Ajee Patterson knows one of the first things people talk about when they watch him play quarterback for Neptune High School is the strength of his arm.
“I have no problems throwing the ball 70-75 yards in the air,” Patterson said.
Patterson can not only throw the ball “70-75” yards in the air. He appears to do it with an effortless motion, and he throws it accurately.
“I think I got it (the throwing motion) from playing baseball,” Patterson said. “I threw sidearm in Pop Warner. I had to change the way I throw. They didn’t want me to hurt my arm.”
Patterson did a lot of damage to Neptune’s opposition this fall. In his first year on the varsity, Patterson threw for 2,661 yards and 26 TDs and ran for 520 yards and 12 TDs.
A season that began with the pressure of trying to replace current Stony Brook freshman Jaheem Woods, last year’s Asbury Park Press Offensive Player of the Year, ended with Patterson making it two straight seasons a Neptune quarterback has been the APP’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“A lot of people didn’t know what I could do on the field,” Patterson said. “They really hadn’t seen my play until this year. A lot of people in my community said ‘Push and work hard in the offseason.’
“I talked to Jaheem almost every day and he told me the same thing — ‘Push hard and practice hard’ — “Coach Cicc (Neptune head coach Mark Ciccotelli) made it happen.”
Ciccotelli, whose teams in recent years, whether it was at Freehold from 2004-10 or Neptune the last two seasons, have operated out of the spread formation, tweaked the offense a bit to fit Patterson’s needs. He unleased Patterson’s arm. The Scarlet Fliers threw the ball downfield often. In recent years, Ciccotelli’s teams ran more of the read option series out of the spread.
“I loved the way he (Ciccotell) tweaked the offense,” Patterson said. “He thought I could make plays downfield with Geoff Fairbanks (a receivers), Keith Kirkwood (another receiver), Keyshawn Rice (another receiver), Myles Martin (a running back). I just zipped the ball out there and they made plays for me.”
The strength of Patterson’s arm and the talented, athletic and tall receiving corp made Neptune difficult for defenses to defend. Opposing defensive coordinators had to make decisions on who to double team and whether to try and play the receivers physically or give them a cushion. One small mistake was likely to lead to a Neptune TD.
“I love throwing the ball to all of them,” Patterson said. “They go make plays, they sacrifice their bodies and they catch all the throws I make to them. I love those guys.”
Patterson is still undecided about his collegiate plans. He said he is looking at Monmouth University.