Sports

Lindquist honor brings attention to Mercer Island football this fall

MIHS junior Jeff Lindquist prepares to throw during last year’s home game against Interlake.  - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
MIHS junior Jeff Lindquist prepares to throw during last year’s home game against Interlake.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

By Linda Williams Rorem

Special to the Reporter

Most football fans look forward to the first hint of fall’s arrival, anticipating hours spent on bleachers or sectional couches, listening to crowds roar as an oblong ball gets passed along a 100-yard field.

For Mercer Island’s varsity football squad, the 2010 football “season” began last winter, with Steve Gervais Passing Academy sessions on Sundays, strength-training workouts with Kevin Chiles and team practices and camp in June. And for many of the players—including quarterback Jeff Lindquist—the intensity has only continued to mount this summer.

Ever since mid-June, when he was named to legendary coach Steve Clarkson’s “Super 7” list of the nation’s top seven high school quarterbacks, incoming junior Lindquist has felt increasing pressure and promise for his future, as well as for this fall’s varsity team.

The surprise of being named to the Super 7 list, especially as a junior, is still settling in for Lindquist. “I had been at the camps and thought I had done pretty well, but when I got the call, I was shocked,” he recalls. “I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

In his seven years of creating Super 7 lists, Clarkson has generally tapped incoming seniors. He recently told the Seattle Times that naming underclassmen “is rare,” with Matt Barkley being a noticeable exception. Lindquist “has certainly put himself in good company,” Clarkson says.

Clarkson, a high school and college football star who played briefly for the Denver Broncos, has become one of the country’s premier coaches, known for “discovering” and tutoring top quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley and Jimmy Clausen at his “Air 7” quarterback academies.

Players named to Clarkson’s elite Super 7 list each year participate in special exhibitions and sessions – where they work on skills needed on and off the field, including “how to deal with the media, the scrutiny, and the pressure that comes along with being the best,” according to Clarkson’s website.

Earlier last month, Lindquist and his six Super 7 “brethren” spent a few days at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort for what the website touted as “their final recognition, celebration and education on what it means to be a part of this elite fraternity of Quarterbacks.” Training with legendary QB Joe Montana was part of the reward. “Being around [Montana] was cool,” Lindquist says. “Things he taught you, you knew were going to benefit you, so you knew you had to listen.”
Even before the Maui trip, MIHS varsity Coach Brett Ogata noticed improvement in Lindquist’s game. “Jeff was not an overnight success,” Ogata says. “His work ethic, dedication and effort have taken him to the next level.”

Being blessed with a 6-foot-three, 225-pound frame didn’t hurt Lindquist, either. “When you look at what he has to look forward to down the road, he doesn’t need to grow any more to hit his ultimate level,” Clarkson told the Seattle Times.

“Jeff was really good last year, but now he’s scary good,” says Coach Ogata. “He’s faster, quicker, has a more accurate ball, he throws a tighter spiral, he has more velocity, better footwork and better leadership. It’s going to be really fun to watch him in the fall.”

Most important, Ogata notes, is how Lindquist uses his skills and leadership abilities to motivate the entire team. Although the team lost several incoming seniors since last season, “The chemistry is great and the players we have are working hard,” Ogata says. “Jeff has done a really good job leading the team and getting us to a point where we’re going to be really competitive in the KingCo league.”

A big turning point for Ogata was the annual team trip to a football camp, which for the past two years has been at Whitworth University, just after the school year ended. “Coming out of [the Whitworth] camp, I was really impressed with how well the team came together,” says Ogata. “It’s a pretty neat experience for me as a coach to see the kids really buy in and work hard as a team.”

The team’s hard work at Whitworth did not go unnoticed. According to Ogata, the varsity team won every one of its scrimmages at the camp, and prompted Whitworth head coach John Tully to comment that in 16 years of running the program, he had never seen a team improve as much as Mercer Island did in one year.

Tully isn’t the only coach with eyes on Mercer Island. Lindquist already has a short list of colleges “interested” in his future, including the University of Washington, University of Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, Boise State, University of Nebraska and Oregon State, and, he already has an offer to play at Washington State.

The attention on Jeff has positive ramifications for other MIHS players who hope to continue with football in college and beyond. “The biggest hurdle in recruiting is getting coaches to look at film,” says Ogata. “With Jeff getting the [Super 7] media attention, more college coaches will be watching the [MIHS game] film.”

Ogata expects Lindquist’s status to affect game crowds, as well. “I think a lot of people will come to watch Jeff,” he says. “So many people here love the Huskies and the Cougars. Lots of those fans will want to see what might be a future player for their team.”

Of course, Ogata adds, “The reality is that with the quarterback position, how much you are recruited depends on how well you perform and how much you win.”

Fortunately, the talent on the MIHS varsity team runs deep. For instance, this summer, senior receiver Ben Emanuels has spoken with several Ivy League coaches and visited their team camps, and Alex Wood was named the state’s second-best kicker at the recent All Pro Kicker Camp.

“The motivation and energy are really high on the team,” says Lindquist. “We’re all looking forward to the fall. We’ve got a great team.”

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