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July 21, 2011
MALIBU, Calif. - The Elite 11 quarterbacks returned late Wednesday night from the Santa Monica Pier, many of them tired after an intense day of 7-on-7 competition. Camp counselor Trent Dilfer was about to tell them it wasn't bedtime yet.
The quarterbacks were summoned to the lobby at 11:45 p.m. where Dilfer, who's been an outstanding instructor all week, told the high school stars they had until the next morning to learn the remainder of their playbook - another 24 plays. He then told them to have a good night.
At that point in the competition, the guys were supposed to know eight plays.
"For 7-on-7 (on Wednesday) we were given eight plays to remember the night before and the progressions and everything and we were all good with that," Ft. Thomas (Ky.) Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles said. "Just with eight plays we probably stayed up until 1 o'clock learning them. We went to bed and then ran them pretty well.
"We had 24 more plays to run. We have coolers in the lounge and I loaded up on Coke, I took about five of them back into my room. It was (Tyler) O'Connor, Shane Dillon and me in my suite until 3:15 learning plays. We went to bed, I woke up at 7 o'clock this morning, ran over and got some breakfast and came right over here."
It was a difficult and challenging night for almost everyone, especially after all the quarterbacks expected to rest up after a fun night out. But Towles, who committed to Kentucky on April 1, said it was well worth it. He's here to learn and get better, and this was another test Dilfer had for everybody.
"If you want to succeed at the next level you're going to have to put in the extra hours and although it sucks doing it then, I'm not really dying yet," Towles said. "I'm OK with a couple hours sleep."
After Dilfer relayed the news to the quarterbacks, they all grabbed their playbooks and about eight players headed for Towles' room to start studying. As the night continued, the herd thinned out until it was just three remaining.
A system was formed by the trio. The three would look at six plays, study them for about 10 minutes and, one of the quarterbacks would call out the play and then all three would write down the play. Hopefully, they would get it right and move on to the next batch.
For Eagle, Idaho, standout Tanner Mangum, one of the top quarterbacks at the event, and North Canton (Ohio) Hoover's Austin Appleby, the news from Dilfer was not at all a big issue. The two had apparently been studying ahead, were pretty confident with the entire playbook and got some sleep.
Towles did not have that luxury.
"They knew their stuff so they were prepared and they got some extra hours of sleep," Towles said. "I crawled into bed at 3:15 and it felt like I slept for about 20 minutes before I woke up again."
As expected, some quarterbacks were a little perturbed by the news that they'd be up half the night, but Towles said most took it in stride.
Dilfer even half-heartedly apologized after Thursday's session for putting them through such an ordeal, but explained that dealing with adversity is a big part of succeeding at quarterback.
"I felt bad for what I did last night," Dilfer said. "But I got over it in about two seconds."
Towles said the news was even harder to swallow because the other camp counselors knew about it and didn't warn the quarterbacks.
Now that it's over, Towles can laugh.
"I'm not going to mention any names but there were definitely some choice words about not being too happy," Towles said.
"We were in our lounge before he came in and we were like, 'We're tired. He's just going to let us go,' and all the counselors were in on it and they said, 'He's going to let you go, you're going to be fine,' and we walk out there and he gives us 24 more plays. It was a test and we all passed and it was awesome."