Class of '18: No. 3 Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.) quarterback Justin Fields

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Class of '18: No. 3 Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.) quarterback Justin Fields

The Class of 18

Class of '18: No. 3 Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.) quarterback Justin Fields

USA TODAY High School Sports is publishing a series called “The Class of 18,” highlighting 18 members of the Class of 2018 whom we will be watching in the coming year. The athletes were selected by the USA TODAY HSS staff. 

ATHLETE PROFILE:
Name: Justin Fields
School: Harrison, Kennesaw, Ga.
Sport: Football
Position: Quarterback
College: Uncommitted

MORE CLASS OF ’18: See all the athlete profiles here

Justin Fields had a big week. It started when he had six touchdowns, three of them passing, the other three running, in a 44-14 defeat of East Paulding (Dallas, Ga.) on Friday. On Tuesday, he moved up to No. 1 in the 247Sports.com’s composite rankings for the Class of 2018.

A lot of people are “discovering” Fields these days. Only a few years ago, he wasn’t listed among the top players in his class as a sophomore. He was having a strong year that season, but an injury kept him out of Harrison’s final three games of the season. Still, Harrison coach Matt Dickmann knew what he had.

“After his 10th grade year, I knew he would be a big-time player,” Dickmann said. “He picks things up fast and he’s already super athletic. He checked all the boxes. I remember one coach from a major university who was so mad that he didn’t already know about him from his recruiters. He was a friend of mine and that was the only reason he stopped by. I told him, ‘You need to look at our quarterback.’ He had enough film that he was very impressive.”

Fields’ first major offer came from North Carolina in May of 2016, just before his junior year. Last season, he threw for 2,278 yards and 19 touchdowns while running for 977 yards and 14 touchdowns and everybody started calling. The 6-3, 220-pound dual-threat quarterback’s stock climbed again when he led his team to the 7-on-7 championship at Nike’s The Opening, an event where he couldn’t run the ball.

Still, it’s real football, not 7-on-7, where Fields feels he’s at his best.

“It’s definitely nice to get to play the game,” he said. “A lot of people can do well at camps. but not many people can play the same when there’s a defensive lineman blitzing them.”

Fields may have been initially overlooked because Georgia high schools have produced several elite quarterbacks in recent seasons, including Stanford quarterback Davis Mills at Greater Atlanta Christian (Norcross) and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm last season at Houston County (Warner Robins). Then there’s Trevor Lawrence from Cartersville, who until Monday was the No. 1 guy on the 247Sports composite list for 2018. Fields is friends with Lawrence and the two have had the same offseason quarterback coach.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve picked up stuff from each other,” Fields said of Lawrence. “But every time we are with each other, we make each other better every rep. I really feel like I’ve worked hard. When you work hard, good things happen. I don’t worry about how people look at me. I do feel like I am a pocket passer who has the ability to run.””

He’s also a rare elite recruit who is good enough to play two sports in college. He was an all-state shortstop last season for Harrison, hitting .422 with 30 stolen bases.

“Playing baseball helps me in football,” he said. “In baseball, you are not going to get a hit every time. If I get a fumble or intercepted, I just move on to the next play and not dwell on it.”

He gets another big test this week when Harrison plays Rome, the top-ranked team in AAAA. Dickmann said he doesn’t have to worry whether Fields, a 3.9 student, will be prepared.

“He just really grasps things and is a really smart football player,” Dickmann said. “He doesn’t make many mistakes. If he does make a mistake, he could tell you before he gets off the field what it was.”

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