Frankfort senior Isaac Rudd found a solution to the prima donna reputation sometimes placed on he and his fellow quarterbacks.
When he’s not quarterbacking the Hot Dog offense, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound cornerback is taking down ballcarriers and picking off passes.
“Sometimes they might think, ‘Oh, he’s just a quarterback, he doesn’t do much in practice,” Rudd said. “But when they see you out there on defense, getting gritty, making tackles, they think, ‘We know he can do it on defense, so we need to follow him on offense.’ “
Even among quarterbacks, the iron man mentality thrives at the high school level. About a third of the teams in the Journal & Courier coverage area feature quarterbacks who start on defense or play significant roles there.
The practice is more common at smaller programs. But coaches and players say attitude and ability produce iron man quarterbacks, not a numbers crunch on the roster.
“We try to put our best guys on the field defensively, and he’s by all means one of our better defensive players,” said Frankfort coach Mike Quick, who also started Rudd both ways when both were at Clinton Central. “He’s a good open-field tackler. He’s aggressive. He kind of plays defensive back with a linebacker mentality.
“We have to have him on the field defensively — there’s just no way around it.”
Especially for programs who pass a lot, quarterbacks possess a unique skill set. An injury at that position can derail a season, so some coaches hesitate to play otherwise capable quarterbacks on defense.
Other coaches, however, say the injury risk is greater on offense, where unexpected hits can come from every direction, than defense. Frontier coach Jamie Sailors started Kyle Mikesell at quarterback and linebacker last week. Mikesell suffered a knee injury while rushing for a touchdown, and his backup, Tyler Wireman, will start both ways Friday night.
Sailors played defensive back and linebacker when he wasn’t running the triple option for the Falcons in his playing days. He says it can be difficult to tell a team leader to stand safely on the sidelines.
“When I was a sophomore, I didn’t play defense, and it was one of those things where you’re sitting there watching and can’t help,” Sailors said. “As a quarterback, you have the mentality that you want to help the team in any way possible; you’re kind of a selfless player. It’s a position that brings leadership, and you want to be out there all the time.”
Quarterbacks who focus on offense benefit from extra strategy sessions. While their defense works to get the ball back, quarterbacks confer with their coordinator or head coach about throwing mechanics, play calling or adjustments the opposing defense is making.
Yet two-way quarterbacks say the practice and game reps on defense can pay off later when they drop back to pass.
“It really helps me know my reads and know more about the opposing team,” said Attica’s Brady Sheridan, who started at linebacker as a freshman before also taking over as quarterback a year later.
“I feel like I put a lot of effort into defense. Usually, the coaches do a good job of getting to me the things I need look at on the next possession — the things their defense is doing and what I need to switch up.”
Delphi’s Jason Sterrett started only at quarterback early last season before also becoming a cornerback. He sees another benefit: the additional camaraderie developed with his iron man teammates.
“At Delphi, a lot of people are going both ways,” Sterrett said. “We’re more together when we’re on the field all the time.”