ARTHUR — Imagine the feeling swirling around in Brady Borntreger's stomach.
Two seasons ago he was a freshman riding the pine with hardly any height to stand out on the football field. Borntreger, now a junior at Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, is right around 5-foot-7, and he certainly wasn't that big as a freshman. An injury to quarterback Will Cohan thrust Borntreger into the fire with about five games left in his freshman season.
Staring down Borntreger were defenses that were bigger, stronger and faster than him, and in some instances they were bigger than the offensive line tasked with keeping Borntreger upright.
“I was like, 'Screw this. Put me back at bench,'" Borntreger recalled last week at ALAH's 7-on-7.
As a sophomore last season, Borntreger moved to running back, ceding the quarterback spot to Lance Mercer. Borntreger had a solid year with 51 carries for 293 yards and three touchdowns. When offseason workouts began in earnest following last year's 2-7 season, Borntreger kept lining up as a running back and receiver before head coach Ryan Jefferson made the decision to move Borntreger back to the quarterback spot in their Wing-T offense.
“I’m not even sure he wanted to play quarterback last year, but we talked in the offseason and he’s more confident," Jefferson said. "He wants to be the guy this year.
"I think part of that is him wanting to be a leader in the weight room, being in there and showing up every day — even if he has a baseball game that day. That’s one of the things I like about him is his toughness. He’s not real vocal yet. I think as the season progresses he will be."
Borntreger had always been a quarterback prior to last season's move to the backfield. The adjustment back was seamless, and he can now look back to that freshman season as a leaping-off point that provided experience that carries over ahead of his junior season. It's an experience he wouldn't trade for anything.
“That was tough," he said. "It was right in the sense that it kind of got me ready for this year and what to expect as a quarterback. It was also rough in the sense that a lot of teams were good and a lot bigger than us, so they kind of got thrown around a little bit, but it was a good experience to have.
“It was perfect. It kind of got me ready for this now."
In Borntreger, Jefferson has a quarterback with speed and a strong arm — pretty important traits. Borntreger doubles as a baseball player with skills that translate from baseball to football. The arm strength comes from his pitching prowess and the speed comes from Borntreger's affinity for stealing bases.
That speed is crucial for him on the football field. In a Wing-T offense, he's a fourth runner in the backfield with the ability to throw the ball when he needs to make a play.
“I just kind of use my speed a little bit more than most guys would, just rolling out of the pocket and if there’s nothing there just taking off and running with it," Borntreger said.
Since his last start at quarterback, Borntreger has gotten bigger and has a full year of varsity football playing time under his belt. Sure, some of the opposing players will still be bigger than him, but he's got more muscle to withstand a little more of a beating than he did when he was a freshman.
Hardly anything is the same about Borntreger now compared to him as a freshman getting thrown into the varsity football fire, but those days were formative.
“So much different," he said. "My confidence us up now, so I know I can do it. I’ve gotten a little bit bigger so I can withstand a little bit more pain. I just keep trying to expand on it."