"Isaiah is without question the best quarterback that I saw on tape this year," said Neuheisel of the Garfield High School stand-out at the letter of intent press conference in February. "I don't think it's even close. There are lots of publications that will have you believe otherwise, but having done this for a number of years, there is not a doubt in my mind that Isaiah Stanback is the best quarterback in the country."
Pretty remarkable for a guy that's still a relative neophyte to the game.
As a senior, the 6-3, 190-pound Stanback suffered through a terrible season
at Garfield, going 2-7. In the process, though, his athletic ability
allowed him to put up an array of impressive statistics: 1,628 yards and 12
touchdowns through the air, over 700 yards and nine touchdowns on the
ground. Neuheisel looked past Garfield's struggles and, envisioning
Stanback as the must-get in-state prospect in 2002, threw the kitchen sink
at him to bring the gun-slinger to Montlake.
Isaiah kept his options open, but had two prerequisites as far as colleges
went. First and foremost, he wanted to stay on the West Coast so he
wouldn't be too far away from home. Stanback knew that his family could
always come visit him as long as he stayed west. Secondly, he wanted an
opportunity to play quarterback; not a guarantee, just an opportunity.
"There were a lot of schools that were sending me letters, but letters don't
really matter until you start getting phone calls from schools," said
Stanback. "A lot of schools wanted me to change my position. I wanted to
come in as a quarterback and if they wanted to change my position after that
it would be up to the coach."
The first trips he took were to USC and ASU and that's where he was able to
get a broad overview of how each of the teams conducted themselves. After
being courted down south, he returned home for a visit with the home-town
Huskies and it was there that he realized that the UW was the place for him.
"The main thing I was looking for was team unity, and that's what I saw
here," he explained.
Now almost six months to the day after signing with the Dawgs, Stanback
finds himself in familiar surroundings. He already knows about half-a-dozen
of the incoming freshmen and is quickly making friends. Home is just a
short drive away for the soon to be 18-year-old. His birthday
is only a week away, and he'll be able to spend it with friends and family
instead of a cast of new faces as would have been the case elsewhere. The
transition hasn't been overbearing, and that's given Stanback the ability to
relax and enjoy himself during his first few days as Husky.
Yesterday, Isaiah finally got the chance to get some one-on-one training
from his position coach, the well-respected quarterback guru Steve Axman.
Over his 33-year coaching career, Axman has turned
many quarterbacks into NFL prospects, including the likes of Troy Aikman and
Marques Tuiasosopo. Stanback knows his coach's history, and can't wait to
learn from such a mind.
"Coach Ax is funny," he said. "You've got to get used to him, though, he's
funny. He's from New York so he's pretty sarcastic. He's a good guy and
he's cool to get along with. He's put a lot of quarterbacks into the NFL so
he knows what he's talking about."
"I need to improve everything," Stanback continued. "I've only played
football for four years - three years of high school and one year of little
league - so I'm still starting. Whatever he says, that's what I'll do."
When Stanback's endless supply of talent combines with Axman's vast
knowledge of the quarterbacking, the future forecast calls for sunny skies
at the University of Washington.
Neuheisel agrees. "If you give me and Coach Axman a guy like him with those
natural tools, you've got a chance to put together a masterpiece," he said
at Wednesday's freshman luncheon.
It also doesn't hurt that quarterback is one of Washington's deepest
positions, which will give the young signal-caller plenty of time to learn
from the gray-beards above him on the depth chart.
"When you've got quarterbacks like Cody Pickett, Taylor Barton and Casey
Paus in front of you, those are great guys to learn from," Stanback said.
"Cody is one of the best in the country, so I'm going to learn from him as
much as I can. I like to ask questions so I'm going to ask him as many as I
Neuheisel couldn't be happier to have another weapon in his arsenal, and he
expects this weapon to do a lot of damage in the years to come.
"This guy is special," Neuheisel said, failing to conceal the grin on his
face. "I don't think he's a finished product. I think he can certainly
learn a great deal, and given the depth at the position he'll have the
chance to learn. I think you'll be raving about his abilities in the very
Isaiah Stanback: Simply "The Best"
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