Eastern coach Dan Spittal said he and assistant coach Dave Dawson came to the same conclusion when putting together Flacco's junior-season highlight tape in the spring: Their guy is remarkably similar to Manziel.

"He does stuff just like him," Spittal said. "He runs. He throws. He's off balance. He makes people miss.

"He's special. The kid has 'it.' "

Brown said Flacco has "uncanny" accuracy with his passes and the ability to throw the football more than 50 yards in the air - while on the move out of the pocket.

But the coach believes Flacco's football acumen is the strongest part of his game.

"His physical skills anybody can see, but the biggest thing with him is the mental part of the game," Brown said. "He is the reason we can run a no-huddle spread and try to get a play off every 15 seconds.

"I've been running this offense for 15 years, and sometimes he'll see things that I don't see."

Flacco said the best thing about Eastern's hurry-up offense is the responsibility that falls to the quarterback: making smart, quick decisions.

"I love it," Flacco said. "It gives the quarterback so many opportunities to succeed. You want that control. You want the ball in your hands."

People close to Flacco believe he has not been recruited by major-college programs because his time commitments as a three-sport athlete - he also plays basketball for Eastern - have limited his ability to attend camps and showcases for top quarterbacks.

"He's a throwback, three-sport kid," Spittal said. "He's a five-month-a-year quarterback. Wait until he's a 12-month-a-year quarterback."

The recruiting game

Flacco has football scholarship offers from Delaware - where his brother Joe played after transferring from the University of Pittsburgh - and Coastal Carolina, two FCS programs.

"I'm not stressed about it," Tom Flacco said of the lack of offers from major-college programs. "I feel like I'm going to hear from some big schools when I do my thing this year, when they see me play."

Flacco grew up in Audubon as the youngest child - and youngest of five brothers - in one of the most athletic families in South Jersey.

Joe Flacco is the oldest of a family that could fill two basements with trophies.

"We have such an athletic family that Joe always said one of us was going to make it big," Tom Flacco said. "It turned out to be him."

Flacco spent his freshman year at Camden Catholic. He transferred to Eastern as a sophomore as his family purchased a residence in Voorhees.

Flacco's breakthrough seasons in both football and baseball came during the last school year. In the spring, he batted .414 with 42 hits, 15 extra-base hits, and 38 RBIs.

But it was Flacco's play during the final few weeks of last football season that hinted at the possibilities for his senior year.

In his last five games, he completed 113 of 175 passes for 1,719 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Winning combination

"He can beat you in many ways," Cherokee coach P.J. Mehigan said. "His feet, his arm, his ability to audible. And he's a leader."

About six weeks after the end of his junior football season, Flacco was in New Orleans watching his brother throw three touchdown passes and earn MVP honors in leading Baltimore past San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII.

Spittal believes Tom Flacco is immune to the pressure of living up to his famous older sibling, because all the brothers have been competing with one another for all their lives.

"He doesn't say, 'My brother is the Super Bowl MVP,' " Spittal said. "He says my brother is Joe. And he says [Joe]'s still the dork of the family."

Tom Flacco said he senses no heightened expectations because of his brother's success.

"I don't look at it like that," Flacco said. "He's my brother; I'm always going to be rooting for him. But when people ask me if it's tough to be in his shadow, I tell them I could care less.

"I'm just going to go out and play."


Contact Phil Anastasia

at panastasia@phillynews.com.

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