After winning the Duel in July of 2015, Aliam Appler got another invite to NFA’s showcase competition this past summer and he placed fourth among incoming sixth graders.
That just shows you how many talented young quarterbacks travel to the Duel in Massillon, Ohio, from across the United States and Canada. “Honestly, I wanted to win, but I knew from last year there are lot of awesome quarterbacks from all over the country, many of who I now call friends,” Appler said. “I was disappointed because I didn’t win, but I placed well. I could have done better but I am happy that I was in the Top 5, that’s very hard to do.”
He is right. Finishing in the Top 5 at the Duel is an accomplishment to be proud of, and most quarterbacks are able to carry the success into their seasons.
Appler did just that, leading the Coastal Cowboys to a 5-2 record in Wilmington, N.C. “I really wanted to make the Pop Warner Super Bowl this year, but half of my old team stayed down at Junior Pee Wee,” he said. “My team didn’t make the playoffs because the Wilmington Eagles, our crosstown rivals, beat us twice and made it to the Super Bowl at Disney. But I was really happy with my dad (Shaun) being able to coach me for my last season in Pop Warner and the amazing job my receivers did catching my passes.”
Displaying the same skills that helped him perform so well at the past two Duels, Appler completed 77 of 105 passes for 843 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed 21 times for 107 yards and 4 TDs and also caught 2 passes for 76 yards and 2 scores.
Playing quarterback for the past six seasons, Appler continues to make impressive progress. “I like to throw the ball and give my team a chance to win games,” he said. “I can throw the ball on target, especially on timing routes. I read the defense pre-snap like Coach (Darin) Slack and NFA teaches. I release the ball within 3 seconds most of the time and I don’t mind getting hit and enjoy running my fakes so the defense is forced to account for me, too.”
For as good as he’s been as a young QB, Appler is striving to become even better. “I still need to work on my foot speed,” he said. “I am happy with the few rushes I had this year and my ‘juking,’ but I still need to work harder.”
Hard work paying off
Appler is always working on his game, and he’s been training with NFA for six years. “NFA is the reason I can do this well,” Appler said. “They taught me if I want to be the one percent I always have to work. ‘Others may, I may not.’ It’s hard sometimes, but I love my coaches and putting in the work. I love working out, even when my friends are skateboarding or surfing. I have to do my ladders and hurdles because I want to be the best.
“I play catch with my dad every day, even those days that he works nights. He’s a police officer and he is tired, but we go out and I throw the football to him. We know that it takes work.”
With his sixth grade season in the books, Appler has set his sights on next year. “I served as the manager for the Noble Middle School Eagles this season,” he said. “My goal is to start for them as a seventh grader, but I know that I will have to earn it. I plan to put in my time with NFA this off-season and earn my way to the Duel again this year and do well against the seventh graders.”