Southeastern Virginia fertile ground for quarterbacks, including Clemson's Boyd

Clemson sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd, of Hampton, Va., is on pace to throw for 3,765 yards and 39 touchdowns, which would set Tigers records.

Richard Shiro

CLEMSON -- There is a pride in representing the 757 area code.

The telephone code is often used to more simply identify a number of communities in southeastern Virginia collectively known as Hampton Roads or the Tidewater.

The three numbers have also become code for an elite college football quarterback club.

Michael Vick, a 757 native, took Virginia Tech to the national title game in 1999. Another 757er, Tyrod Taylor, led the Hokies to an ACC title last season. Both quarterbacks are now in the NFL.

Virginia trails only Alabama in starting quarterbacks produced per capita this season with seven quarterbacks starting at Football Bowl Subdivision programs, according to Two 757 products are starting in the ACC: E.J. Manuel at Florida State and Tajh Boyd, who takes Clemson into Blacksburg, Va., Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN2).

Boyd said growing up in the region and following a lineage of QBs played a key role in his development. Boyd, a sophomore, is on pace to throw for 3,765 yards and 39 touchdowns this season. Both would be Clemson records.

"We really take pride in our football in the Tidewater area," Boyd said. "I just want to be the next name added to the list. … You've got the Vicks, the (Ronald) Currys, the (Allen) Iversons.

"There must be something in the water."

What's in the water?

Matt Kelchner has recruited the Tidewater area for nearly 30 years. The Christopher Newport University coach traces the rise in talent to the success of Virginia in the late 1980s and early 90s and the ascendance of Virginia Tech.

"What Vick did was put Tech on the map," Kelchner said. "When Virginia, Virginia Tech really starting hitting those bowls, high school football improved, high schools placed more attention on football. The area produced Iverson, Vick, Curry and everyone started wondering, 'What the heck is going on down there?'

"It must be something in the water."

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is charged with recruiting that area for the Tigers and said the secret is simply population density.

Some think the military culture has something to do with the fertile recruiting grounds. Southeastern Virginia is one of the largest military hubs in the U.S.

Tim Boyd, a Georgia native, moved to the area in 1991, transferring for work as a supervisor on a Navy maintenance crew.

In Virginia, Tim Boyd occasionally traveled to high school games by himself on Friday nights. He saw Curry, a local legend, play once. He spoke to youth coaches. Boyd credits the area's sophisticated youth football programs to the prolific number of Division I standouts.

Tajh joined the local Pop Warner team that year. The team's star was a 13-year-old running back named Percy Harvin, who would later become a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

"Most of the players on the team were 13 years old, three years older than Tajh," Tim said. "They had a 6-foot quarterback. Percy was the running back. ... I was surprised (Tajh) made the team. (The coach) later told me he didn't cut kids, but most kids who couldn't hang would just quit."

Tajh didn't quit.

"That's how most of my competitive nature came about," Tajh said. "Seeing guys like (Harvin), the way they played, the way they competed, it had an effect on the way I grew up and looked at things. Young guys, especially quarterbacks in the area, always want to strive to be like the next such and such."

Over the water

When Tajh became serious about quarterbacking as a freshman, Tim kept thinking 'what if'? What if his son was playing "over the water" in Hampton?

Hampton was a short trip north on Interstate-64 over the channel from the Boyd residence in Virginia Beach. It's where the area's best high school football was played, where a normal 10-minute drive turns into an hour-long trip on Friday night as traffic bottle-necked near stadium parking lots.

Ten thousand fans would watch Hampton High play rival Phoebus.

Phoebus was in need of a quarterback in 2006. Following the season, Tim stopped by the school with video evidence of his son's lightning release and rocket arm. Tim was amazed players were already in the weight room in January. During his visits to Phoebus, a major college football coach roamed the hallways.

This is where his son needed to be. He convinced Tajh to work out with the Phoebus team in the spring.

"Tajh went out there and everybody saw him throwing the ball," Tim said. "The whole area was like, 'we got a quarterback.' "

The Boyds moved across the water.

In three years as a starter, Boyd compiled a 43-2 record, with one of the losses coming as a sophomore to Tyrod Taylor's Howard team. As a senior, Boyd injured his knee (torn ACL) but played through the injury. Football mattered to the 757. Football mattered to Boyd.

Home on a lake

Virginia Tech has made a living in southeast Virginia. "The football there is probably as good as there is in the state," Beamer said.

There are quarterbacks who got away from Beamer: Curry went to UNC, Iverson, a prolific prep quarterback turned to basketball, and now Tajh enters Lane Stadium as a visitor.

But it could have been home. Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas could be playing his preferred position, tight end.

Boyd was rated a five-star prospect by and ranked fifth in ESPNU's 2009 quarterback rankings. But Virginia Tech offered fellow 757 quarterback Kevin Newsome over Boyd. After Newsome committed to Penn State, Tech focused on Boyd, but he felt slighted by the Hokies.

Boyd committed to West Virginia in October of 2008, switched to Tennessee, where he de-committed again when Lane Kiffin arrived and questioned if Boyd was a fit in a pro-style offense.

In January 2009, Boyd chose Clemson over Oregon and Ohio State, in part because the Tigers had the most unsettled quarterback position.

When it comes to the 757, Tim says success is "something in the water."