Son with a gun

There's a new arm in town

Updated: July 18, 2012, 12:36 PM ET
By Jordan Conn | ESPN The Magazine

Luke Del RioTom Hauck/ESPNHSDel Rio is on a mission to prove he can compete with the best of his class.

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Luke Del Rio wants people to know his name. But not because the second half of it also belongs to his father, Jack, a former Pro Bowl linebacker and head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-11). Despite receiving only a three-star ranking and three FBS offers, Del Rio is out to prove that he stacks up against the top QBs in the 2013 class.

He'll get that chance July 18-22 at the Elite 11 finals in Redondo Beach, Calif., where he'll face 24 of them, including 16 ranked in the ESPN 300. "You can give those guys their four stars and 60 offers," says Del Rio, a recent Oklahoma State commit. "I'm not looking for media attention. That's the biggest chip on my shoulder."

Del Rio didn't even have a rating in ESPN's database two months ago. Still, it's hard to blame scouts and recruiters for not noticing a QB with only one year as a starter under his belt. Jack Del Rio held his son out of football until middle school, and Luke didn't try QB until his freshman year at Bolles High, a football powerhouse in suburban Jacksonville. When his opportunity never came, Del Rio begged his dad to let him transfer to local rival Episcopal, which had a more pass-oriented offense. There, Del Rio turned in a solid junior season (2,530 yards and 20 TDs), but offers didn't roll in for an undersize pocket passer (6'1", 187 pounds) on a weak team (3-9). "Recruiting is about appearances," says George Whitfield Jr., an Elite 11 counselor who tutored Andrew Luck. "If you're 6'5", 220, you're automatically more attractive."

Del Rio fell further off the recruiting map when he enrolled at Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) in February after Jack was fired by Jacksonville and took the defensive coordinator job with the Broncos. "Wherever we went, Luke told me he was going to plug in and make the most of it," Jack says. "That attitude took courage."

So did attending the Elite 11 regional qualifier on May 4 in Columbus, Ohio, considered the stiffest competition of the six tryouts. He just missed an automatic invitation to the finals that went to the nation's No. 4 QB, Michigan commit Shane Morris. But Del Rio impressed the selection committee with his touch, release and composure, earning one of 19 at-large bids.

Even with a spot sealed, he went to the Oakland, Calif., regional two weeks later and soon got the offer from OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken, an ex-Jags assistant. "Todd remembered him as a pip-squeak," says Jack. "He had to get a good look to realize it was Luke all grown up."

Now the rest of recruiting nation is about to get another look too -- and it will see just how far a kid can throw with a chip on his shoulder. 

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Jordan Conn

    Jordan Conn (@jordanconn) is a staff writer for Grantland. He wrote The Defender: Manute Bol's Journey from Sudan to the NBA and Back Again, a multimedia e-book published by The Atavist.