The Education of a QB

Originally Published: September 9, 2008
By Jon Mahoney |

A coach once told Steve Clarkson not to mistake activity for productivity. That's just one of many lessons Clarkson tries to drive home to his students at the Steve Clarkson Quarterback Academy.

If you're a high school quarterback hoping to become an elite signal caller in college and maybe even the NFL, there's nothing more invaluable to your quest than getting taught by quarterback gurus like Clarkson and Bob Johnson, coach at Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.

Clarkson, who has tutored the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Leinart during his illustrious career, started his academy in Pasadena, Calif., last year after spending more than a decade at Air 7 Quarterback University.

A former San Jose State quarterback who threw for 6,842 yards and 56 touchdowns from 1979-82 before playing in the Canadian Football League, Clarkson gives each of his pupils a comprehensive 10-hour evaluation to test them on all aspects of quarterbacking.

Afterward, Clarkson and his staff try to improve the students' on-field deficiencies while also teaching them about all the game's off-the-field intricacies. Essentially, the Steve Clarkson Quarterback Academy covers every nuance that goes into being an elite quarterback.

"It's not just how well a kid throws," says Clarkson, who has trained this year's No. 1 ESPNU 150 recruit, quarterback Matt Barkley of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). "It's how he thinks, how he interviews - basically what colleges look for. We want to make sure they're educated on the entire process."

Johnson, a former quarterback at Fresno State, uses the same approach when coaching at Mission Viejo and when tutoring private clients.

"Both on and off the field, we try to cover the A to Z of quarterbacking," says Johnson, whose son, Rob, played in the NFL for 10 years. "You have to stay on top of the fundamentals."

Like Clarkson, Johnson has an impressive list of protégées. He has worked with Carson Palmer and Drew Brees of the NFL as well as USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Those guys - just like Clarkson's disciples - surely didn't get that far by mistaking activity for productivity.

Jon Mahoney is a football and baseball editor for ESPNHS. Email him at