Throughout the summer, USA TODAY High School Sports has published a series called “60 for ’16” highlighting 60 members of the Class of 2016 who we will be watching in the coming 12 months. The final 20 athletes will be presented in order from No. 20 to No. 1 over four weeks. The athletes were selected by the USA TODAY HSS staff.
Name: Shea Patterson
School: IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Shea Patterson is ready for the college experience. So ready that he left a two-time state championship team to live in a dorm nearly 1,000 miles away with other elite-level athletes and he’s not even planning to go to Ole Miss until January.
Patterson, considered the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the 2016 class according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings, left two-time Louisiana Division III state champion Calvary Baptist (Shreveport), where he threw for 72 touchdowns in two seasons, to play this fall at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., a team that doesn’t play for a state title but does play a national schedule.
“It was pretty tough winning two state championships and having to leave all my friends and coaches,” Patterson said. “I felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. If I wasn’t graduating early, maybe I would have stayed and played baseball (at Calvary), but I am looking at going early in the spring.”
While he’s looking forward to throwing to five-start tight end Isaac Nauta and four-star wide receiver Drake Davis, he knows getting a team of stud athletes with little experience together to be on the same page isn’t that easy.
“The offense we run here is similar to my old offense at Calvary and we also run a lot of stuff that Ole Miss does, a lot of up-tempo stuff,” Patterson said. “Last year, we had two or three guys I could really throw to. Now, it’s five or six and the offense almost seems unstoppable. We have so much talent, but it’s going to be interesting getting all those guys to work together. Some of them just got here (Friday). It’s a huge challenge for us, with summer classes and 6 a.m. workouts, and to get a team like this ready with three weeks before our first game.”
In the three weeks he’s been on campus at IMG, Patterson has made a good impression on Ascenders coach Kevin Wright.
“Incredibly talented humble kid who makes others around him better,” Wright texted. “His vision, arm strength, and athleticism truly set him apart. He is a proven winner who has intangibles you can’t coach. You want him on your football team. He is a football player!”
IMG opens with defending Florida 5A champion American Heritage (Planatation) on Aug. 22, then plays a lineup of four other state title contenders in its next four games: Miramar, Fla.; DeSoto, Texas; Cocoa, Fla.; and Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.), which has its own Elite 11 quarterback, Jarrett Guarantano.
“We have to take it game by game,” Patterson said. “I don’t know that much about the teams we’re playing. Jarrett is my boy so I am definitely looking forward to playing Bergen Catholic.”
Some recruiting services list the 6-2 Patterson as a pro-style quarterbacks, while others see him as a dual threat. Patterson sees little confusion.
“I’m a pass-first guy,” he said. “I’m a pro-style guy. A lot of the plays I make are on the run. I run a 4.5 40-yard dash, but I’m a pass-first guy.”
“That’s my little brother,” Patterson said of Martell. “I talk with him all the time. He’s awesome and he’s not trying to be Johnny Manziel or Russell Wilson. He’s just trying to be himself. We both like to extend the play. Obviously, it’s a benefit that I can run. I feel in the NFL, unless you’re Tom Brady or Joe Flacco or Peyton Manning, you have to be able to move.”
Speaking of the Manning family, Clarkson says that Patterson reminds him of Archie Manning, and not just because he’s going to Mississippi.
“I’ve (coached) him for two and a half years,” Clarkson said. “His strength is he has an unbelievable will to win. He reminds me of Archie Manning when Manning was young. Shea is a big-time play, extremely active. He can throw any pass, but he’s a flat-out winner.”
Shea is tight with his family, especially his older brother Sean Jr., 26, who played quarterback for four years at Duquesne and for a year professionally in Germany. Shea initially committed to Arizona as a freshman but after decommitting last summer from the Wildcats, he committed to Ole Miss in February. In that same period, his older brother has changed jobs three times, first as an offensive graduate assistant at Arizona, then as a quality control assistant with LSU football and now, as Ole Miss associate director of football recruiting operations.
“Sean was my first quarterback coach,” Patterson said. “For me, I’ve never not been around my family before, so being away from my parents and brothers and sisters is tough. But I’m getting better every day. I chose to do this and I feel like it is most beneficial for my future.”