Most veteran readers can still sing the first few lines of that Bruce Springsteen hit from the early 1980s. For those that haven’t, take a few minutes out of your day to watch that video. It’s about a guy who has moved into adulthood but remembers what it was like back in high school when he was the star pitcher for the baseball team, even if it was in his own mind.
It’s something that happens to all of us, whether it was an athletic achievement or just the good times that we had hanging out with friends back in high school or college.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Sean McEvoy. If you are unfamiliar with Coach McEvoy, the simple response is that he is part of QB Takeover and has had the ability to work with a number of top college quarterbacks as they work to improve and, in some cases, prepare for the NFL Draft.
Among the quarterbacks that Coach McEvoy has worked with throughout the pre-draft process this year are two names that should be very familiar to 49ers fans: Justin Fields and Trey Lance.
During the interview I asked Coach McEvoy what he does to help take a quarterback who may have accuracy issues, as has been mentioned with regards to Lance, and improve in this area. According to McEvoy, “It’s just about doing the things the same every time.” Coach McEvoy then went into some specifics about footwork, their base being too wide or too narrow.
To think of it another way, think about how tough it is for you or I to hit a golf ball. We struggle because we don’t have the ability to repeat the same swing over and over and over like the players we watch on our televisions during the weekend. It’s very much the same thing with these quarterbacks.
You may ask yourself, Jack, that’s great but what the heck does Trey Lance’s accuracy issues have to do with Glory Days?
Listening to Coach McEvoy during that interview struck a chord with me personally in that it took me back to my glory days.
I grew up around sports. My dad was heavily scouted by a number of baseball teams back in the early 1960s and almost signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. It wasn’t until I was almost out of high school that I finally heard that story and figured out that was the reason he always wore that darn Phillies hat around even though he was a huge Giants fan.
As the youngest of three, I also had the ability to watch my brother go through playing various sports but football was the one that stuck for me. My brother is seven years older than me and growing up I had two heroes, Joe Montana and my brother. Both were great quarterbacks as far as I was concerned. I was the ball boy for the high school when he was playing and to this day, I remember in great detail having the opportunity to sit on the bus with the team as they traveled to take on the rival high school.
When it was finally my turn to play in seventh grade for the local Pop Warner team, I too played quarterback, and I hated it. So much so that when I went back to play the following year I got as far away from quarterback as I could. I played left tackle and defensive tackle.
When I got to high school my freshman year, I continued down the path of being a lineman. That lasted until the day that equipment was issued.
While going through the line I was issued my helmet and the facemask had one of those bars down the middle like the old lineman facemasks used to. The coach, he had previously worked with my brother, told me not to worry that we could change the facemask later. When I told him that wouldn’t be necessary, he was flabbergasted. “Why not” he asked. After explaining to him that I wasn’t interested in playing quarterback there was quite the conversation between him, my freshman head coach and the varsity head coach that ended with me being told that I would be practicing with the quarterbacks at practice that afternoon.
Moving forward to how this relates to accuracy and the need for quarterbacks to do the same thing over and over and over.
Every summer during high school I would go down to Southern California for a quarterback/receiver camp. It was basically a week of nothing but working on footwork, throwing motion, and film study. After getting home I would spend hours either throwing to receivers at school or at the tree we had in the front yard.
This tree was the perfect target. It had a big knot and split into a Y just about the same height as my chest. I’d march off various distances and angles and throw slants, outs, curls, play action, everything at that tree. In my mind I was working through a game.
One day while I was out throwing the neighbor who had probably seen me outside his window a number of times throwing the football at that darn tree pulled up in his big grey station wagon. Just as he parked, I took a five-step drop and fired that ball at the tree. The ball ended up stuck perfectly in the Y of the tree. As I ran over to get the ball unstuck, he yelled over, “I bet you can’t do that again.”
After retrieving the ball, I went back to my line of scrimmage, did my five-step drop and fired the ball. Stuck it right back in the tree. All I remember was him mumbling something to the effect of “well I’ll be damned” as he walked to his front door.
I need to thank Coach McEvoy for reminding me that one of the primary keys to accuracy is being able to repeat the process correctly every time.
One last thing, I may not have every made it to the the NFL, but I’m pretty sure that the 49ers never lost any of those games in my front yard.