High School Sports

Franklin Pierce QB Willie Patterson finds motivation in adversity

Willie Patterson’s practice jersey is red, just like the ones worn by the rest of his teammates on the Franklin Pierce High School football team.

Except it says “Olympia” instead of “Cardinals.”

It’s one of the many things he uses for motivation. It belonged to his older brother, Ryan Harlan, who was a quarterback at Olympia and who died about a year ago.

But Patterson has other motivations, too. His father, Pat Patterson holds Central Washington University’s single-season rushing record (1,494 yards in 1989), and Willie Patterson wants to go to the NFL someday — after his father didn’t get the opportunity.

“I’ve been dreaming about it forever,” Willie Patterson said. “My dad had a chance to play in the NFL, but some things got in his way. So I just want to fulfill that dream.”

Willie Patterson is 5-foot-9, 175 pounds. But that, too, is motivation.

He threw for 3,115 yards and 35 touchdowns last season in leading Franklin Pierce to the first round of the 2A state playoffs — before a 55-14 loss to the Tumwater T-Birds, who the Cardinals open with at home at 7 p.m. on Sept. 2.

Patterson rushed for 720 yards and was named the 2A South Puget Sound League’s offensive player of the year.

Franklin Pierce coach Mickey Ahrens said he’s spoke with about 12-15 colleges, mostly in the Big Sky Conference, who are interested in recruiting Patterson but want to see if he can continue in his senior year what he did as a junior.

“I like to prove people wrong. I really like to prove people wrong,” Patterson said. “I’ve been small my whole life. But then I see guys like Russell Wilson and I go, ‘I want to be just like him.’ Or Trevone Boykin. Those guys are the truth. I want to be like those guys. If they can do it, I can do it.”

Expect more of the same this year from that Franklin Pierce offense.

It returns Alex Bing and Mason Starling, who were all-league wide receivers last year, and four of the five offensive linemen.

The Cardinals are certainly the favorites to win the 2A SPSL Mountain division.

But first things first.

“One of the things we’ll have to overcome is instead of playing for scholarships, play because you love the game,” Starling said. “I think that will make everyone want to play harder.”

The team went to an offseason camp on Whidbey Island, and Ahrens asked all his players to leave something behind.

“He (Patterson) left behind worrying what college he’s going to,” said Ahrens, who is entering his second year as the school’s coach. “He told the team he’s ready to play for you guys. It’s about the Franklin Pierce program.

“Which, of course, was music to my ears.”

The Cardinals coaches have expanded Patterson’s responsibilities this year, allowing him to make his own reads at the line of scrimmage.

“He’s such a smart quarterback,” Ahrens said. “We had a conversation at camp and I told him, ‘You’re going to be a coach. Whenever you’re finally done with football, come back here and you’ll run the offense.’ 

Patterson has a confidence that his teammates said came off, in the past, as rude. He said he’s since learned to use it to help others to play to the level he holds himself to.

Patterson said that confidence comes from his family. Another brother of his, Eric Patterson, was an all-league defensive back at Curtis.

“I feel like it comes from my family,” Willie Patterson said. “We have really grown up having that work ethic. You have to work for what you get. You can’t cheat the grind. It’s something that’s built in us. The Pattersons are built different.

“My dad is the one of the greatest influences I have in my life. He’s always pushing me, every day. If it’s not for football, it’s for life. There’s always something he’s trying to help me get better at.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677