Quarterback is widely regarded as the toughest position not just in football, but in all of sports. Success under center requires a rare blend of physical prowess, character and courage. While there are certainly 11 players contributing to every play, if there is one position in this ultimate team sport that demands decisive leadership on every snap, it's at QB.
With the specificity and importance of the position in mind, the Elite 11 regional camps and week-long final event seek to gather the best incoming senior prep quarterbacks in the country every spring and summer in order to teach and test these talented signal-callers with the best coaching and competition available. In 2011, the 13th year of the Elite 11 QB competition, a supremely talented crop of 24 quarterbacks was fielded.
ESPNHS spoke with some of the elite arms that made it to the campus of Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif. this past July for the event finals about their experiences during the Elite 11 process and how it prepared them for their senior seasons and propelled their games to another level.
"The Elite 11 was such a great experience," said Boise State-bound Nick Patti of Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.). "It was awesome to be able to connect with the other players from throughout the country that I would of never had the chance to do without the Elite 11. The best part was being able to compete against the best quarterbacks and raise my level of play to match each and everyone."
Michigan State recruit and Lima Central (Lima, Ohio) signal-caller Tyler O'Connor took the lessons imparted by Super Bowl champion QB and Elite 11 head coach Trent Dilfer to heart throughout his final fall as a high school quarterback.
"The biggest thing was how much coach Dilfer stressed the importance of knowing every detail of our playbook," said O'Connor. "I make sure I know everything from reading coverages to knowing what every player on the field is doing. It was one of the most memorable football experiences I have ever had and honestly I don’t think it can ever be matched."
Cal commit and San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.) quarterback Zach Kline made lifelong friendships while also refining his game during the week of compelling competition.
"It was something I will never forget, just the relationships I was able to make there is something that I will always have thanks to the Elite 11," said Kline. "Fundamentals like how the smallest things are more important than we think. I make sure to pay close attention to everything I do now like how I hold the ball to making sure that I am always fundamentally sound."
Patti learned the nuances of leadership this past summer in Malibu.
"One thing I really made sure of as the season was progressing is I kept the mentality that everyday I needed to compete at the highest level like I was at the Elite 11 everyday," said Patti. "At the Elite 11 we learned how important it was to be a leader of your team and how there is different ways to lead. So this year I really saw myself get better at this by taking command of the huddle and being assertive when calling plays. This was something that was stressed over and over at the Elite 11."
The resonating lesson for Kline continues to drive him as he strives to improve his game.
"Always compete and never be satisfied with where you are at," said Kline of the greatest gem learned from Dilfer, "because there is someone else out there working and getting better at every minute of the day."
Austin Appleby, 6-4, 225, Hoover (North Canton, Ohio)
Committed to Purdue
Season totals: 105-of-237 for 1,417 yards and eight touchdowns.
Connor Brewer, 6-2, 190, Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Committed to Texas
Season totals: 176-of-284 for 2,898 yards, 42 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Neal Burcham, 6-2, 185, Greenbrier (Greenbrier, Ark.)
Committed to SMU
Season totals: 231-of-326 for 3,467, 40 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Tyler Cameron, 6-3, 216, Jupiter Community (Jupiter, Fla.)
Committed to South Florida
Season totals: 86-of-189 for 1,453 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Rushed for over 450 yards and six touchdowns.
Preston Dewey, 6-2, 200, St. Andrews Episcopal (Austin, Texas)
Committed to Miami
Season totals: 47-of-76 for 688 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
Shane Dillon, 6-4, 180, Christian (El Cajon, Calif.)
Committed to Colorado
Season totals: 212-of-354 for 3,189 yards, 24 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and six rushing touchdowns.
Bart Houston, 6-3, 200, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
Committed to Wisconsin
Last week: Completed 6-of-11 for 147 yards and one touchdown to go with two rushing scores in a 35-0 win over Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.) in the 2011 CIF State Football Championship Open Division Bowl championship to finish 13-1.
