Al Thompson
Timber Creek quarterback picked North Carolina State over a myriad of offers because of academics, a chance to play early and because…”It felt like home.” Photo by Michael Corsey @ Michael Corsey Photography

Timber Creek quarterback Devin Leary, as a junior, was named to every all-star team he was eligible for including NJ.com State Player of the Year, The N.J. state Gatorade Player of the Year, first-team all-state and Footballstories Magazine Player of the Year for South Jersey.

The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Leary set state records for passing yards (3,688) and touchdowns (48) last season as Timber Creek scored 564 points, the second-highest total in South Jersey history.

Timber Creek went 12-0 and won its second straight South Jersey Group 4 championship.

Confidence, right?

When a player in any sport puts up those kinds of numbers against pretty tough competition, he or she is going to attract attention from colleges, thus moving the student-athlete onto the national stage.

Leary said he was eager to see how his skills matched up against the best at his position from around the country.

There is no better barometer to find that out than qualifying for the Nike Football The Opening, a tournament style invitation skills competition that starts with regionals around the country, eliminating players along the way until the “Elite 11” are crowned and compete one last time at Portland Oregon at Nike headquarters.

Leary was one of the honored eleven and he talked about the experience.

“First I went to a regional camp in (Washington) DC first actually,” Leary said. “That’ what they hold all around over the country, the Nike regional camp. And I ended up winning the quarterbacks competition.”

Leary said he then moved on to a second round of qualifiers in New Jersey, from there he qualified for “The Opening’s” “Elite 11” finals in Los Angeles.

“They pick the top 40 quarterbacks in the country to go there for the ‘Elite 11’ finals,” Leary said. “The competition is for about a weekend in LA, from there they pick the top 12 to go to ‘The Opening’ and I was selected to go. It was pretty cool.”

It was then Leary said he felt like he was truly among the best at what he does…throwing the football.

“It was a huge honor and kind of like a sigh of relief to show I could compete with the best quarterbacks in the country,” Leary said. “And be coached by the best coaches all around.”

Leary said Pro Bowl and Super Bowl champion quarterback Trent Dilfer was there as was Pac-12 Network’s college football analyst, filmmaker, and author Yogi Roth as well as mind coaches and counselors plus current college players including UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, his Rose Bowl shootout opponent Sam Darnold as well as Clemson hero Deshaun Watson now with the Houston Texans.

“I was talking to him a little bit, because he is a little bit shorter than me,” Leary said. “I was asking him about his height. He said as a long as you know the game and what to do with the ball, height isn’t really a factor. It was just cool talking to all these guys.”

Leary has already committed to North Carolina State. He said once he got on campus he knew this was the place he wanted to play college football.

Timber Creek quarterback Kevin Leary set state records of 3,688 passing yards and 48 touchdown passes in 2016. Photo by Al Thompson

Timber Creek quarterback Kevin Leary set state records of 3,688 passing yards and 48 touchdown passes in 2016. Photo by Al Thompson

“When I went to NC State with my mom and dad, it just seemed like a perfect fit,” Leary said. “I hit it off with the coaches right away. They have great academics there and it just felt like home.” Leary has indicated he won’t rule out starting classes next spring.

Leary talked about his recruitment journey, and much did his physical measurements came up.

“I don’t think they stress it too much, but then again I think that’s always their first impression,” Leary said. “When they see a quarterback that’s 6-6 compared to a quarterback that’s 6-foot, they’re always going to give a look to the 6-6 guy and see what he’s got first.”

Again, the experience he got from playing at the Opening, meeting the players ahead of him and getting their input helped Leary forget how tall or stout he may be.

“When I got invited to the Los Angeles, to the finals (to go to “the Opening’) I don’t think height played a factor at all,” said Leary, who lists Drew Brees as his favorite NFL player. “I would say it was my arm strength, my accuracy caught their eye and put me over my height. People didn’t even look at my height. I was out there with a bunch of guys who are 6-5, 6-6 but if I could throw the same as them if not better, my height isn’t really a factor.”

Quarterbacks can over come height stereotypes, but not every position can.

He sees what happens to his teammates at Timber Creek, especially his line. Leary was asked to talk about a terrific lineman blocking for him who may not get a D-1 look because he is only 5-11 or 6-foot tall.

“It stinks,” Leary said. “Because they could be really good players but it’s just their height that hurts them. I think, especially at Timber Creek, they (the coaches) make the best out of what they have. They’re 6-foot and they’re a stud and all they get is D-II looks, they’re gonna go DII and they’re gonna ball out there.”

Leary will train at the popular Adrenaline Sports Performance sports performance facility in Cherry Hill. Owner Chad Hallet talked about Leary.

“Devin is an exceptions kid,” Hallet said. “Just like all the other elite athletes that came through Adrenaline before him he shares the same relentless work ethic. He’s the best QB I’ve seen at the high school level and he will be a great asset to any program he attends at the next level.”

Timber Creek head coach Rob Hinson says Leary will only get better.

“I’m expecting Devin to build on the spectacular season he had last year,” Hinson said. “He’s gotten bigger, stronger, more explosive, and more confident in his ability. He’s a true leader, and we’ll go as far as he takes us.”

Leary is an elite quarterback, now certified as one of the best high school players in the country at his position.

But he is now making a quantum leap in competition heading to North Carolina State and the ACC Atlantic Division that includes Florida State, Louisville and defending National Champion Clemson. The Wolfpack were 7-6 overall in 2016, taking Clemson to overtime before losing to the Tigers 24-17.

Is he aware that everyone at this level is elite? How will he deal with it?

“Even at high school now, my coach kind of says the same thing,” Leary said. “Now we can be a big fish in a little pond but when we get to college, everyone’s that big fish. I think it’s something with staying humble a little bit. Knowing that going into college, you’re not going to be as big as you were in high school. If you just stick to your role, and do what you’re asked to do, then everything should be fine. You should never let anything get to your head.”

Leary said Hinson was all in for his star signal caller.

“He thought it was a great experience,” Leary said. “Not only to get coached up as well, just playing with all these other athletes around the country because this (‘The Opening’) is the future of college football. This is is a whole bunch of big time recruits that are going there, most of these guys are committed, these could be the people I’m going against. I think getting the idea of playing against them at this camp, he (Hinson) thought it was a really good experience for me.”

Now that Leary is back to South Jersey he is all about the Chargers winning another state title.

“It’s huge, it’s all we’re thinking about right now,” Leary said. “None of us are worried about individual awards or records or anything like that. I think that is something coach has really stressed heavily…that it’s about the team. We’re only here for one goal and that’s to win another state championship.”


9 Aug 17 - Uncategorized - Al Thompson - No Comments