No offense to the old Puyallup ball coach, Mike Huard, but Damon Huard would have loved a shot at throwing passes in this Kennedy Catholic offense.
“Are you kidding me?” Damon laughed. “It’s so much fun. The tempo they play at and all the different plays they run – it’s really cool. I would have loved to have played for Coach (Sheldon) Cross.”
But that’s OK, he said. He’s enjoying watching his 14-year-old son be part of that, instead.
And MaxPreps announced on Friday that Sam Huard was selected as its National Freshman of the Year.
“That defintely means a lot,” Sam Huard said. “There’s a lot of amazing, talented freshmen across the country. To be recognized as the top player is a really special achievement and a great honor.”
He was one of three Washington players selected as freshman All-Americans, with Eastside Catholic’s Jaylahn Tuimoloau earning first-team linebacker and Lincoln’s Julien Simon earning second-team linebacker.
Sam Huard, a 6-foot-1 left-hander, threw for more yards than any quarterback in the South Sound this past season, finishing with 3,432 yards and 34 touchdowns on 229-for-397 passing. His young arm was so trusted that Kennedy Catholic had him throwing an average of almost 40 passes per game.
And no freshman in state history has passed for more than the 535 yards in a single game – fourth-most by any quarterback in state history – that he tossed in the season finale in a loss at Bellarmine Prep. Kennedy Catholic finished 6-4.
“With ninth-grade All-Americans, we typically keep an eye toward potential as much as production,” said Stephen Speiwak, the national football editor at MaxPreps and digital content marketing manager at Vivid Seats. “But Huard had both.
“He stepped up for a 4A program and delivered massive results. Combining that with his size and pedigree, it’s clear he’s the total package.”
And he continued to prove that these Huards make for decent quarterbacks.
His father, Damon Huard, was a Gatorade state player of the year out of Puyallup before a standout career at the University of Washington and in the NFL. Then his uncle, Brock Huard, was a Gatorade national player of the year his senior year at Puyallup before a similar UW-to-NFL career. And then his uncle, Luke Huard, also earned Gatorade state player of the year and was recruited all over the country before landing at the University of North Carolina.
Brock Huard threw for 1,978 yards his senior year at Puyallup, Damon Huard threw for 2,275 yards as a senior and Luke Huard threw for 2,650.
But none of them played as freshman like Sam.
“Well, coming into the year I didn’t really expect to play varsity as a freshman,” Sam said. “But I want to thank Tracy Ford (of Bellevue-based Ford Sports Performance) because without him pushing me in the offseason I wouldn’t have played or done what I did. And my my family and Coach Cross. The reason I chose to come to Kennedy was really beacuse of Coach Cross and he helped me so much this offseason getting ready.”
Damon Huard’s freshman year? That was spent playing six games at Aylen Junior High. Freshmen back then weren’t allowed to play sports at Puyallup High School.
He then played tight end as a sophomore because Puyallup’s starting QB was UW-bound Billy Joe Hobert.
After being a member of two Super Bowl champion teams, Damon is now an analyst for the UW football radio broadcasts. He, Sam and the rest of their family spent last week in Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, continuing their annual tradition of traveling to UW’s bowl games.
But did he expect this kind of season from his freshman son?
“No,” Damon said. “I didn’t. But I give a ton of credit to Sheldon Cross and their coaching staff and some great kids around him. Just an awesome environment for a young kid to come into and have success in.
“He works really hard at it. There’s certainly different opportunities for kids today to have a chance to play high school at a younger age, but a lot of it is the culture Sheldon has created at Kennedy for kids to come in there. It doesn’t matter what grade they are or how old they are, if he thinks you are ready to play, he’ll give you a chance to compete and earn that job.”
But maybe that’s just a dad being humble about his kid. Because Cross saw that a little differently.
“The thing is – when you meet him – I could see from the minute we started in June exactly where he was headed and where he wants to go and what his mission was and what he wanted to do as a teammate here,” said Cross, the former Stadium quarterback and Idaho State University offensive coordinator. “It might sound crazy, but it doesn’t shock me that he’s that good already. It doesn’t.
“With him, I can only imagine what Peyton Manning was like as a freshman in high school, but it feels like that. He has a clear vision on what his mission is, he’s very driven and he’s very, very, very competitive.”
Sam Huard is currently a starting guard on Kennedy Catholic’s basketball team, and he recently received his first scholarship offer from the University of Nevada.
But scholarship offers are the last thing on his mind right now, Huard said.
“Because I still have a long way to go,” he said. “I don’t want to end here as a freshman of the year. I’d like to continue to get better as I grow older and more importantly win. Win for the Lancers and get a state championship.”
Cross has known Sam since about before he could ever sling a football. Cross was a groomsman in Luke Huard’s wedding alongside Brock and Damon and Luke was a groomsman in Cross’ wedding. Luke is currently the co-offensive coordinator and QBs coach at Sacramento State University.
“Sam tilts the room when he walks in,” Cross said. “The best quarterbacks at every level tilt the room. It’s a different feeling with them. And he tilts the room.”
Damon said the key for his son this offseason will be continuing to get bigger and stronger. He started the season weighing about 150 pounds, Damon said, but now is up to 170.
And he returns each of his top three receivers next year, freshmen Jabez Tinae (59 catches, 1,278 yards, 12 TDs) and Lonyatta “Junior” Alexander (60 catches, 859 yards, 10 TDs) and sophomore Trenton Morrison (37 catches, 691 yards, 6 TDs).
“Hopefully they have the beginning of a special run,” Damon said. “They are on the front end of building something really special. They still have a long way to go, but they are doing some good things early on.”
And Sam said he’s had a few conversations with his grandfather about his old Puyallup offense compared to this high-octane Kennedy Catholic one.
Could he envision playing in that?
“No, probably not,” Sam laughed.
For Lincoln’s Julien Simon, he never actually played linebacker for the 3A Pierce County League champion Abes this past season, but he was a standout receiver and rotated in as a backup safety. He has also started on Lincoln’s undefeated boys basketball team this season.
Simon was Lincoln’s top receiving target, finishing with 29 catches for 559 yards and seven touchdowns.
“One, it’s rare that freshman are even on varsity,” Lincoln coach Masaki Matsumoto said. “Let alone contribute as much as he did.
“The first thing you notice is his physique – and he has full facial hair,” Matsumoto laughed. “He looks like a man.”
Simon’s oldest brother, Dionte, was a running back at Lincoln who currently plays at Simon Fraser University, and his other brother, Jayden, was an all-league offensive and defensive lineman as a junior for the Abes this past season.
“And he’s a quiet kid who isn’t boastful or cocky. His parents have done a great job,” Matsumoto said. “We’re glad he’s here and more glad that he’s coachable and respectful. The spotlight hasn’t got to his head.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677