Las Vegas Review-Journal
Texas QBS taking center stage
Once home to great running backs, Lone Star state now known for its passers
DALLAS — Texas high school quarterbacks guru Todd Dodge got what he wanted when Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts of Philadelphia won their conference championship games.
“I really like Joe Burrow,” Dodge said with a chuckle in reference to Cincinnati’s star quarterback, “but I’m not going to root for Joe Burrow over Patrick Mahomes, that Texas quarterback.”
The Mahomes-hurts matchup is the first showdown between a pair of Texas high school QBS and the latest milestone for a football-crazy state once known more for Earl Campbell and Eric Dickerson than whoever was handing off to those future Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs.
Dodge, a recently retired high school coach who won seven state championships, played a big role in the start of the transformation around 1980. He was the quarterback for what he considered the father of the passing game in Texas.
Ronnie Thompson, a high school coach in Port Arthur about 100 miles from Houston, was throwing before it was cool in the Lone Star State, which made Dodge a high-profile recruit for the Texas Longhorns.
While Dodge’s career in Austin was disappointing, his legacy of training quarterbacks in his home state is unmistakable. One of the keys was identifying QBS — plenty of them — as early as seventh grade, with the goal of always having two capable of flourishing on the varsity.
Before the likes of Dodge, Art Briles and the late Sonny Detmer came along, the focus was usually on finding the best running back and building from there.
“Jalen Hurts 40 years ago would have been the next great tailback in the Southwest Conference,” Dodge said. “Somewhere along the way, his dad put the ball in his hands, and he started throwing it.”
Indeed, coach Averion Hurts at Channelview just outside Houston put his son at QB. Jalen Hurts went from college star at Alabama and Oklahoma to Philadelphia backup behind Carson Wentz to NFL MVP candidate in a matter of six years.
Mahomes had the throwing pedigree as the son of former major league pitcher Pat Mahomes, and his strong arm was evident long before he became the starter at Whitehouse in East Texas.
The Chiefs traded up to get Mahomes 10th overall in 2017, declared him the starter in the offseason a year later and watched him become MVP that year and a Super Bowl winner the next.
“I think in Texas it’s been a program of building football players up for a long time,” said Mahomes, whose Super Bowl matchup against Hurts will be the first between two Black quarterbacks. “There’s still the great running backs, there’s still the great receivers, the great tight ends, whatever you want to say.”
The most recent Super Bowl-winning quarterback from Texas is Matthew Stafford, who played in the Dallas enclave of Highland Park before going to Georgia and getting drafted No. 1 overall by Detroit in 2009.
His prolific career with the Lions mostly went nowhere before a trade to the Rams immediately led to a title last season. His high school coach, four-time state title winner Randy Allen, has a quarterback training program he believes he started after seeing Dodge conduct a coaching clinic.
Once Texas became fertile ground for quarterbacks, it was only natural for growth in the college game, and subsequently the pros.
“College coaches want to win, number one,” said Allen, the winningest active coach in Texas. “And number two, they know if they’ve got a Texas high school quarterback, that he’s probably played in front of big crowds. He’s probably played against great competition. He’s probably had great high school coaching, and he’s probably ready to play as a freshman.”
Allen, Dodge and Mahomes
mentioned the expansion of offseason 7-on7 football as a significant part of the development of Texas quarterbacks. Dozens of tournaments around the state culminate in a state championship event every summer in College Station, home of Texas A&M.
Hurts says the high school highlights might have something to do with how the mindset about the position. A regional cable network for Texas carries a live scoreboard show every Friday night, well into a six-week postseason that’s capped by championship-game crowds approaching 50,000 at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“Texas is so big,” Hurts said. “I’d turn on the TV and see, you had the Texas high school football late night show. It runs throughout the whole state. You see what (Mahomes is) doing.”