With his team at Corona Centennial having lost its only games last season 50-49 and 49-47, it doesn’t take much to figure out how this highly regarded signal caller is getting motivated for the upcoming season. We talked to him on a day in which he wasn’t participating at the Elite 11 Finals, but the reason he wasn’t participating has to be respected.
Note: For writeup on Elite 11 QB Matt Corral of Long Beach Poly, CLICK HERE. We’ll also have additional articles on the two other California QBs who were at this year’s Elite 11 Finals that were held on June 2-4 at Redondo (Redondo Beach) coming soon. Look for similar coverage on Re-al Mitchell (St. John Bosco) and Jack Tuttle (San Marcos Mission Hills).
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When the day began, having a discussion with one of the nation’s top quarterbacks about an Oscar-winning movie of the early 1980s definitely wasn’t foreseen.
But that is what happened on a Sunday in June at the Elite 11 Finals in Redondo Beach when talking to Corona Centennial’s Tanner McKee.
This was the third day of the Elite 11 Finals and it was a Sunday. McKee is a serious-minded Mormon who has decided he won’t work on Sundays and doing quarterback activities to him is work.
“Absolutely, my religion has always been very important to me,” said McKee, who was sitting out all physical activities on this day although he was watching everyone else intently. “All the coaches here and everyone else have been very supportive.”
Missing the extra day may have caused McKee to drop a few rungs in the final rankings of the 24 quarterbacks were were present, but he was still chosen as one of the top 12 and will be playing later in the summer at The Opening in Beaverton, Ore.
“I feel like if I do what I believe is right that the results will take care of itself,” he added.
McKee knows all too well that if he eventually gets to where he dreams his quarterback abilities take him that working on Sundays will be a problem. But he’ll worry about that later. For now, it’s no football on Sundays and all of the colleges recruiting him (he’s one of the top uncommitted players in the nation) also know that he is going to go on his two-year Mormon mission first.
According to one of the other coaches at the Elite 11 event, one person who McKee has talked with about mixing his faith and football has been Steve Young, the Hall of Fame quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and one of the most famous Mormon athletes ever.
That movie in the 1980s that McKee was learning about was Chariots of Fire, which featured one of two prominent sprinters from England in the 1924 Olympics, one of which, Eric Liddell, dropped his chance to win gold in one event because a heat was scheduled on a Sunday. The movie won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1982.
The physical aspect of the quarterback position is, after all, only a portion of what the quarterbacks learn at the Elite 11 events. The complete package is what is constantly being crafted.
“There are just a ton of great athletes here and it’s a lot of fun to compete with all of them,” McKee said. “And the coaches have been amazing. Mentally and physically the things we work on and take with us will be a big help.”
It’s not that McKee and the team he’ll be playing on this season at Centennial will need that much help. The Huskies have become one of the top perennial powers in California along with De La Salle (Concord), St. John Bosco (Bellflower) and Mater Dei (Santa Ana), which among the four is the only one that has not won a CIF state title. Centennial returns not just McKee, but several other skill players. It’s just the combination of a quarterback like McKee (he has offers from Alabama, UCLA, BYU and many others) with head coach Matt Logan (who’s won 10 CIF Southern Section titles) that is practically a guarantee for 50 points per night. And in many games, that will be 50 in the first half.
“You have to have high expectations at Centennial and we want to reach all of those goals every season,” McKee said.
After throwing for more than 700 yards in a back-up role as a sophomore, McKee quickly became one of the best in the state as a junior. He finished with 3,522 yards and 36 touchdowns for an offense that traditionally rushes for even more yardage every season. The only hiccups were a 50-49 loss in the second game to controversial IMG Academy of Florida (controversial because IMG recruits players there from across the country, even internationally) and 49-47 to eventual CIF Open Division state champ St. John Bosco in the CIFSS Division I semifinals.
“We have a picture in our weight room with both of those scores on it,” McKee said. “Just a little something to get motivated. We know we have to work hard because as those two games proved all details do matter.”
So does conviction and Centennial has someone front and center who’s got that part of the quarterback equation already figured out.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports