(Photo courtesy of Berry Evans)
Home on The Range: Breeding College-bound Quarterbacks
“Its a Northern California quarterback factory,” Scott Jimison, the father of Folsom (Calif.) Vista del Lago junior quarterback Matt Jimison, who threw for 3,238 yards and 37 TDs last season
“Home on the Range” is the state song of Kansas, and while its verses talk about Buffalo roaming and Deer and Antelope playing, The Range in Livermore (Calif.) has a different brood being bred, and that’s college-bound quarterbacks.
What happens at the state-of-the-art facility on Patterson Pass Road isn’t happening by chance, it’s occurring because of Will Hewlett, the latest and at 33, the youngest of the West Coast quarterback gurus.
Hewlett, who operates out of The Range as the Director of Player Development for the National Football Academies (NFA) , has a pretty impressive list of successful pupils that goes back to even before the native Australian moved to the San Francisco East Bay area from Florida just over four years ago.
Hewlett’s biggest success
Before he even took a varsity snap as a starting signal-caller, Hewlett’s prize pupil Morgan Mahalak, who just completed his senior and only season starting at quarterback for Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic, received multiple major Division I offers before settling on committing to Oregon.
“We met Will through a family friend when we were looking around for someone to work with me, and we decided to take a trip out there,” Mahalak told NFA Nation. “Thank God we did because it’s the best decision we ever made.”
After starting with Hewlett around three years ago, Mahalak developed into one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation as rated by every major recruiting service.
Mahalak was also the first to be an Elite 11 selection with no varsity film, and this past Elite 11 he was a finalist.
More than a coach
“Will has meant the world to me but not just in football, although it was kind of scary how fast I improved my mechanics and the way I throw the ball, tightening things up and even the little things he picks up on,” remarked Mahalak.
“He’s always been there for me like a second dad,” continued Mahalak. “I was in a bad accident last spring and although it turned out I was all right, they rushed me to the emergency hospital. Will was there in less than a half hour.”
In the beginning up to the NFA
It all started when Hewlett moved to Tampa, Florida from Down Under and played quarterback in high school.
He then became the first Australian-born quarterback to play NCAA football. His college experience included Nevada Reno and University of Dubuque. His playing career extended to the pro ranks with a stint in the Arena League.
From there he started with the National Football Academies after returning to the Tampa area.
Currently, as Director of Player Development for the NFA, Hewlett is involved with conducting more than 70 youth development camps in 30 states annually for youth and high school athletes. Hewlett has consulted with the NFL, UFL, and NCAA coaches, and continues to work with quarterbacks in the SEC, ACC, Big 10 and other conferences. Hewlett is a top speaker at the Glazier Clinics tour, the largest football coaching clinics in the country with over 26,000 active members.
Hewlett is constantly traveling throughout the country working with quarterback prospects and has several that fly in to the Bay Area to work with him at The Range.
Will to Succeed
How Hewlett does it with three young children and his wife Julia operating a business adjacent to The Range is amazing.
Part of it is a desire by Hewlett to be at the top of his game.
Just like his first name Hewlett has an unbelievable will to succeed but not in a flashy manner.
“My goal is to communicate to the world in a humble fashion that I work harder at my craft than anyone because I want to become the best mechanics coach in the country.”
Early top achievers
There are several top-notch quarterback coaches in California but that hasn’t stopped Hewlett from attracting the top talent.
San Ramon Valley quarterback Cameron Birse was an early Northern California trainee.
“I don’t even know how to start telling you how much Coach Will has meant to me,” Birse told NFA Nation after a workout at The Range.
“I met him in my sophomore year and came in as a guy that could throw a baseball hard, and he turned me into a guy that could throw a football hard and with accuracy. If it wasn’t for Coach Will I’d be at a JC somewhere,” continued Birse, who despite only one year as a varsity starter, is now at Arkansas State on scholarship thanks to Hewlett and playing football while studying pre-med.
For Mahalak, who came shortly after Birse, Hewlett worked almost like a magician.
“We built a special recruiting video that showcased his abilities and we were careful with the camera angles. Then, we promoted it in our extensive network of college coaches, and within 48-hours it had gone viral in the coaching community with over 800 views.”
Formula for success
Mahalak had been training with Hewlett about 11 months when the video was created, and within four months he had committed to Oregon.
The approach Hewlett uses includes biomechanics and other creative technology, getting kids to buy into making significant changes, and creating failure.
“A big part is teaching kids how to overcome the pressures of failure while trying to help them work through new things.”
Not just a coach to the kids
Hewlett does a lot more for his students and the parents, and on an entirely individual bases.
“The way Will treats these boys and brings each one along at their own pace shows they’re more than football players to him. He has a vested interest in these kids, plus he’s a coach to the dad’s too,” said Scott Jimison, the father of Folsom (Calif.) Vista del Lago junior quarterback Matt Jimison, who threw for 3,238 yards and 37 TDs last season.
Hewlett is a coach to the moms as well.
“Will knows just where to zone in on where Mitch’s technique needs work. At the Elite 11 camps Mitch went in totally prepared for every drill,” said Michelle Daniels, the mother of Concord (Calif.) junior quarterback Mitch Daniels.
Hewlett with rising star Mitch Daniels of Concord (Calif.)
(Photo courtesy of Berry Evans)
“We’re letting Will guide us through the camps process and I like what I see about NFA. We’re still learning, but I trust Will, and when you trust him with your kid’s future you have to rely on that relationship,” remarked Chris O’Brien, the mother of Hilmar (Calif.) quarterback Jonathan O’Brien, who was recently featured in NFA Watchlist.
Young ones as well
Not only does Hewlett work his magic with elite quarterbacks, he also works with youngsters, and sometimes from far away.
On the day of the interview Birse’s session was followed by an eighth-grader that had flown in with his father from Alaska.
“My philosophy is to find a way to bridge the gap in explaining a complex concept so a 13-year old can digest it,” Hewlett said.
Starting April 1 Hewlett will have 5-week Intro To Playing Quarterback program at The Range for 4th through 7th graders.
Nationwide, the recipe Hewlett uses has produced some remarkable results over the past 12 months alone.
His 2014 class of quarterbacks has received over 50 college offers. In Northern California beside Mahalak, Petaluma Casa Grande QB JaJuan Lawson, Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman’s Keaton Dunsford and Sacramento Inderkum signal-caller CJ Spencer have all received offers.
Besides his Northern California senior and junior classes the sophomore class is also solid. El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge star Ian Book is a pupil as are projected starters Hunter Bishop at Mountain View St. Francis, Darius Peterson at Marin Catholic, and Hunter Petlansky at Modesto Central Catholic.
“To see the improvements just since August in the mechanics and his physical progression, and none of it would be been possible without Will. The transition has been amazing,” said Bishop’s father Randy Bishop, whose oldest son Braden Bishop starred at St. Francis and is now playing baseball at Washington.
“The Range is the real deal,” remarked Inderkum assistant coach Terrance Leonard.
Perhaps the elder Jimison summed it up best.
“Will has everything to offer that a quarterback needs to make it in college. It’s a Northern California quarterback factory.”
Hewlett posing with Morgan Mahalak on signing day.