Staff Photo: John Bohn Berkmar High School quarterback Jaquan Morris looks for a receiver during a Gwinnett Passing League event held at Grater Atlanta Christian.
THE MORRIS FILE
Who: JaQuan Morris
Dream job: Play in the NFL
Favorite TV show: 'SportCenter'
Favorite sports team: Carolina Panthers
-- Threw for a school-record 1,970 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year
-- Threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns against Berkmar
-- Maintains 3.2 GPA
-- Moved to Berkmar from New Jersey in eighth grade
Berkmar head coach Jonathan Sanks still remembers the first time he laid eyes on JaQuan Morris and he said he wanted to play quarterback.
"He could throw the ball probably 10 yards and didn't understand defenses and he was five-foot nothing," Sanks said. "Very little football experience."
Despite the lackluster early observation, Morris didn't give up. He was persistent with Sanks about being Berkmar's QB.
"He told me, 'I want to play quarterback,'" Sanks said. "I said, 'Are you kidding me? All you are going to do is hold for the kicker.'
"He developed and worked harder than everyone else and you see what we got."Three years later, Morris has blossomed into one of the county's top quarterbacks for the Class of 2014 after throwing for nearly 2,000 yards as a junior.
"I'm trying to get better every day," Morris said. "I had a good junior year, but I'm trying to get better every day and have a better senior year."
Sanks has a boisterous personality and isn't afraid to give his honest opinion. But was he blowing out of proportion what he told Morris the first time he saw him?
"He's not exaggerating at all," a bashful Morris confirmed. "I was a small chubby kid with a real weak arm. But you know him telling me all that stuff has led me to where I am today. I'm pretty glad he told me all that stuff because it motivated me."
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Morris threw for a school-record 1,970 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year. He also added 198 yards rushing and two scores.
"He's smart and has a feel for the game," Sanks said. "He's like a coach on the field. He has a big arm for such a small kid."
Morris' best game statistically came against Brookwood when he threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-27 loss to Brookwood.
"I can't get all the credit. I had some really good receivers," Morris said. "It wasn't just me by myself."
When Morris first showed up at Berkmar, he was 5-foot-6, 130 pounds. He moved to the Berkmar cluster in eighth-grade after growing up in New Jersey where he played quarterback, receiver and safety.
It was Sanks' first summer as the head coach at Berkmar. He knew he already had a starting QB for that fall in Xaviir Briggs and Deion Perry the next season. With a little work, Morris might be able to make his way under center.
"We understand at Berkmar we don't have kids ready to play," Sanks said. "We have to coach them up and hopefully the coaching will catch on eventually and they will get it and that's what happened."
Berkmar went 2-8 last season, its fifth-straight losing record, but the final game may be an indication things are turning around.
The Patriots trailed Dacula 21-7 in the second half when Morris rushed for a touchdown and threw the game-tying TD pass.
"I got in the huddle and I told them we are going to move the ball and score," Morris said. "It was a really good drive for us. It really did help my confidence."
Morris then guided Berkmar down the field to set up the game-winning field goal to beat Dacula. It was Berkmar's first win over the Falcons since 1994.
"Winning that game, they beat us pretty bad my freshman and sophomore year, beating Dacula like that it was really good," Morris said.
The win has pumped new life into the Berkmar program and gave Morris some much-needed confidence going into his senior year.
"I have high expectations for JaQuan," Sanks said. "It was just the rest of the region seeing he's a good quarterback.
"I knew he was going to do well."