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Right when South San Francisco head football coach Dion Evans saw sophomore Mariusz Tan, he knew he had the leader of the offense.
“Mariusz is a kid I believe is going to be the starting quarterback when I never even saw him throw a ball,” Evans said. “He was just the only kid coming out there with a ball in his hand, so I was wondering what position he wanted to play.”
Tan never had a lot of experience at the position, but Evans knew with work that his quarterback would be something special.
They worked on his mechanics. They worked on his footwork. And what Evans also did was work with Tan on a dart board – a way he works with his quarterbacks on their accuracy.
Quarterbacks throw to the dart board from their left and from their right. They’re throwing different routes they will run during games.
Most of them want to hit a bullseye, but that isn’t necessary to complete a pass as Evans has shown Tan while working with him.
“And so then sometimes they get agitated that they’re hitting the board, but they’re not hitting bullseyes, so then I had them stand in front of the dart board,” Evans said. “I said, ‘Okay, now if you threw that same dart, where would it land on the receivers body?’ And they was like, ‘On his chest.’ I said, ‘That’s a perfect throw for a football.’ So that’s how I increased his accuracy.”
And the coaching staff also had Tan attend numerous showcases during this extended offseason due to the season getting pushed back to January at the earliest, where Tan improved each and every showing.
Tan ran between 4.75-4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and at the last showcase he completed eight of his nine passes.
“He believes in me because I believe in him, and that has raised him to believe some stuff,” Evans said. “He believes more of the positives about himself than he believes the inexperience that may cause negative thoughts, so as long as we can keep him focused on going towards his ceiling, he’ll be fine.”
“I’ve seen myself grow in how my mentality is, how to not give up and throwing better deeper balls and stuff,” Tan said.
However, this growing process at the quarterback spot almost never game about.
As a freshman – Tan’s first year in the sport – Tan wanted to be a quarterback but didn’t receive a whole bunch of playing time there. He thought his playing days were over there.
Evans saw something, though. He can read when someone can be a starting quarterback, as all but one of his starting quarterbacks in his coaching career was a real quarterback.
The talent was sure there. Evans knew he could lead.
He just wanted to make sure his family was on board, and they were with Tan competing in football. From there, the heat was on.
“I’m putting my marbles on this guy, and so I told him people like you will one day ask him how did you become a great quarterback? ‘What did you do to earn the starting quarterback position at South San Francisco?’ And I said, ‘What will you tell them?’” Evans said. “He said to me, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘I’m going to tell you exactly what to tell them. Tell them you didn;t earn the job at all. You were trusted, and given the job all you had to do was attention to details and exceed expectations.’
“I said, ‘Mariusz, as long as you are paying attention to details and exceeding expectations, you will continue being the quarterback of South San Francisco.’”
Teammates see Tan as a legitimate quarterback, too, and they know they have something special on their hands for the next three years with him guiding the offense.
Maybe even a league MVP, which Evans predicts to happen on multiple occasions.
“I need to maintain your confidence,” Evans said. “I’ll give you the skill. I’ll give you the education. You will raise your skill if he manages, this year as a sophomore we get him through all our games as a sophomore and he manages this offense properly, he will be a two-time league MVP.”
When Najee Harris was a record-setting running back at Antioch High School – an example Evans alluded to – everyone in the region knew who he was. Evans expects much of the same for Tan as South City’s new start quarterback before he bursts onto the scene and someday becomes a quarterback at the next level.
“He’s a kid who we may be following to the next level, but we would have known him since he was a sophomore, whereas everybody else would just be hearing about him, we will already know about him,” Evans said. “It’s like Najee Harris. People learned about Najee Harris at Alabama. Well, those of us from here already knew who he was.”
For now, all Tan is focused on is winning games and bettering South City football.
“Goals for myself is to get better so I could help the team out and as a team our goal is to win games,” Tan said.
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