Oakcrest QB Kendall Elliott coming of age, both on and off the field

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher In many ways, the boy in Kendall Elliott can still be seen. The wide grin, the occasional uneasiness he seems to have with his ever-emerging athletic body. The good-natured jostling he enjoys with teammates during a preseason practice. The adolescent transition from boy to man in a 16-year-old can happen quickly, and with Elliott it seems to have happened overnight. No longer is he a wide-eyed freshman trying to remember the snap count, the world spinning around him under the bright glow of the Friday night lights. The development of Oakcrest’s sophomore quarterback from the end of last season to now is impressive. He now stands 6 feet and weighs in at a solid 210 pounds (he was 5-11, 190 last year) and is slinging tight spirals all over the field, and when a play breaks down he becomes a formidable running back. Quarterback is the toughest position to play in football. So many plays to remember; you must have the ability to read coverages at the line of scrimmage while making sure all of your own players are in the right spot. It can be overwhelming, especially for a freshman starting at the varsity level. Elliott was so overwhelmed in the season opener against Egg Harbor Township last year that he fumbled the first snap of the game. Fortunately, running back Terrence Smith was there to pounce on the loose ball. “I just wanted to do the best I could and listen to my coaches and get the ball to my receivers,” Elliott said of his approach heading into last season. “I was really nervous. The first snap I fumbled the ball. I had the butterflies in my stomach because it was my first varsity game. But Terrence covered it up.” That was probably the worst play Elliott had in what turned out to be a record-setting season. And it was a microcosm of the bond he enjoys with this group of Falcons players. They have his back. Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith said he and his staff have been working to make Elliott a more accurate quarterback, particularly when he is throwing on the run. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O'Sullivan) Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith said he and his staff have been working to make Elliott a more accurate quarterback, particularly when he is throwing on the run. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan) Smith said the area of improvement his coaching staff is working with Elliott on the most this year is his accuracy. As a freshman, Elliott’s completion percentage was slightly less than 50 percent. Smith said he would like to see that number climb closer to 60 percent this season. “He has tremendous arm strength. We’re still working on his accuracy and fine-tuning some of his technique, especially throwing on the run. He’s really good at reading keys for the run game and being able to check to audibles and things like that,” Smith said. Elliott’s teammates said they have seen a big difference in their quarterback so far in the preseason. “He’s a great kid. He’s really developing as a quarterback. He puts in just as much work as anyone else out here,” said senior lineman Matt Hess, a 17-year-old Mays Landing resident. “He’s shown a lot of potential. I like what I’ve been seeing in the scrimmages and practices. He definitely comes in confident. He gets us ready to do what we need to do.” “He’s making tremendous strides,” said senior linebacker Kevin Stokes, also a 17-year-old Mays Landing resident. “He knows he’s going to make mistakes, nobody is perfect, especially in high school ball, but he doesn’t let that get him down. If he throws an interception, it’s gone right away. He’ll come back and attack stronger than ever.” The key word For Elliott, the most important thing as he enters his second season as the starting quarterback for the Falcons is maturity. Not only being a calming presence in the huddle, but he also is beginning to recognize that there is a certain aura around being the starting quarterback of a high school football team. He realizes there is going to be more media coverage with every touchdown he throws, and that there will be more people vying for his attention as he becomes a bigger star athletically. And Elliott says that now, a year older, stronger and more mature, he believes he is ready for the extra attention that is sure to come. “I think I have matured a lot. I didn’t feel like I was much of a leader as a freshman, but I’m feeling more comfortable. On and off the field, in the weight room especially. The team feeds off me and whatever I do, they’ll follow that example. If I’m in the weight room a lot they will be in the weight room a lot,” Elliott said. “When I was in seventh or eighth grade I wasn’t really much of a leader, but now that I’m in high school, that’s key. As a quarterback you have to be a leader of the team. Since younger kids look up to me, I have to set a good example. If I set a bad example, they are going to do the same thing. So I try to lead them on the right path.” “He’s really matured off the field. He’s doing great in the classroom and in his personal life, and hopefully he can keep taking small steps forward,” Smith said. Said Stokes, “He’s definitely mature for someone his age. You might think with the younger kids that they will stumble around a little bit, but he’s not like that. He’s very composed and he knows what he’s doing.” Looking ahead Elliott has played just one season of high school football, but Smith and Elliott’s teammates believe big things are on the horizon. Smith plans to use Elliott more as a defensive player this year and said he wouldn’t be surprised if Elliott began drawing interest from college programs not only as a quarterback, but possibly even as a linebacker or safety. “His potential is limitless. As a quarterback, you try to get better at something every year. This year we’re trying to get him better at his completion percentage. Now it’s really putting the ball where it needs to be,” Smith said. “As long as he keeps making those strides he can be anything he wants to be by the time he graduates. I love coaching quarterbacks and seeing them get better every year. He’s fun to coach because he always strives to get better.” “I believe the sky is the limit for that kid. No matter what you throw at him, he’s going to make it better than what you originally planned it as. He’s such a mobile kid, and he has a rocket arm,” Stokes said. Still, Elliott is just 16 years old and is still trying to find a comfort zone, not only with his more muscular frame but also with being the focal point of the football team. He’s shy by nature, not really sure of what to say to members of the media. It’s almost as if he wishes the interview were over so that he could get back to the comfort zone he knows best, which is rolling out of the pocket with a football in his hand. “He’s a lot of fun to be around. He works hard on and off the field. He’s a really good kid. He won’t say much to you unless you say something to him. He has that mindset where he wants to get things done. He gets dressed and gets right out onto the field and gets to work,” Stokes said. “Some kids have egos, but I’m humble,” Elliott says. “Nothing can distract me from what I’m trying to achieve and my goals.” Nope, Kendall Elliott isn’t going to say much. He’d rather let his right arm do the talking. Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]


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