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Thursday, November 18, 2010
POTW: Montini's Westerkamp finds rhythm

By Scott Powers

Matt Westerkamp
Matt Westerkamp wasn't a lock to be Montini's starting quarteback, but he earned his way into the job.
LOMBARD, Ill. -- Matt Westerkamp comes from a family of Montini wide receivers.

His dad played wide receiver for the Broncos. His four uncles played the position, too. He has three cousins who have all caught passes for the school.

Despite the family tradition and even Montini's coaches swaying him toward following it, Matt Westerkamp wanted to break the mold. His heart has always been set on playing quarterback, and now as a senior he's doing so while leading the Broncos deep into the Class 5A state playoffs.

"I think I just liked the position, having the game in your hands at all times, touching the ball every play and just being the leader on the field for everyone else," said Westerkamp, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.

While Westerkamp has had his sight on being the varsity quarterback for some time, Montini coach Chris Andriano was confident that Westerkamp wouldn't be his starter this season.

"When I evaluated him as a freshman, his technique wasn't where we wanted it to be, and we didn't think he was going to develop into a starting varsity quarterback," Andriano said. "We didn't think he was going to end up there.

"We kept bugging him and getting on him and telling he'll never play quarterback for us. He would throw the ball down. His slot was too low.

"A lot of guys would have just said the heck with it, ‘I'm not going to take this abuse.' Because we were pretty hard on him. He just kept coming back. He kept coming back, coming back and kept working on it. He never showed any emotion, just kept playing hard and doing the right things."

Westerkamp heard what his coaches were saying, but he believed they were wrong about him. It was his coaches' voices he used as motivation each season to keep pushing himself to get better. He broke down his technique. He listened to the older Montini quarterbacks. He studied the Broncos' spread offense and watched hours of film.

Finally, this past summer the 6-foot-2 Westerkamp was given his chance. Andriano was going to decide between him and a junior quarterback for the position, and Westerkamp emerged as the starter.

"When we got into the summer 7-on-7s, hey, he understands what we're doing, makes good decisions, very poised," Andriano said. "He never throws into coverage. He'll throw it away. That's a hard thing to do for a lot of quarterbacks at any level; Jay Cutler included. We kept seeing the great qualities he's got. He's got the right mental approach to the position. He's work hard at the technique."

Montini junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, Matt's cousin, had seen him the throw the ball plenty throughout his life, but even he was impressed by Matt's performances during the summer.

"Matt is mobile," said Jordan, his cousin's favorite target. "He can throw on the run. All the attributes that a great quarterback has, Matt has and he showed it in the summer."

Westerkamp has continued doing so throughout the season and especially in the playoffs. In last week's quarterfinal win over Marian Central, he was 17-of-26 for 185 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another. In the second round, he threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns. In the first round, he ran for two touchdowns and passed for another.

With Westerkamp stepping up his game, Montini does have a legitimate shot at winning its second consecutive Class 5A state title.

"I can't believe that we're already in the semifinals," Westerkamp said. "It doesn't feel like that at all. Any one of these games can be your last. I just don't like that feeling. I just want to keep going."