"There are definitely times I had to tell him, ‘Don't throw it so hard, you're about to break my hands,'" said 19-year-old Page Stafford.
So far, none of the Bulldog receivers have asked Matthew Stafford to take something off his passes, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get teased about his powerful right arm. Most of the ribbing came this summer from his fellow quarterbacks during passing drills.
"I'll try and throw a post (route) on a line in between Cover 3, and I'll see them pass it up, and I'll be like, ‘Sling it in there,'" Stafford said. "They're like, ‘Sorry, I don't have a freakin' Howitzer.'"
Howitzer is the nickname Stafford earned from quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo. Stafford's arm strength is no guarantee he'll come out on top in the competition for the starting job, but it has impressed the competition, sophomore Blake Barnes said.
"I've never seen an arm that live and that strong," Barnes said.
Matthew's father John, a football and basketball standout before ruining his elbow, honed Matthew's delivery at a young age. At times, the lessons got heated between the tactician father and gunslinger son.
"He always had a real, real natural delivery," Matthew Stafford said of his dad. "We got in some serious fights. Not fist fights, but, ‘I want to throw this way. No, you're going to throw this way.' I used to throw the baseball sidearm, and he would get so (mad)."
Eventually, though, a fortuitous truce was reached.
"In seventh grade, I was throwing it real far," Stafford said.
From there, he began imitating other quarterbacks with big arms, guys like Dan Marino, John Elway and Brett Favre.
"Those guys just got my attention," he said. "I've never been afraid to try something that I see Brett Favre or Elway or somebody do on television."
A boyhood of playing shortstop (he quit the high school baseball team after his sophomore season to focus on football) didn't hurt either.
"I think playing baseball helps you out a ton," he said. "I played shortstop, and you have to throw from every arm angle, so I can throw the football from any angle. It just feels natural."
It doesn't feel natural to the Bulldog receivers.
"You can hear it humming when it comes out of his hand," sophomore Kenneth Harris said. "When you know you have Stafford in there, you better have you're a-game on because that ball will bounce out of your hands. You know it's going to sting."