Scroggins took an original path 

June, 3, 2009
This week I have a feature in ESPN The Magazine that details many of the issues facing promising college QB prospects as they try to get their names out there with recruiters and then weigh the pluses and minuses of jumping on a college-scholarship offer or waiting for more to come, all while trying to survey the rest of the QB landscape around the country. The focus of the story is Matt Brown, a gifted quarterback whose junior season came to an end due to injury, but has seen his stock rise this offseason. He already had offers from Nebraska, Arizona and Kansas State, although he was also interested in Colorado and Kansas, who had not offered yet. I had met Brown at the EA Sports Elite 11 regional workout in Fort Worth, which seemed like an ideal place to find a good QB since the state of Texas is cranking out great college QBs more than ever these days.

As part of my reporting for that story, and in conjunction with an ESPN Rise production, I also attended a Nike camp at USC a short time later, where many of the top QBs in California were also showing their skills. For that day I had a camera crew with me and I spoke with QBs, their families and a few of their coaches. The star of that day turned out to be Lakewood (Calif.) QB Jesse Scroggins III, although for our on-camera purposes it might have actually been his dad Jesse.

The younger Scroggins' recruiting profile has soared since that day, and his story is really unique in this age of private QB tutors. Looking back, it was so fascinating to watch his dad over the course of that Sunday morning at USC. Midway through the camp, we went over to check in with him as he observed his son throwing out routes to different receivers in one of the stations the QBs moved through. By this point in the day, Jesse III appeared to have proved to all of the coaches running the camp that he was, if not the best quarterback there, one of the two or three best.

I'd asked his father how he thought his son was doing. He responded by saying how we should get all the QBs at the 50-yard-line and see who could throw the ball through the goalposts. Then get the ones who did, and move them back five yards further and do it again. And then, for those that could do that, move them back five yards further again. He guaranteed that Jesse III could do it from the other 40-yard-line.

By the end of the camp, young Jesse had proved to be the top QB that day and won MVP honors. His dad joked that his son's work for the day wasn't quite through. Actually, he wasn't joking. He was determined for his son to split the goalposts from long distance. He had him throw a few warm-up tosses to a cousin and then, sure enough, Jesse III split the uprights from 60 yards away.

It capped off quite a performance, and theirs really is an amazing story. The first time I spoke to the elder Scroggins that morning, he had explained how he relied on some creative training methods to help develop his son. He said as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service he couldn't afford the thousands of dollars some parents pay for their aspiring little QBs to get private lessons. "We just didn't have the resources," he said. "People don't understand how expensive it is to raise a quarterback."

Instead, Scroggins used his own ideas on developing a quarterback. When Jesse III was around 5 years old, his father had watched "National Geographic." He had observed how the animals seemed to be in much better balance with their bodies because, he reasoned, they walked on all fours. "Our upper bodies got weak once we stood up," he said.

So he experimented with his son, having little Jesse walking around on his hands while he held his feet in a wheelbarrow fashion. Initially, they'd go about 225 yards; within a few years, Jesse III would go for a mile.

"People called me crazy back then," the elder Scroggins says now. "I heard them mumbling back then, but they didn't understand. This wasn't normal kid."

"At first I was embarrassed," Jesse III says, adding that he wasn't a fan of the regimen even though he trusted his father and believed it would someday help him toward his dream of becoming a big-time quarterback.

Initially, Jesse III's football career started out at running back, but his father told him he was "too smart for that," so he suggested his son become a quarterback.

The elder Scroggins concedes his own football career never quite took off. He attended Southern California powerhouse Long Beach Poly, but was too small really to contribute. He played some receiver. One day the team's star QB threw him a perfect pass on a deep ball. Only it went right through his hands. "He [the QB] told me "You suck," and he never threw me the ball again," Scroggins said.

In addition to his wheelbarrow walks, Scroggins had his son working on his arm at a local elementary school. He said because he couldn't get receivers for him to throw to, because a lot of kids that age aren't really committed, he had to try something different. The old man got seven different-colored T-shirts and pinned them across a fence. His son would drop back, and then he'd yell out a color and little Jesse would fire at the corresponding T-shirt. Of course there were times when the little tyke would miss the targets and airmail the fence. "We almost hit some cars, but people would throw balls back to us," says the elder Scroggins. "They were nice."

When Jesse around 12, his father's ailing back made it hard for him to tote his son's weight around, so he devised a harness that he rigged up to a dolly he bought at Home Depot. By then Jesse III also began to throw to actual receivers. "I needed camps where he needed live bodies to throw to," said the father. They went to one camp at a local high school with a family friend, and Jesse performed so well that at the end of the camp they put him in with the best receivers, even though he was in the seventh grade and stood just 5-foot-5.

Scroggins' rep as a budding QB grew in 2004 when he led his team, the Lakewood Longhorns, to a national championship at a tournament in Orlando. The elder Scroggins said that trip was actually the biggest expense Jesse III's career has cost the family. "It took us a while to get from under that," he said.

But now the family sees the investment is about to pay off. His son might just be the top QB prospect in the country this year. They certainly won't have to pay for college. The kid also comes across as polite, well-spoken and affable. He didn't seem to have the arrogance one might expect from some anointed blue-chipper.

Jesse III said his first offer came from Washington in February. That was followed by Washington State, and then a bunch more. Just the other day Florida offered. The Gators coaches told him they're going to more of a pro-style offense, because NFL teams don't run the spread, which he says was good to hear since he's more of a pro-style guy himself.

USC hasn't offered yet, but they might. "There's a rumor going around that they did, but they didn't," the younger Scroggins said Tuesday night. "They told me they've got nine other quarterbacks coming to their camp, and we're going to compete for that scholarship. And that sounds great, because I'm always ready to compete."

It'll be a hectic summer for Scroggins. In addition to his work with his high school team, he's heading to Florida for two days to the Gators camp, and then from there he'll throw at Tennessee's camp before going to the USC camp. He says the biggest factors in his decision will be the depth chart (he'd be fine with redshirting but doesn't want to sit behind some starter for three years); the program's stability; and he wants to go to a place where the environment will push him. He also plans to enroll at mid-year with hopes of majoring in business or sports medicine.

"I thank my family and Coach Mac [Lakewood High coach Thad MacNeal] for getting me to this point. I've really been blessed."


• There are a handful of football players who will be watching this month's MLB draft closely. Recently I spoke with a high-ranking MLB exec to size up some of these guys. The top two football-baseball prospects, he said, are LSU's Jared Mitchell and incoming UNC WR Donovan Tate, who is advised by Scott Boras -- according to the exec, his situation changes daily and is quite the "soap opera." What surprised me was this comment about Washington QB Jake Locker:

"If Locker wanted to play, he would be really good and definitely the best of this group. He has incredible tools."

To read more of Bruce's blog -- including problems with Sheldon Richardson, why Colorado lost a player to USC for music and much more -- please sign up for ESPN Insider. Insider