Jake Heaps is arguably the top quarterback in the recruiting class of 2010. He already has 11 verbal scholarship offers, and his hearing from some of the top college football programs across the country including USC and Notre Dame. Yet his Friday night successes didn't come without a whole lot of sacrifice.
And miles on the open road.
From his sixth grade year to when he was a sophomore at Skyline High, Heaps would take a seven-hour round-trip trek from his home in Issaquah, Wash., to the Portland, Ore., area, so he could hone his skills at the Barton Football Academy.
"I had the easy part of the drive," Heaps laughed. "I just had to sleep."
Greg Barton, a former NFL and CFL quarterback, and Taylor Barton, who was a prep All-American and Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year, served as advisors for Heaps. They almost immediately put him in the older group with high school signal-callers like Erik Ainge and Kellen Clemens during workouts.
"They would tease me from time to time, the older kids would, about how I'm such a young kid, and I'm throwing just as good as they were," Heaps explained. "It was funny."
Believe it or not, Heaps was an offensive lineman during his first year of organized football back in first grade. He moved to quarterback the next year, and the rest is history.
It was evident early on that Heaps was a major talent, and his parents decided to invest into his future and start taking him to see the Bartons on a weekly basis.
"Seriously, it was definitely worth it," Heaps stated. "People were thinking me and my parents were pretty nuts for taking me down there, but it all paid off. It paid dividends that's for sure.
"They've just been helping me tremendously with my knowledge of the game and my footwork, and just how I should carry myself on and off the field. I really give a lot of credit to them for helping me develop."
What Heaps has developed into is a star. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound all-state sophomore threw for 3,103 yards and 31 touchdowns, leading Skyline to a 14-0 record and the 3-A state championship.
The fax machine is going to be busy at Skyline High come Sept. 1st, the first day college programs can officially send in written scholarship offers. Washington, BYU, Washington State, UCLA, Minnesota, Arizona State, Oregon State, Boise State, California, Stanford and South Carolina have already extended verbal offers. Besides them, Notre Dame, USC, Oklahoma and Clemson are showing strong interest.
Heaps has been in touch with Notre Dame assistant coach Rob Ianello.
"He is a great guy," Heaps said. "They're really excited about my film. They watched it, and they are very impressed with the way I throw the ball and carry myself in the pocket for a guy my age."
Heaps is equally impressed with the Irish program.
"Oh yeah, I'm definitely interested. Notre Dame is historically a great program, and has a great coach in coach (Charlie) Weis. I know they had a down year last year, but they're going to come back strong. They've had great recruiting classes the last few years, so you just never know what's going to happen with that."
Heaps has had the opportunity to take trips to Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, BYU and USC, where he sat in Pete Carroll's office. He could take in Notre Dame for the first time at the end of the month for camp, but those plans aren't finalized. If not in June, Heaps will set foot in South Bend at some point.
"I will eventually be down there," Heaps said. "Hopefully sooner than later."
The same goes for Heaps and a college decision.
"I want to get a commitment somewhere after this next season, or just before my senior year starts," Heaps explained. He has a 3.0 GPA. "That's my ideal situation. I don't want to have to deal with all that my senior year.
"I'm looking for a great coaching staff. One that is going to help you grow as a person and as a football player. And then, a great education because at some point football is going to end for you whether it's 15 years after the NFL or wherever, so you have to have a good education. Is it a place I can live for four to five years? If you can't stand the place you're at, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for you to go there. And great players, you have to have great players around you to be successful. You have to have 11 great players on the football field, not just one."
Depth chart won't be a problem for Heaps.
"It kind of depends on each situation," he said. "You never shy away from competition. I'm the type of kid that will humbly and confidently feel I can compete against everybody, but you also have to be smart about it. If you want to play earlier, you're definitely not going to beat out a Jimmy Clausen or Dayne Crist that everyone is supporting and is very good. You're going to take your spot and wait your turn. I'm fine with that. Whatever situation best fits you, that's where you have to go."
And Heaps doesn't have to go so far to see the Bartons anymore. The Barton Football Academy has now moved an office to the Jake Heaps area. Further evidence, the family was definitely not nuts.