Throwback Thursday: Stafford's road to the NFL

BY foxsports • August 1, 2013

By Ross Jones, Highland Park high school coach Randy Allen remembers walking into Matthew Stafford’s middle school during his eighth grade year to get a grasp of the type of kid he was. “I looked at our depth chart and realized that he could be our quarterback for three years,” Allen told in a telephone interview. “I asked him in that meeting what are your goals and he said, ‘I want to win a state championship in football.’” “And I told him those are my goals, too. And his senior year he led Highland Park to the first state championship in 48 years.” Allen first heard about Stafford when the quarterback was in fifth grade. He remembers hearing rumors about a kid who was a head taller than all his classmates and could throw the ball 50 yards through the air. At a young age, Stafford had a plan. He knew he wanted to be an NFL quarterback and he had the technique and fundamentals that would allow him to achieve his dreams. Stafford walked into Highland Park High School as a wide-eyed freshman, but excelled at a high level, leading a junior varsity squad that went undefeated. He was a natural fit in Allen’s shotgun, up-tempo offense because of his peripheral vision. College scouts began to notice his size and stature at the age of 15 during the Texas high school football state championship. Stafford wasn’t playing but during pregame warm-ups, then University of Florida offensive coordinator Larry Fedora asked Allen about the quarterback. According to Allen, the dialogue went a little like this: Fedora: “Who’s that kid, No. 7?”Allen:  “Well, he’s just a freshman.”Fedora: “Just a freshman?”Allen: “Yeah, that’s Matthew Stafford, you’ll probably be recruiting him in a couple of years.”   Stafford earned the starting quarterback job as a sophomore and led his team to the playoffs where his team would play the No. 1 team in the nation and defending Texas state champion Ennis. Ennis, which was led by future Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, was a huge favorite but Highland Park emerged as the winner because of Stafford’s ability to read a defense. “Our offense was fitted to what his talents were,” Allen said. “We ran a shotgun, no-huddle offense and we had four wides all the time. He was great in the shotgun because he has great peripheral vision. When you put him in the shotgun he could see the whole field.” Throughout Stafford’s career he would win a lot of games and during his senior season before he declared to go to the University of Georgia, he would lead his school to a state championship in 2005. “He’s just a clutch guy,” Allen said. “He always comes through when the game is on the line. He loves to be the guy to make the play and our players believed in him. If he was playing, we could beat anybody.”