Those are the words of Shane Hallmark, the interim head coach and Athletic Director at Hightower High School in Sugar Land, Texas when referring to his star quarterback, A.J. Highsmith.
Highsmith made his commitment to the University of Miami yesterday, making him the first commitment of the 2009 class for the Hurricanes. Son of former Hurricane and top NFL draft choice, fullback Alonzo Highsmith, A.J. makes his commitment with many ties to the South Florida area. It is a move that allows him to walk in the footsteps of greatness that his father, as well as grandfather, Walter, who were standouts on the gridiron.
"I think it goes back to the very beginning with his dad being alumni at the University," Hallmark, a coach with 15-years of experience said. "It was very important for him to follow in his footsteps. He also has a lot of family in that area. He made the best choice for himself and I think with it, he has done pretty well."
Being the son of a former collegiate and pro player, A.J. finds himself with a developed football I.Q. Every morning, Highsmith wakes up early, gets himself ready for school and during the season studies film every morning. Studying his competition.
"He has a superior knowledge of the game," Hallmark said. "He is a smart player. One that watches film every morning, studying his opponents and preparing himself the way a player at the next level should."
Despite the mental makeup of a quarterback, at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, there are many critics that believe that Highsmith won't play quarterback at the next level. However, his coach believes that he has the necessary intangibles to do so. However, he feels that he could play anywhere on the football field.
"I have heard the questions about his height to play the D1 level," Hallmark said. "I don't see it as a detriment, because I can see him play quarterback at that level. But, I think he can also be an outstanding defensive back."
Hallmark, also the team's defensive coordinator, believes he has the perfect composition to play free safety.
"He has great feet and I believe he can find the football," Hallmark said. "I don't doubt his ability to be physical as a safety. He can come down in the box. I'd use him as a free safety and just let him play football. He has all of the tools. Plus, I don't think he is done growing yet."
Houston and Texas Tech hosted Highsmith at their junior days and have recruited him as a quarterback, while the others have recruited him as an athlete. Coming out of a one-back spread offense that Hightower High School runs, it is no coincidence that spread teams like the Red Raiders and Cougars are pursuing him to play the position. Highsmith has already gone on record saying he would prefer to play quarterback in a pro style offense…if he stays at the position.
"That is the best offense for him at quarterback," Hallmark said. "It allows him to do the things he does. He could run a two-back system, but the offense that best allows A.J. to do his thing for us is this one."
As a junior, Highsmith threw for over 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns coupled with five off rushes to paydirt. His premier game came at against Kline Forest High School.
"He had a 300 yard game and a touchdown-to-interception ratio that was outstanding," Hallmark said. "He just doesn't throw to people. At the time, Kline (Forest) was ranked 13th or 14th in the state – they were a 2nd round playoff team) and he really impressed us there."
On a team that lost in the quarterfinals last season, Highsmith was a star. He returns as the star on a team that returns many of its players from last years team that fell short. This year, the expectations are higher, but the goals are the same. Win a state championship.
"Just like always, we want the state championship," Hallmark said. "Last season, we came up short, but you know what? We return a lot of those kids, so we can definitely get it done."
Stay tuned to CanesTime for the latest on A.J. Highsmith where we should get some words from the latest Miami commitment by the end of the day.