BEAVERTON, Oregon -- The quarterbacks at the Elite 11 Finals make sure that they have some fun at the expense of head coach Trent Dilfer every year, so Dilfer tries to make sure that he gets them back every once in a while.
This year, one of the victims was Kentucky commit Drew Barker, a consensus four-star prospect from Hebron (Kent.) Conner, who earned his golden ticket at the Columbus NFTC on June 2.
On Saturday evening during a media availability, Dilfer recounted the story of how it went down.
"At the NFTC that Sunday, we had decided that we were going to invite him that war room night, but we couldn't get a hold of him like we did Luke [Rubenzer], so we went out to the field the next day and set it up with his dad," the Super Bowl-winning quarterback revealed.
"We pulled Drew out of a drill and he's the sweetest kid, right? So we sent him over to his dad and Drew sprints all across the field. His dad told him, 'I don't know what you said to coach Dilfer or what you did last night, but you just need to stay away from him. I have never seen him so mad. Look at him -- he's over there, he's not talking to anyone.'"
"I threw down a water cup and I was stomping around," Dilfer said.
Barker's father continued.
"'Just go confront him, you don't want this to take over your head.'"
"So he comes over and he can't even talk," the Elite 11 head coach recounted. "'Coach, I don't know what I said.' I told him, 'I don't know what you did, but it got you to The Opening. Congratulations.' He freaked out. It was so much fun."
But, of course, the Elite 11 Finals is serious business, and Dilfer quickly got down to that business at hand -- discussing the skills that did help Barker earn his golden ticket and the trip out to Oregon to get better as a quarterback.
"He's a great kid," Dilfer said of the 6'4, 210-pound Barker. "He's so powerful. He's got really quick feet. I told him the truth the first time I saw him -- 'You look like a great athlete because of who you're playing against. You're not a great athlete yet, but I think you have it in you. I need to see much more urgency. You're heavy.'"
"He was just a cruiser, right? To his credit, he goes, 'Yessir.' And he responded and now when you put him with all these guys who have juice in their feet, he sees it and knows what it looks like."
On Saturday, one particular drill illustrated just how far Barker has come even since the beginning of June.
"We're running sluggo, where you have to be really quick with your three, pump fake to make that corner bite -- that would have been hard for him six weeks ago and now he's making it look easy," Dilfer said. "His feet get up and down, he has the sudden movement with his upper body, the corner is biting, he resets. A lot of juice has surfaced from him in a short amount of time."
By juice, Dilfer means the ability to use rotational force starting from the feet and extending all the way through the body upwards, ultimately culminating in the vital wrist flick that finishes a throw. Start putting everything together mechanically and quarterbacks with the type of natural ability and leverage of Barker start to really shine.
And, beyond the jokes that come at varying times from the players towards Dilfer and from Dilfer towards the players, combining natural ability and mechanical precision is what Elite 11 is all about.