As a rising freshman, Northwood's Jimmy Hessler was tagged as "The Franchise" by football coach Dennis Harris … a bold statement about a kid who had never before played a varsity down.
Three years and an all-state-caliber junior season later for the Silver Spring, Md., high school, the quarterback is making Harris look prophetic.
"Last year was a breakout year [for Hessler]," Harris said. "We were counting on him to be the focal point of our offense, and he did not disappoint. He threw for a lot of yards. To have him coming back with the same system in place, he should be successful as a senior, as well."
The 6-foot, 170-pound junior earned small-school all-state honorable mention and all-Montgomery County second team after throwing for 2,582 yards and 20 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions.
"The first time I saw him as a rising ninth-grader and I saw him throw I knew he was going to be pretty good. I tagged him that day as 'The Franchise,'" Harris said. "Even in my cell phone that's what his name is. To see what he could do at such a young age, I knew he was they type of guy who would give us a chance to win."
Northwood will have the most experienced quarterback in Montgomery County next season. Hessler started a couple of games as a freshman and took over the starting quarterback spot in his sophomore season.
"In 10th grade I felt a major improvement," Hessler said. "By the end of the year I was getting comfortable. In 11th grade I went back a little bit, but by midyear I was feeling comfortable, and by the end of the year I had my best game in my last game."
Hessler threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns against John F. Kennedy High School in the Gladiators' final game.
During the spring, Hessler is focused on baseball; he is considered one of Montgomery County's top pitchers.
A true student-athlete, Hessler maintains a 3.7 grade point average and is keeping his options open regarding choosing a college.
Hessler said he would like to pursue a piloting career and is looking into attending the Air Force Academy or another military school.
Harris said Cornell, Brown and Princeton are some of the Ivy League schools that have shown interest in him. William & Mary has also asked for film on him.
For his senior season, Hessler will have his No. 3 receiver from last season return, but Harris said they will need some younger players to step up and fill the remaining roles.
To utilize Hessler's athleticism, Harris said they plan to roll out the quarterback position and allow Hessler to scramble in the pocket this season.
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Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com. Mike can be reached at Michael.Loveday@espn.com