Don't judge QBs by college interest

Good high school quarterbacks don't always fit the college mold. Pennsville's Dylan Cummings, above, and Timber Creek's Dan Williams both had record-setting years, but their height, among other things, kept college recruiters away.
Good high school quarterbacks don't always fit the college mold. Pennsville's Dylan Cummings, above, and Timber Creek's Dan Williams both had record-setting years, but their height, among other things, kept college recruiters away.
Posted: February 17, 2014

Dan Williams stood in the back of the room on national signing day.

"I was proud of my teammates," Williams said of the four Timber Creek football players who signed letters of intent for college scholarships.

Dylan Cummings went to the gym after school on the first Wednesday of February. He worked on strength and speed, as usual, and took some swings in preparation for baseball season.

"We're going to have a great season," Cummings said of Pennsville's baseball team.

Williams and Cummings were record-setting senior quarterbacks last season.

They led an all-out assault on the record book as more and more South Jersey teams went to no-huddle, spread offenses and produced passing and receiving numbers that were unprecedented in the history of the sport.

But those kinds of statistics don't matter much to college recruiters.

They are more interested in different sets of numbers.

"They all want the typical, Division I quarterback - big guy, tall, with the big arm," Williams said. "I'm not that."

"I had a few looks" from NCAA Division I and II programs, Cummings said. "But they were concerned about my height, my speed."

It's important to keep three things in mind with regard to Williams and Cummings.

First and foremost, they are class acts who were supportive of their teammates all through their careers and represented their schools and athletic programs in the best possible manner.

Second, big-time college football - or even NCAA Division I at the Football Championship Subdivision level (the old I-AA) - isn't for everybody.

Third, the lack of a college scholarship doesn't diminish what Williams and Cummings accomplished as high school players.

These guys were remarkable athletes at the scholastic level, incredibly productive players who also performed as leaders for teams that combined last season for 19 victories, two division titles, and three postseason triumphs.

Too often, all of us - parents, coaches, fans, media - get fixated on "the next level," as if it's some kind of holy grail.

And that's not to minimize the value of a college scholarship or to downplay the hard work put in by the athletes and coaches that resulted in all those signing ceremonies earlier this month.

For athletes such as Cherry Hill West's Rodney Williams (Syracuse), Camden's Sean Chandler (Temple), Timber Creek's Adonis Jennings (Pitt), West Deptford's Gerald Owens (Michigan State), and many others, signing a national letter of intent for a Division I football scholarship was a dream come true.

Good for them.

No, great for them.

But high school sports doesn't exist to produce scholarship athletes. For most scholastic athletes, the varsity level is the end of the line - and that overriding sense of finality and urgency is what adds such poignancy to the whole pageant.

Williams and Cummings plan to play college football. Cummings has decided to attend Stevenson University, a Division III program that competes in the Mid-Atlantic Conference with the likes of Widener, Wilkes, and Albright.

Williams is considering Stevenson, too. He also has been involved with West Chester, a Division II program, and Delaware State, a Division I FCS program.

But no matter where those two play in college, their high school careers shouldn't be judged in that context.

Cummings was the single most productive player in the history of South Jersey high school football. Some of that was a function of Pennsville's frenetic offense, and some was that his team played 33 games in his final three seasons.

But a lot of it was because Cummings was a great high school quarterback.

He finished first in South Jersey history in career passing yards (7,695), touchdown passes (84), completions (498), attempts (873), and total yards (10,083).

As a senior, he set a state record with 55 touchdowns (31 passing, 24 rushing) and his 342 rushing yards in his final game - a 49-0 Thanksgiving-weekend win over rival Penns Grove - was the most ever by a South Jersey quarterback.

Williams in 2013 put together one of the best single seasons for a South Jersey passer. He set the state record for yards in a season (3,545) and in a game (532, with six touchdowns in a sectional-semifinal win over Kingsway).

The two quarterbacks combined with Eastern senior Tom Flacco to rewrite the South Jersey record book.

Flacco's situation is different. He's taller, thicker, stronger, and faster than the other two. He could have signed for a college scholarship for football - perhaps with Delaware, Coastal Carolina, or Western Michigan - but decided to wait because baseball might be a better option for his future.

Cummings said it "always was a dream" to play Division I football, and Williams had those hopes as well.

But they both are around 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds. They both rely more on anticipation and accuracy than arm strength.

They both fail to fit the mold of a typical college quarterback.

So Williams stood in the back of the room at Timber Creek's signing-day ceremony.

Cummings had other things to do that day.

But that doesn't diminish what they did last fall - or mean they won't proudly represent their next school, on the field and off.


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

www.inquirer.com/

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