Isaiah Stanback: Simply "The Best"

Isaiah Stanback played organized football for only four years, but that's all it took to elevate his level of play enough to land the highest compliment possible from Washington Head Coach Rick Neuheisel.

"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 can."

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 near future." Top Stories