MORGANTOWN - The stories of high school football and what it means in the state of Texas are legendary, so much so that Friday Night Lights are not just what Texas schoolboys play under, but a book, a movie and a television series.Not much slips through the cracks there when it comes to evaluating talent. The best players are identified early and groomed to be the best they can be. Ford Childress was no exception.The son of a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Ray Childress, Ford always looked like a football player. And when he began playing quarterback, it was hard to miss the potential in a youngster not only with talent and size, but bloodlines, as well.How was it, then, that Childress was asked to take a detour that could have derailed his promising career?
"Well, they just had a quarterback at the time,'' Childress said, referring to his sophomore year at Kinkaid High School in Houston. "And he was a good one. He was a great guy, too.''OK, so maybe John Ed McGee didn't exactly pass the initial eye test. As a high school senior he was all of 5-foot-9 and maybe 160 or so pounds. Compared to Childress, who now is 6-5 and 224 pounds as a freshman at West Virginia and wasn't significantly smaller back then, he was a shrimp.But Kinkaid coaches were comfortable with McGee at quarterback and didn't like the idea of tossing aside their returning starter for his senior season, even though Childress was looming as his successor. So they moved Childress to tight end for his sophomore year.
It could have been disastrous to Childress' career and for a time he worried about it."Kind of,'' Childress said. "But then again I always figured once he graduated I'd could fight back and play quarterback again and eventually I'd be playing college football.''He did and he is. And he did so without missing a beat.Not only was Childress back at quarterback for his junior season at Kinkaid, the school was building its offense around him. McGee, for instance, threw an average of only 111 passes during his junior and senior seasons as Kinkaid's starter for a total of just 1,784 yards and 13 touchdowns (He also ran for 1,100 yards).
Right out of the gate, Childress threw more than 300 passes as a junior for 2,658 yards and 25 touchdowns. As a senior he threw for 3,171 yards and 41 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.And here's the most important part, perhaps: Throughout his hiatus from the position as a sophomore, he never lost sight of his goals. And when he stepped back behind center as a junior, he went full speed ahead. He hadn't played quarterback in a year, but he was already planning his entrance into college, working to get there as quickly as he could."The fall of my junior year I started realized that a lot of people were trying to graduate early so they can [get to college and] get the offense down and basically get used to everything,'' Childress said. "My mom and my dad and I all thought it was a great idea, so I started taking extra classes that spring.''Kind of presumptuous for a guy who was in his first year as a starting high school quarterback, huh? But Childress knew what he wanted and it only took a few 300-yard passing games for the dream to take root.
"It only took a few months, I guess,'' Childress said. "But yeah, it was fast. I guess they just look at potential and saw potential in me.''And so barely a year and a half after taking his first snap as a high school starter, Childress finds himself right where he wanted to be, in a Division I spring practice while his high school classmates are getting ready for prom and graduation. Not only that, but Childress has a leg up on learning West Virginia's offense, given that it was the one Kinkaid eventually installed to take advantage of his talents."It's what I ran in high school,'' Childress said. "We just call things differently up here.''So the guy who was moved to a different position because there was already a starting quarterback at his high school is back where he belongs behind center, one of just three quarterbacks on WVU's roster.And McGee, the little quarterback at Kinkaid? He's playing Ivy League football at Princeton today.As a wide receiver.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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