Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Time, performance and good fortune will ultimately determine if this is the year of the high school quarterback in and around Iowa City.
But there are certainly signs that it could be, four signs in particular.
From Solon senior Cam Miller to West High junior Marcus Morgan to Regina junior Ashton Cook to City High junior Raph Hamilton, there will be a wealth of talent and experience lining up behind center this fall.
Miller has made a verbal commitment to play quarterback for FCS power North Dakota State, while the three juniors are starting to gain more attention from college suitors, with Morgan already having a scholarship offer from Iowa State.
But Morgan is in no hurry to make a decision about college because he still has two years left to compete in high school and because he loves being a multi-sport athlete in high school.
“What’s the hurry?” Morgan said. “I’m just trying to enjoy my high school years with my buddies while I still can. And then when the time comes, the time comes and then we’ll make that decision and go from there.
Part of Morgan's enjoyment is keeping track of what his fellow quarterbacks do on Friday nights.
Morgan doesn’t consider it competition since he only competes against Hamilton in Class 4A, but rather his way of supporting his fellow quarterbacks, all of whom he considers his friends.
“I just enjoy watching them and enjoy watching them have success,” Morgan said. “We don’t play Ashton or Cam, but we play the City High guys. But watching them is fun for me because those are my friends.”
Hamilton echoed that sentiment.
“Just in my class we have Marcus and Ashton so there are some really good quarterbacks,” Hamilton said. “I don’t compare myself to any of them, but it’s really nice to have guys like that around to keep up with.
“I’ve played against Marcus in multiple sports since a young age and this summer I was doing some QB workouts with Ashton. It’s pretty cool to have that kind of competition around you.”
All four of the quarterbacks were full-time starters at the varsity level by at least their sophomore season, which is impressive by itself.
Cook missed four games last season and parts of another because of a foot injury, but still threw for more than 1,200 yards, while Morgan and Miller both passed for over 1,600 yards and led their team to the playoffs, and Hamilton started seven games behind center.
Cook and Miller also have a special relationship with their head coach because it also happens to be their father.
Marv Cook and Kevin Miller are two of the most successful head coaches in the state with both having led Regina and Solon, respectively, to multiple state titles.
So they have the luxury of not only having a talented quarterback to build the offense around, but also the thrill of working with their son on a daily basis.
“I think he understands our scheme and what we are trying to do better,” Kevin Miller said of Cam Miller. “He isn’t just managing the game now, we are giving him the freedom to be a playmaker and make audibles and calls at the line of scrimmage to get us in the right play call.”
Ashton Cook is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Drew Cook, who was also a multi-year starter at quarterback for Regina and now plays tight end for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
“They’re two different personalities,” said Marv Cook, a former All-America tight end for Iowa and an NFL All-Pro. “They are just different. I have to coach them different. Ashton is probably more cerebral, thinks more about things and really processes information.
“He processes information well and executes on the football field. He’s just kind of that way. I can’t yell at him. Yelling just doesn’t work where it didn’t faze Drew at all. Ashton just doesn’t respond to it so, I’ve found other ways to coach him.”
West High coach Garrett Hartwig has just what he covets in a quarterback in the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Morgan, who can beat defenses with his powerful right arm and his running ability.
“At the high school level, that’s what I look for, a quarterback that can run and throw,” Hartwig said. “Certainly, if you had the skill set one way or the other that is exceptional and can win games for you. That’s fine. But if you have a quarterback that can run and throw at the high school level, that’s ideal as far as my position and my perspective as a high school coach.”
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell likes Morgan enough as a dual-threat quarterback to have already offered him in a scholarship.
Morgan is also being recruited by Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State among others for football, and is considered a top prospect in baseball as a pitcher.
“Football and baseball have picked up a little bit more for me,” Morgan said of recruiting. “(Iowa State) was my first offer for football. I got it last spring. I was a little bit surprised that it happened, but I’m happy with it.”
Morgan is the son of former Iowa basketball player Michael Morgan, and his mother, Kris Morgan, was also an accomplished athlete and now teaches at the elementary level in Iowa City.
They’ve given Marcus some simple advice about recruiting.
“Enjoy it because it doesn’t last long, and work hard because that’s what you should do,” Marcus Morgan said.
In addition to sharing a mutual respect and admiration, the four quarterbacks also share something else in common in that they all play multiple sports.
In fact, Morgan excels at football, basketball, track and field and baseball, while Cam Miller is also a talented pitcher in baseball and a starter for the Solon basketball team.
Ashton Cook is also one of Regina’s top basketball players and could have Division I potential in that sport.
“I think competing in general, it doesn’t matter in what sport, will make you a better all-around athlete,” Ashton Cook said.
Morgan’s favorite sport is basically whatever is in season.
“It keeps me out of trouble and it’s just fun for me,” Morgan said of playing four sports. “I enjoy doing it.”
Hartwig has real strong opinions on the benefits of playing multiple sports in high school.
“I think the multi-sport athlete is fantastic,” Hartwig said. “It’s a refresher every time they start a new sport and I think that’s very important when it comes to high school and the commitment it takes to have a good team and have a good player.
“I coach football, and football only, and I know it wears on me and I love it. So I can’t imagine for a high school athlete only working on one sport because I played every sport I could while I was growing up. I think that adds a lot to the competitive side of things, the excitement of starting a new season. When you step away and you come back from a sport, you see noticeable gains as opposed to being a round it all the time where you can only feel it and maybe only see incremental gains, which can be frustrating.”
Marv Cook feels that competition in any sport is the best way to improve and to achieve your ultimate goals.
He played multiple sports at West Branch High in the mid-1980s, but still earned a scholarship from Iowa for football.
“I just want you competing, whether it’s golf, darts, tiddlywinks, I want you playing to win and trying to get better,” Marv Cook said.
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