Zone Read: From the Desert to Draper

Arizona Sports News online

Devin Brown’s final chapter as the starting quarterback at Queen Creek High School – maybe in a more perfect world – would have scripted a different ending.

Coming off an impressive junior season, the then mostly anonymous three-star prospect from Gilbert got his dream offer from the University of Southern California and smartly took it.

This spring, Joe Germaine left Queen Creek to take over his alma mater, Mesa Mountain View. Former QC head coach Travis Schureman became the Bulldogs present head coach and the pieces, centered around their seasoned two-year starting quarterback, appeared to be in place for another playoff run.

In late May the whispers, at least in some high school football circles, started of Brown transferring. A few weeks later, it became official.

Life would take the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder from the desert…to Draper.

Draper, Utah – which sits just off Interstate 15 between Provo and Salt Lake City.

“It’s very similar,” Brown said to the “Zone Read” when asked to compare Draper to Gilbert. “It’s just like a suburb outside of a city. I would consider it a lot like Gilbert and Queen Creek. Just a big suburb.”

Family Matter

In some ways Brown tip-toed out of Arizona in the heat of the summer without as much buzz and attention as you’d expect from a Power 5 in-state prospect committed to play at one of the most storied college football programs.

The change wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, for reasons beyond his control.

“There was some family stuff that went on a little bit,” he said.” “Obviously, Coach Germaine left but it was really family stuff that factored in me coming up here. I have family here…I’m happy where I’m at and it’s been super fun being up here.” 

From the Desert to the Canyon

“Here” for Brown is Corner Canyon High School which has become a fertile quarterback school and must-stop destination for college coaches around the country.

Recent alums include USC freshman Jaxon Dart, Yale’s Cole Hagen, and former BYU All-American Zach Wilson who, in April, was selected second overall in the NFL draft by the New York Jets.

Zach’s younger brother, sophomore Isaac Wilson (who already holds offers from BYU, Oregon, and others), is the future at Corner Canyon but this season Brown has the keys to the Chargers’ high-powered offense, which includes three-star wide receiver Cody Hagen, Jett Meine (who averaged 16.9 yards per catch and reeled in eight touchdowns last year), running back Dylan Carlsen, and others.

“Coach [Eric] Kjar, that’s our head coach and offensive coordinator, he’s amazing,” Brown said. “I love him to death and he’s taught me so much in the short time I’ve been here. It’s been an amazing experience with him.”

Corner Canyon has won three-straight Utah state championships and currently owns a 40-game win-streak.

“I think Corner Canyon last year would have beaten Chandler,” Brown noted without hesitation.

Etched in History

Throwing eight touchdowns in a game is eye-catching.

Throwing eight touchdowns in a half is nearly unthinkable, especially at the 6A level.

Well, that explosion you heard running through the picturesque Wasatch Mountains in and around Salt Lake City last Friday was Brown’s thunderous football arrival to the Beehive State with eight big (touchdown) exclamation points.

“I got the best of both worlds, for sure,” the top-ranked 2021 player in Utah noted of the big season-opening win. “We had a really good game plan and my offensive line game me a lot of time. I watched a lot of film and sort of knew what their defense was going to give me. We have a lot of stud guys around [me] and our defense played phenomenal.”

The eight TD passes in a single game ties him for third all-time in Utah prep football history. 

Imagine what he would have done if he played the second half.

Growing Through Mistakes

Brown’s windy football road started at Casteel before transferring to Queen Creek following his freshman year.

The polished, modern day version of the 11th-ranked 2021 quarterback in the nation was then just a gangly, young teenager when he moved up in competition at QC. After sitting out the first half of his sophomore season per transfer rules, the early results of his inaugural season starting on varsity weren’t pretty.

“As a sophomore, I wasn’t fully matured yet,” Brown said. “I didn’t have a good sophomore season at all, by any means. I threw more interceptions than touchdowns.”

But, as we’ve seen time and time again with young quarterbacks in Arizona, early-career setbacks often lead to long-term growth and Brown was no different. He flipped the script on his touchdown-to-interception ratio, from 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as sophomore, to 18 touchdowns against just six picks last fall as a junior in helping lead the Bulldogs to a 6-3 season and birth in the 6A playoffs. 

He was named 2nd-Team All Fiesta Region in December.

“Over time, running the offense, I just became a lot more comfortable with my targets,” he explained. “I would just say my timing got a lot better which was the biggest factor. The game just slowed down.”

Elite Level Performance

Some high school football showcase events are more sizzle than substance.

The Elite 11 is not one of those.

Each summer, the nation’s top prep quarterbacks showcase their skill sets for a sneak peek at the future faces of college football and beyond.

If the rest of the country didn’t know about Brown before the event, word certainly got out quickly in early July.

“That was such an amazing experience,” he said after finishing second in the competition. “The relationships I made the week I was there was unreal. Just to meet all the quarterbacks and the coaches. I thought I couldn’t have thrown better pretty much every day I was there.”

Brown’s team lost in the 7-on-7 championship and many felt he would have been named the camp MVP had he won the camp team title. 

“It was a childhood dream come true,” Brown noted. ” I pretty much grew up watching those guys.”

Quarterback Counseling  

The Elite 11 quarterback fraternity is a tight one. Alumni this summer included 24 of the 32 NFL starting quaterbacks and 13 of the last 14 quarterback Heisman Trophy winners.

In addition, 61 of the 64 Power 5 starting quarterbacks attended the Elite 11 Finals or Elite 11 Regionals.

While Brown came up just short in winning the event, former Pinnacle High All-American Spencer Rattler didn’t, taking home the title before his senior season in 2018.

The two met this summer when Brown was competing and Rattler was one of the camp counselors at the event held in Mahattan Beach, California. Along the way, the Heisman Trophy frontrunner dropped some knowledge and helpful hints as Brown prepares to step on campus next spring just up the road at USC, a school which recruited Rattler heavily before he committed to Oklahoma.

“I got to pick his brain a little bit,” Brown recalls. “Just about going from Arizona to college and [things] like that. I talked to him a little bit about his senior year. He had some ups and downs through that whole thing. Just wanted to get his side on it. I got to pick his brain about getting all that fame early and how to handle it.”

“He was giving me some things to look out for. His main message was, ‘You’re a football player first.'”

Bulldog Mentality

As family and football has taken Brown out of the southeast Valley, there is still a great amount of respect and love between he and his former Queen Creek players and coaches.

One QC staffer described Brown as “a great kid.”

Their former star quarterback echoes those warm feelings.

“It was awesome. I had a great experience. It was one of the greatest experiences I could have asked for. I had a lot of good friendships out there. [Friendships] I still have today. That family environment was special to me.”

Now Brown seems be adjusting quite nicely to his new Draper football family.

All’s well that ends well. 

 

 

 

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.