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Edison's Grady Leads Class of Quarterbacks

September 01, 2002|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When quarterback Tommy Grady stands in the pocket, he surveys the field like a gunslinger ready for target practice.

"I see everything," said Grady, who is 6 feet 6 1/2, 225 pounds.

He cocks his arm, focuses his eyes and salivates over the unobstructed view some other quarterbacks don't get to experience.

"There's no lineman taller than me," he said.

And this season there should be no quarterback in Southern California better than Grady, who is entering his senior year at Huntington Beach Edison High.

College coaches have taken notice, and on Thursday, Grady committed to Oklahoma, choosing the Sooners over some of the top passing schools in the nation, including Miami and Tennessee.

This season, hoping to take advantage of Grady's size and arm strength, Edison figures to run most of its offensive sets out of a shotgun formation. Much of the summer was dedicated to giving Grady's new group of receivers the chance to establish a comfort zone catching passes from him.

A year ago, Grady started the season unknown and untested.

"I was a little bit worried about his mobility and how he'd handle getting pressured because sophomore year he didn't handle it great," Coach Dave White said. "But from Game 1, he got better and better. In the playoffs, he was unbelievable."

Grady finished his junior season with 2,790 yards passing, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions. In a four-game stretch of the Division I playoffs, it was as if the back of Grady's jersey suddenly read, "Elway."

During the most tension-filled part of the season, he completed 57 of 85 passes for 1,153 yards and 16 touchdowns. There was a five-touchdown performance against La Puente Bishop Amat in the quarterfinals. There were two touchdown passes against Santa Ana Mater Dei in the semifinals. Against Long Beach Poly in the Division I final, a 42-28 Edison defeat, Grady threw four touchdown passes and earned respect for his accuracy, toughness and composure.

"It gave me a lot of confidence," he said of the Poly game. "There were a lot of good players out there. I stood in the pocket and took the hits."

White can't remember an Edison player making such dramatic improvement in a year's time.

"He made strides from his sophomore to junior year maybe bigger than anyone we've had," he said.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment comes from Grady's brother, Jeff, the starting quarterback for Fresno State. Jeff was at Edison Field last December to watch his brother take on Poly.

"I was kind of in awe," he said. "I've been in school a couple of years and never got the chance to see him grow up ... and see his improvement. I'm a little biased, but I haven't seen a high school quarterback like him.

"He really showed me a lot. He made some throws I can't make and a lot of college quarterbacks couldn't make. The most surprising thing was his poise. He was oblivious to everything. He was oblivious to the crowd, he was oblivious to the athletes on the team, oblivious to the rush. He kept making throws."

Some have questioned Grady's college potential, worried he might be too tall and too slow to play a position that requires maneuverability and quick instincts. But Grady thinks he passes the test.

His 40-yard time has dropped from 5.1 seconds to 4.8. He's a three-sport athlete, with basketball aiding his mobility and baseball helping his mental toughness. He had a 30-yard run last season, and lots of hours spent in the weight room this summer have left him in peak physical condition.

One of Grady's strengths is that he's fearless in the pocket. He will stand in the face of a rush to find a way to get the ball to his receivers. It's a gift that every college coach looks for in a quarterback.

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