Zak Acuff had every reason to be rusty this season. Playing quarterback for the Hardin Valley Hawks in Knoxville, Tenn., as a sixth grader in 2013, Acuff broke his collarbone in the second game and missed the rest of the year.
Fortunately, the Blackshirts member was able to train with NFA once he recovered from the injury, and Acuff had a very successful return in his seventh grade season.
“NFA really helped me a lot,” Acuff said. “Going on the (Boston and Philadelphia) trip with Coach (JC) Boice and other Blackshirts, and then to the Duel, that helped me get back out there and I was able to work on my mechanics after getting hurt. With all the things that weren’t right after being out, I was able to get my muscle memory back and improve my mechanics.”
Acuff played for his school – Christian Academy of Knoxville – this season, and he more than held his own against many opposing eighth graders with bigger size and more experience.
The Warriors went 6-2 and won the Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference championship. Acuff had to wait his turn behind an eighth grade quarterback at CAK, but he made the most of his opportunities while throwing for touchdowns in five of the six games he played in while completing over 70 percent of his passes.
“It was really good to be back,” Acuff said. “I learned a lot and had a lot of fun.”
Blessed with standout speed, Acuff has never hesitated to tuck the football away and take off. But as he faced tougher competition this past season, the 5-foot-4, 100-pounder concentrated on staying in the pocket more and finding open wide receivers.
Scott Acuff, Zak’s father, gives NFA a lot of credit for helping him develop as a QB. “Zak is really fast and he is a good runner,” Scott Acuff said. “But NFA has really taught him well. In addition to the mechanics and everything, his escape skills are outstanding. He’s really able to move the pocket and get out, and that helps against bigger kids. The other thing with NFA that’s really helped him, his offensive coordinator/quarterback coach said Zak had some of the best mechanics of any quarterback they have coached in middle school. I totally attribute that to what he’s learned at NFA.”
Zak Acuff is still learning, and he’s willing to work as hard as it takes to keep improving.
“Being more patient and staying in the pocket is something I’m working on,” Acuff said. “And sometimes I get a little nervous going into the game. I think too much. I just want to go in there and not really think about anything expect doing what I have to do.”
Just being healthy and getting back on the field is going to help Acuff take his game to a higher level.
“Being out last season, I missed it really, really bad,” he said. “That’s why this season, every opportunity I got to go out there, I tried to play my best. But it also helped me to watch when I was out. I learned a lot and I was also able to support my team on the sidelines. If they made a good play or if they needed any help, I would talk to them.”
All things considered, Acuff is happy to be off the sidelines and back under center. “This season, it was a bigger challenge than I’ve faced,” he said. “But I played up before when I was younger so I was kind of used it. I think it was a bigger challenge because I hadn’t played for a while. I just tried to help my team in whatever way I could. I was really happy with how I threw the football, I made good decisions, I had fast feet and I was able to make plays with the football.”