December 28, 2010

Worley takes home another national award

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Which numbers don't make sense:

  • Completing 429-of-590 passes (73 percent) for 5,315 yards with 64 touchdowns and 11 interceptions;
  • Being just a three-star recruit by and ranked as the No. 30 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2011.
  • If you're Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern quarterback Justin Worley, the RivalsHigh 2010 Offensive Player of the Year, the second list figures to be a lot harder to make sense of than any defense he faced in his stellar three-year career as a varsity starter.

    "You just have to take that with a grain of salt," Worley said with a smile earlier this month during the festivities surrounding the Shrine Bowl all-star game in the Carolinas. "I guess if I put up numbers that help the team then that doesn't really matter. It's fine with me."

    He did more than just help his team. His numbers helped Northwestern go 15-0 and finally get over the top, defeating Greenwood, 42-10, to win the South Carolina Class 4A, Division II state title.

    For Worley, who had come up short in the state final the two previous seasons, winning the big game was more important than winning the big awards.

    He only talked about his team earlier this month when asked about another national Player of the Year award he won.

    "I kind of have to take (the award) more as a team thing because I couldn't have won that without my teammates and coaches," Worley said. "It was great but it's not everything. Winning that state championship was probably the biggest thing in my mind.

    "It's great knowing that those touchdown passes put up points for our team. It helped other players too like Robert Joseph, one of our receivers, had 20 touchdowns last year and 25 this year receiving so he has huge numbers, too, along with me. Guys like that really helped me put those numbers up."

    Worley's senior season followed two remarkable seasons prior. He threw for 4,366 yards and 42 touchdowns in his junior season and 3,641 passing yards and 50 touchdowns as a sophomore. That's 13,322 yards and 156 TDs in only three varsity seasons at Northwestern.

    How good was Worley in high school? Consider these two notes: During his senior season he broke the state record for touchdown passes; during his junior season, he once faced a defense that dropped all 11 players back into coverage - and he was still able to complete passes.

    There are questions about his mechanics and his delivery and whether they can be fixed to work at the next level. But Worley does have one thing that can't be taught: Size. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs just under 200 pounds.

    All of his numbers were good enough for the University of Tennessee, where he'll enroll and participate in spring practice. It will be interesting to see how his numbers measure up then.

    The Volunteers struggled at quarterback this season with Matt Simms and Tyler Bray. Each was around 1,500 passing yards with Simms throwing eight touchdowns and five picks and Bray totaling 14 scores and seven interceptions.

    It's much too early to tell if Worley can arrive in Knoxville and take over the starting duties. He'll certainly get his opportunities early as Tennessee's offense tries to find an identity.

    Worley is excited about his future with the Volunteers, excited to join a quarterback fraternity that includes Peyton Manning, Heath Shuler, Casey Clausen, Tee Martin and other high-profile names throughout the years.

    Whether he's No. 1 or No. 100 in the rankings, Worley hopes his success on the high school field continues in Knoxville.

    "With their new coaching staff I really clicked with them and I really enjoyed spending time with them," Worley said. "Knoxville is a great town. I really like it there and I really like their campus and what they have to offer as a football program and a school.

    "They've had good quarterbacks in the past and they know how to deal with quarterbacks there and know how to coach them."

    MORE: 2010 All-American Team | State champions from coast-to-coast

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