The landscape of college football has changed since the ground and pound days of old. Football is now lightning fast, with some of the greatest athletes performing an incredible abilities. As the game grows stronger, so must its quarterbacks. No longer can a college quarterback rely on just his arm strength. They must be able to run a no huddle offense, knowing their play charts by heart, figuring out defenses before the defense themselves know what defense they are in. If a play is called and defense is lined up to defend it, does that quarterback have the poise to change the play, alert his team of the change, with thousands of blaring fans in the stands, while the play clock ticks under 10 seconds.
With this growing change in football and the type of quarterback needed to handle that change, Mesa Community College continues to prove they can step up to the quarterback challenge. In three years alone, Mesa has sent six quarterbacks to the next level, with full scholarships.
Three of those quarterbacks are or were starters for NCAA Division 1 schools.
"We recruit quarterbacks who are creators. Most come from winning programs and they know how to win football games," said Mesa Head Coach Ryan Felker.
Blake Kemp, quarterback for the 2012 and 2013 season at Mesa, will be the starting quarterback for the East Carolina Pirates, who are in the American Athletic Conference. While at MCC, Kemp threw for an incredible 4572 yards and 43 touchdowns. He averaged over 370 yards passing a game his sophomore year while running for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Mesa holds the single season-record in pass attempts (520, 311 completions in 11 games) while Kemp holds the NJCAA record for attempts per game (44.0) and completions per game (28.6).
The thing that made Kemp so dynamic is his ability to pick apart a defense in the middle of a drive. Every mistake a defense made, Kemp would capitalize. With such poise and ability as Kemp, Division 1 schools should have been chomping at the bit the sign him.
"Coach Felker was the only coach that wanted me out of high school. He taught me a lot of football but even more about life. A true role model. He's changed my life for the better in more ways than one. Thank you Coach Felker," said Blake Kemp after his Mesa career.
"Blake was always on time with his receivers," said Felker.
Austin Apodaca is looking to make his mark at the University of New Mexico. Apodaca spent one year at Mesa but amassed over 2500 yards in passing with 27 touchdown passes. Apodaca also rushed for 133 yards and 4 touchdowns.
"The coaching staff at Mesa truly care about the players and their futures. My time playing at MCC was awesome because of Coach Felker, the way he treats his players on and off the field and his knowledge of the game," Apodaca said of his time here at Mesa.
Another former T-Bird who just finished his senior season at Alabama A&M was Jaymason Lee. Lee's shining moment while at A&M was leading the Bulldogs in their rivalry game, the Magic City Classic, against Southern University on ESPN. Only having thrown for 95 yards and an interception in the first half, Lee lead the Bulldogs back for the 37-36 victory on a 49 yard touchdown pass that ultimately won the game for A&M. Lee finished with 319 yards passing with three touchdown passes.
"Mesa got me out of my bad situation of transferring jucos. It gave me an opportunity to be where I am at today. I got great coaching, experiences, exposure, and increased my knowledge of the game. The school had great facilities that made me a better student-athlete. Competing at a high level of juco ball really prepared me for Division 1 ball. The motto "find a way" is something I still live by," said Lee.
Lee is now the current quarterbacks coach at Alabama A&M.
Kaler Ray is coming into his junior at Dickinson State, being a starter the previous two years, looks to guide the Bluehawks to a promising season in the North Star Athletic Association Football Conference. Last season Ray threw for more than 1200 yards with 11 touchdowns to lead the Bluehawks to a 7-4 record. He earned NSAA Offensive Player-of-the-Week Honors for his play against Presentation College. He accounted for five touchdowns, one through the air and four on the ground
"I learned so much down at Mesa Community College," said Kaler Ray, " Coach Felker helped me out a ton and really helped me get some mechanics down and just mature overall as a quarterback."
Bradley Schencker is competing for the starting job at Fort Hayes State. Schencker played a huge role as backup quarterback when Blake Kemp injured his shoulder his sophomore year. Schencker stepped in and led Mesa to two big wins that eventually help propel them to the Western States Football League Championship game.
Anthony Marin heads into his freshman season at Benedictine College in Kansas and will compete for the starting quarterback spot there.
"A lot of the success of Mesa quarterbacks has been their fit in an offensive system that translates well and prepares them to be successful at the D1 level," says Felker, "and when they move on and become coaches themselves."