MALIBU—Grant Rohach took a moment Friday to take it all in.
The Moorpark High quarterback has been participating this week in the highly respected Elite 11 camp at Pepperdine University, featuring 24 of the nation’s top quarterbacks competing to be in the Elite 11—all of it on TV for a two-part show scheduled to air next month on ESPN. For a high school athlete, this is about as big as it gets.
Former NFL quarterbacks like top coach Trent Dilfer and Matt Cassel served as tutors and motivational speakers, and the players worked on seven-on-seven drills, accuracy tests, film sessions—everything it takes to be a big-time quarterback.
“It’s like an NFL rookie camp here,” Rohach said. “And I’ve never had cameras following me around before, either. It’s going to be pretty cool. The whole family is looking forward to watching it.”
A few moments later, in a two-minute drill, Rohach completed three passes in a row, including a nice 20-yard touchdown, as he looked and pumped in one direction, then fired the ball to a different spot into the waiting arms of a receiver in the end zone.
The others cheered. They competed against each other, but they bonded as a team, too.
“It’s been a great experience, a great learning environment,” Rohach said. “I enjoyed it a lot, Coach Dilfer and all the other coaches.”
Even though Rohach did not make it to the Elite 11, he was among the top 24 in a field that started with more than 1,400, and Dilfer said this was the first year every participant truly deserved to be in the Elite 11.
“I kind of had a rough start and had to inch my back, little by little,” Rohach said. “The last three passes felt good, it was amazing how easy things came into place. On that last touchdown, Chad Kelly caught it, and he’s one of the other quarterbacks. We had a great week, and obviously I learned a lot.”
Through the years, many of the NFL’s top quarterbacks have come through the Elite 11 camp, including current Del Mar neighbors Drew Brees and Carson Palmer, who first met at Elite 11. Twenty-two of the NFL’s 32 projected starting quarterbacks are Elite 11 alums, and four of the first 12 picks in this past NFL draft came through the program, too.
“I love competition. I am a competition junkie,” Dilfer said. “These kids got pushed harder than any college team would push them in the first week, I guarantee it. And they all answered the bell, every single one of them. We were sitting in our staff meeting wondering if it was even possible for them to take more. If you want to be a quarterback, this is what it’s all about.”
Dilfer said he wished he did not have to narrow down the list. Everyone was deserving, and the coaches gave out their own special awards, giving Rohach the award for “Most Personable.”
“We pushed them to their limits constantly, taking 24 and narrowing them to the best 11,” Dilfer said. “The 13 that didn’t win, they still learned as much as the others, and I’m proud of all of them. I’ve never been prouder of any group of young men.”
Recruiting expert Barton Simmons of 247sports.com spent the week evaluating the quarterbacks, and he liked what he saw from Rohach, who has committed to Iowa State.
“He’s been on target a lot, and he makes good decisions,” Simmons said. “He’s definitely going to have some D-I success. The whole thing is great preparation for all of them because of the mental side.”
Rohach’s father, Jerry, was on the sidelines Friday.
“It was just great to see how competitive the kids are, and plus they’re just having a really fun time,” he said. “It’s just been a great week.”
Here are the Elite 11 (alphabetical order):
Austin Appleby, Hoover (North Canton, Ohio)
Neal Burcham, Greenbrier (Greenbrier, Ark.) -- MVP
Shane Dillon, El Cajon Christian (El Cajon, Calif.)
Bart Houston, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
Chad Kelly, St. Joseph’s (Buffalo. N.Y.)
Zach Kline, San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.)
Jeff Lindquist, Mercer Island (Mercer Island, Wash.)
Tanner Mangum, Eagle (Eagle, Idaho) -- MVP
Zeke Pike, Dixie Heights (Fort Mitchell, Ky.)
Chad Voytik, Cleveland (Cleveland, Tenn.)
Jameis Winston, Hueytown (Hueytown, Ala.) -- MVP