Season totals: 89-of-157 for 1,811 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for 15 touchdowns.
Chad Kelly, 6-2, 205, Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute (Buffalo, N.Y.)
Committed to Clemson
Season totals: 200-of-330 for 3,039 yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions, rushed for 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Gunner Kiel, 6-3, 215, East (Columbus, Ind.)
Season totals: 127-of-237 for 2,474 yards and 28 touchdowns with four interceptions. Rushed for 12 touchdowns.
Zach Kline, 6-2, 205, San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.)
Committed to California
Season totals: 231-of-366 for 3,609 yards, 35 touchdowns, seven interceptions and eight rushing touchdowns.
Jeff Lindquist, 6-3, 225, Mercer Island (Mercer Island, Wash.)
Committed to Washington
Season totals: 141-of-255 for 1,916 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Rushed for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Tanner Mangum, 6-2, 190, Eagle (Eagle, Idaho)
Committed to BYU
Season totals: 226-of-336 for 3,341 yards, 33 touchdowns, two interceptions and three rushing touchdowns.
Tyler Matthews, 6-2, 195, McPherson (McPherson, Kan.)
Committed to TCU
Season totals: 163-of-257 for 2,836 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. Rushed for three touchdowns.
Cyler Miles, 6-3, 210, J.K. Mullen (Denver, Col.)
Committed to Washington
Season totals: 128-of-185 for 1,577 yards, 17 touchdowns and ten interceptions.
Tyler O’Connor, 6-2, 205, Lima Central (Lima, Ohio)
Committed to Michigan State
Season totals: 117-of-204 for 2,031 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Rushed for 11 touchdowns.
Nick Patti, 5-10, 185, Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.)
Committed to Boise State
Season totals: 157-of-304 for 2,310 yards, 23 touchdowns, nine interceptions and three rushing touchdowns.
Zeke Pike, 6-4, 233, Dixie Heights (Fort Mitchell, Ky.)
Committed to Auburn
Season totals: 160-of-267 for 1,945, 14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and 15 rushing touchdowns.
Patton Robinette, 6-4, 200, Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.)
Committed to North Carolina
Season totals: 116-of-165 for 1,552 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Rushed for 14 touchdowns and over 650 yards.
Jake Rodrigues, 6-2, 210, Whitney (Rocklin, Calif.)
Committed to Oregon
Season totals: 116-of-187 for 1,845 yards, 24 touchdowns, four interceptions and eleven rushing touchdowns.
Grant Rohach, 6-2, 185, Moorpark (Moorpark, Calif.)
Committed to Iowa State
Season totals: 150-of-266 for 2,027, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Patrick Towles, 6-4, 230, Highlands (Fort Thomas, Ky.)
Committed to Kentucky
Season totals: 169-of-261 for 3,637 yards, 41 touchdowns, one interception and 467 yards rushing with 14 rushing touchdowns.
Chad Voytik, 6-0, 195, Cleveland (Cleveland, Tenn.)
Committed to Pittsburgh
Season totals: 119-of-207 for 1,593, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, rushed for over 400 yards and eight touchdowns.
Travis Wilson, 6-7, 215, San Clemente (San Clemente, Calif.)
Committed to Utah
Season totals: 147-of-223 for 2,284 yards, 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions and six rushing touchdowns.
Jameis Winston, 6-3, 195, Hueytown (Hueytown, Ala.)
Committed to Florida State
Season totals: 160-of-238 for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns with two interceptions and rushed for 1,063 yards and 15 scores.
High school juniors interested in being considered for the Elite 11 event are encouraged to workout at an Elite 11 regional camp, the schedule for which will be announced on Feb. 1, 2012. There they will receive advanced, one-on-one quarterback instruction. Top performers will earn a spot in the final Elite 11 event in July in Southern California.
Past players to participate at the event include Heisman Trophy winners Jason White, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Troy Smith and Tim Tebow. Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Freeman, Matt Schaub, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck have also participated.