By LARRY VAUGHT
Heisman Trophy winner Blake Mayfield had to show skeptics that they were very wrong about him. He went from walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech to winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and putting the Sooners in the national championship chase.
Kentucky quarterback commit Nik Scalzo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has a similar chip on his shoulder. He’s constantly being told he’s not tall enough — 5-10 — to play quarterback at a major college. Yet he’s more than confident in his ability to be a winning quarterback at Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference.
“Everyone doubts me because I am not 6-3 or 6-4. I like it because it makes me work harder and grind more to prove people wrong who overlook me. I want to prove them wrong,” Scalzo said. “There’s a lot of guys who are great quarterbacks who are not 6-4 or bigger. Guys like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield.”
Scalzo is a dual-threat quarterback and doesn’t mind being viewed that way. He thinks of himself as a pocket passer with the ability to extend plays with his running ability.
“I can stay in the pocket and make throws but I think I am on top of my game when I am on the run making plays,” Scalzo said. “I have very good field vision and I can get the ball to where I need it to be.”
Drew Phillips, owner/director of the Phillips Quarterback Academy, is a Scalzo fan. Always has been, always will be.
“He’s a great kid who works extremely hard on the field. He’s humble but confident in his ability,” Phillips said.
Scalzo completed 175 of 307 passes for 2,065 yards and 23 touchdowns with just six interceptions last season. He threw for 2,221 yards and 27 touchdowns with just nine interceptions as a sophomore.
“Nik is a unique talent. He understands what it takes to win and is determined to show everyone he has what it takes to be the best,” Phillips said. “His ability to move around the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield is as good as I have seen. He also does a great job of protecting the football, not allowing other teams the opportunity to gain extra possessions. He can spin it with the best of them. He plays in South Florida, so he has already competed against some of the best talent in the nation … many guys committed to other SEC schools … and he has success doing so.”
Kentucky’s coaches have had a terrific knack for identifying young quarterback talent. First it was Florida quarterback Mac Jones, who switched to Alabama after first committing to UK. Next it was Georgia quarterback Jarren Williams, who committed to UK but then changed to Miami.
“I think Kentucky did a great job of evaluating how talented he is,” Phillips said. “All you need to do is turn on the film to realize the kid is talented. I’ve been in several disputes with other schools about him (Scalzo) and the only thing they don’t like about his game is his size. You see what Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manziel were able to do (in college winning the Heisman Trophy), and I believe Kentucky see’s that same magic in Nik.”
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