After summer of accolades, Stratford QB Jacob Park ready to focus on season
GOOSE CREEK -- Jacob Park remains humble and hungry after a summer buffet of honors and accolades.
The Startford High School quarterback had his pick of college football teams, and in June chose Georgia over two-time national champion Alabama.
July was even more impressive.
He was invited to compete in the Elite 11 quarterback camp and finished No. 5 among the top QBs in the country.
Soon after, he was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, one of the nation’s premier high school all-star football games.
On Friday, it was back to reality as Stratford practiced for the first time in preparation for the 2013 season.
“I’m here waiting for the season to start,” said Park, a 6-4, 210-pounder who can pass and run the ball. “I’m here to work hard, hoping it will pay off. I won’t have to do it myself this year. I have a lot of talented teammates to help out.”
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer had high praise for Park in an article for the website 24/7 Sports after his Elite 11 performance.
“He is immensely talented, really bright,” Dilfer wrote. “Once it’s explained to him, he sees it. He takes in information really well. He’s so talented that he gets away with some stuff. I tell him that he can get away with it 6 out of 10 times, but does he want to get it 10 out of 10 times? He needs to not rely on his athleticism so much. He’s got all the tools.”
Stratford coach Ray Stackley, who begins his 29th year with 257 career victory, calls Park one of the best high school quarterbacks he’s ever seen.
“He’s going to go down as one of the all-time recruits to come out of this area,” Stackley said. “He’s right up there with (Summerville’s ) A.J. Green and the best of them.”
Park is a four-star recruit whose reputation grew as the summer heat intensified. He had offers from 11 schools, including Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Alabama. Clemson and USC did not offer Park.
Announcing his college choice in June eliminated some of the pressure and distractions going into his senior season.
“He was getting 100 letters a day,” Stackley said. “But Georgia was on him from Day 1. He knew who was genuinely interested in him.”
Now, Park can focus on the Summervilles, Goose Creeks and Wandos of the world as the Knights bid for their first state title since 1999.
Park’s arrival on campus coincides with the Knights’ renaissance.
Stackley built the football program into one of the best in the state. The Knights were 118-18 during a 10-year stretch that saw them win a state title in 1999 and finish No. 2 in the state in 2004. But the opening of Cane Bay High School in 2008 siphoned off some of the Knights’ top talent. The number of players and victories dropped at Stratford.
But the Knights rebounded with a 9-4 record in Park’s sophomore year and last year finished 10-3.
“Coach Stackley, in my mind, is the best in the state,” Park said. “I like to play football, and he, obviously, likes to coach. We have the same views.”
Park passed for more than 1,200 yards and 10 TDs as a sophomore, and last season had 2,239 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. He added more than 700 yards on the ground.
His playmaking sidekicks this year figure to be running back/wide receiver Jordan Johnson and wideout Thad Thompson.
“Each year, the team has had a different persona, but Jacob has been the center of the offense,” Stackley said. “He’s is going to be asked to do a lot. He’s proved himself stats-wise and win-wise. We just have to develop linemen who can help keep the pressure off him”