Titan Widjaja surveyed the defense and paused for a few seconds before receiving the snap from center, his first as Verrado’s starting quarterback.
The junior knew what was coming next. His summer-long film study was about to pay off in three, two, one…
…under the fast-falling sun in north Phoenix, Widjaja (pronounced Wid-ji-ya) launched a missile down the seam to wide receiver Elijah Johnson who raced untouched past the Paradise Valley secondary for a 65-yard touchdown.
For the young signal caller, whose name was devised from his parents watching a Tennessee Titans game shortly before his birth, there was no fear under the Friday night lights. Instead, the quiet confidence of a three-year starter not a back-up who threw just 27 passes last year as a sophomore.
He wasn’t perfect against the Trojans, but pretty close completing 6-7 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
“He played well,” first-year head coach Tom Ward said without hesitation when asked about his new quarterback’s starting debut.
Despite putting up video game-like numbers as a freshman on junior varsity, the likable Widjaja has seen his game, and body, evolve in the past couple years.
“My coaches put together a weight training program, speed conditioning program,” Widjaja said after the Vipers’ 54-28 win. “It got me better.”
Eat with the ones you starved wit ??
— TJW2️⃣ (@titanjames_2) February 1, 2017
His love for the sport started at age nine but back then he frequented on the other side of ball as a hard-hitting defensive end/linebacker after moving to the Valley from Fresno, California back in 2010. It wasn’t until his early teenage years when he took a liking to quarterback and found his footing full-time at the position.
“He really started to have a bigger passion for quarterbacking,” Titan’s mother Kandis Hayes Baldwin explained to Sports360AZ.com. “He really wanted to focus on learning the position. Titan’s really, really improved.”
It hasn’t stopped?™ pic.twitter.com/z3UGh8ksMj
— TJW2️⃣ (@titanjames_2) December 15, 2015
One area which has never needed improving is the young quarterback’s efforts in the classroom at Verrado, widely considered one of the best high schools in the west Valley. A 4.3 student-athlete and member of the National Honor Society, Widjaja can frequently be found serving students in the school cafeteria as part of his volunteer commitments to NHS.
“It’s all time management,” Widjaja said of juggling his academic and football commitments. “Sometimes you just have to stay up all night. It’s hard but you just have to make it happen.”
Widjaja’s smile on the sideline last week was hard to miss and at the same time, hard to imagine in 2016, as he waited his turn behind then returning starter and Arizona Christian University signee Maverick Gamez.
Football, much like life, seems to at times take a path of its’ own. For Widjaja, said path was waiting his turn, something he wasn’t accustomed to between the white lines.
“King left slot, black double post,” Widjaja said with a smile when asked about the first play called against PV.
Patience is a virtue.
Even a year later.