The Peoria Unified School District. has one of the most exciting football stars in the state.
Yet Will Haskell Jr., junior quarterback for Ironwood High School Eagles football team, never even envisioned himself playing the position, much less a dual-threat starter with dreams of competing at the next level.
The son of a college football player by the same name, he played from a young age and was always faster than most of his teammates. He figured he might be a running back or receiver. Until he was in fifth grade and his coach asked if anybody would be willing to throw the ball. He volunteered, and the coach liked what he saw. Haskell has played the position ever since, as the teams he competed for always needed a quarterback.
It was not until early in his high school career, though, when a position coach pulled him aside and told him he had a chance at playing college football as quarterback, that Haskell truly dedicated himself to it.
“I went home that day, talked it over with my dad. And I kind of decided that I should put all my time and effort into quarterback and it’s worked for me,” Haskell said.
His stats were stymied after transferring to Ironwood from nearby Deer Valley his freshman year – effectively benching him in the first half of his sophomore campaign due to AIA transfer rules.
In his first year as a true starter, he has accumulated 721 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, along with a team-high 511 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground, leading the Eagles to a 4-1 record mid-way through the year.
Haskell has also received three NCAA Division 1 football offers as a dual-threat quarterback, and more offers could follow.
Just like many of the college scouts have been, Ironwood coach Chris Rizzo was impressed when he witnessed Haskell’s speed and natural throwing ability. His mental maturity, though, matched that of his physical.
Coaches hope their quarterback exemplifies what they are looking for from all the players: hard work, hustle, humility.
“There’s not a lot of quarterbacks that are pound-for-pound one of the strongest on your team, and one of the guys finishing first in sprints,” Rizzo said.
Haskell’s effort has even changed the way the Ironwood coaches call offensive plays. Last year, Rizzo would often call plays in a spread formation, where each player simply looks over at the sideline to a specific coach to see their role. Now, coaches can simply give Haskell a play call, and he relays it to teammates in a huddle.
The work put in off the field gives Haskell the respect he needs to command the other ten guys and have them listen.
“In spread, he’s just one of eleven on the field, but now we’re asking him to go into the huddle and call the play and look the other guys in the eye. He has that respect you need from everyone now because he’s showing the leadership,” Rizzo said.
Haskell still has a lot of improving to do, by his own admission. He said his goal is to eventually play in the NFL, and he understands – even as one of the top college prospects in the area – the amount of effort and time it will take to have a shot at that level in the coming years.
For now, he is enjoying his time with Ironwood and looking to get better with each snap.
“I want to keep putting up stats, put points on the board, win games, and go far with my teammates, and see how many offers I can get,” Haskell said.
“I have to fight for everything I’ve put into this so that I become the best version of myself, the best quarterback I can be.”