The Aurora Christian football team is breaking in a new quarterback this summer, and that’s proven to be no easy task.
It’s not that Austin Bray isn’t highly talented – he’s “being looked at by a lot of big schools,” Eagles coach Don Beebe said.
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound junior unloads when he delivers a football. Beebe said he was clocked at 56 mph on a throw at a camp at the University of Mississippi, and suggested it might be the hardest a high school quarterback has been timed slinging a football.
As a player, Beebe caught whistling passes from rocket-armed NFL great Brett Favre, but at the high school level, hauling in such screaming spirals is far from a given. Aurora Christian receivers Noah Roberts, Brandon Walgren, Noah Hagerty, Kimani Moberly and tight end Jackson Carpenter are bearing the brunt of Bray’s impressive arm.
“It’s been a big challenge,” Beebe said. “I’ve been talking to Austin about this, basically to know when to put an extra little zip, and when he has to take a little off of it. For a high school kid to catch a ball is very difficult when it gets on them that fast.”
Bray was in the running for the Eagles’ starting job as a sophomore before Beebe decided on Ryan McQuade, who continued the Eagles’ tradition of excellence at the position as Aurora Christian won its second straight IHSA Class 3A state championship.
Beebe said Bray’s talent is unquestioned but he still has to learn the many intangibles it takes to thrive running a varsity offense.
“Being able to throw a football is one thing,” Beebe said. “You have to be able to lead, win games and be accurate with tight throws and timing on throws. … He’s come a long way this summer.”
Aurora Christian has been active as usual this summer on the 7-on-7 circuit, including competing in a national competition in Arkansas. The Eagles suffered heavy graduation losses from last year’s team – Northern Illinois recruits Chad Beebe, Joel Bouagnon and Brandon Mayes, plus standout receiver Cory Windle and McQuade are among the departures – making this offseason especially crucial.
High school teams are winding down their summer programs before taking a break ahead of official preseason practice beginning Aug. 14.
“If you don’t have it all in by the end of summer, pretty much there’s not enough time,” Beebe said.