2008 Intro: A.J. Blue

DALLAS, N.C. --- After setting the Dallas (N.C.) North Gaston record in all-purpose yards as a sophomore in his first year at quarterback, A.J. Blue went on to practically rewrite the county record book as a junior.

"He's just a player that makes things happen," said Bruce Clark, North Gaston's head football coach. "He can take a busted play and make it a touchdown. He's an exciting guy. Anytime he can get his hands on the football, you've got a chance."

Blue, a 6-foot-1 200-pound dual-threat quarterback, broke the county record for single season all-purpose yards and scoring, and career all-purpose yards. He also set the school record for passing yards and re-set the school record for all-purpose yards in a season.

Additionally, Blue's play allowed North Gaston to break the school record for wins in a season (10) and allowed the Wildcats to advance farther into the NCHSAA playoffs then ever before and a one-point loss away from the semifinals.

The greatest feat was Blue's play the day after his older brother was fatally shot. With a heavy heart, Blue accounted for three touchdowns in a second-round playoff win against Gastonia (N.C.) Hunter Huss.

On the year, Blue passed for 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 1,300 yards and 24 yards. As a sophomore, Blue threw for 1,602 yards, 14 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. He also rushed for 1,014 yards and 10 more scores during his second prep season.

For his accomplishments, Blue was named Area Player-of-the-Year by the Gaston Gazette and first team all-conference.

"He's an unbelievable athlete," said Clark. "He's much more powerful than your average quarterback. He's a load to bring down. He has a very, very keen sense of presence. He's a very smart football player. [He has a] tremendously strong arm.

"If there's a place he has to work it's the finesse pass – the touch pass, but I thought he got remarkably better at that this year."

Proving Blue's football intelligence is his utilization in North Gaston's offense, which grants the quarterback free reign on virtually every play.

"We run what we call a ‘dart series' where it's a read-run all the way," explained Clark. "We're going to read a key and we're going to hand it to the running back or A.J. is going to keep it. So every time we snap it – if we're running the football – he always has the option of keeping the football if his key does certain things. We try to utilize him in the run game 50-percent of the time.

"Naturally when we throw it, he's in charge."

Given his size and combine numbers (4.62-second forty time and 32.3-inch vertical last weekend at the Shrine Bowl Combine), it's easy to draw the conclusion that Blue moves to a different position in college. However, Clark says that isn't the case.

"Not a doubt, quarterback [will be his best position on the collegiate level]," said Clark.

"And we have fought that [here with our staff] when he was a sophomore. We knew he was a great athlete – he started at defensive end for us as a freshman. But we wanted him to be a quarterback, not just because he was an athlete, but because he has a mind for the game, he can read defenses well, he can do a lot of the little intangibles that a lot of people have trouble doing.

"If I was a college football coach, I would want him getting his hands on the football as many times as he could."

Anyone not recruiting Blue for under center will have an uphill battle winning his February signature.

"Quarterback is what I want to be," said Blue. "If I get an offered, I want to know if I have a chance to start [at quarterback]. That's what I'm looking for right there."

According to Clark, Alabama, Florida, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, N.C. State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest have inquired about Blue.

"We have not received an offer to this point, but there's been a lot of people who have said they are on the verge," said Clark.

"A.J. has not taken the SAT; he needs to get that done. He's working on making up some classes that he needs to improve grades in and we're in the process of doing that. I think when all that is said and done, the offers will come in."

Blue is retaking Geometry and Biology, two classes that were neglected when Blue was mourning the unexpected death of his brother.

North Carolina is among the schools recruiting Blue the hardest.

"We have been in touch since the new staff came on board," said Clark of communication with the Tar Heel coaches. "They seem to be very receptive. Since A.J. attended a junior day up there, I've had three or four telephone conversations with them. And we're going to try to get A.J. back up there for the spring game. They seem to be very interested and A.J. is very interested in them."

Not only is Blue interested in the Tar Heels, he includes them among his list of favorites.

"I've been loving Virginia Tech – I don't know why – and I've been loving Tennessee. But [N.C.] State and [North] Carolina have showed me a lot so I like them a lot, too," said Blue. "Those are my four right now."

Blue doesn't have a leader among the four, but isn't looking to make a verbal commitment until the fall.

Over the course of the last few months, Blue has attended junior days at UNC, N.C. State, and Wake Forest. He most recently returned from his trip to Chapel Hill.

"[UNC's Junior Day] was good, they showed a lot of interest," said Blue. "They seemed like they had everything in order. They're pretty hyped about their season."

During his stay, Blue spoke to John Lovett, special teams coordinator, and John Shoop, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.

"[We talked about] recruiting, grades – that was first, and what they have to offer as a school and a football staff," said Blue. "They said I would be recruited as a quarterback."

Blue was supposed to meet Butch Davis, but that didn't pan out. Instead Blue has a scheduled phone meeting with Davis set for later this week.

In addition to attending UNC's spring game, Blue will attend Virginia Tech's as well

Over the summer, Blue said he will return to North Carolina for the one-day camp and also plans to camp at N.C. State, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech.

A.J. Blue Profile


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