Quarterback Shea Patterson, at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, has the physical build and arm strength of a grown man. His game film highlights are impressive.
Then, you take a look at his face. No facial hair. Bubbly smile. Boyish looks.
Because, as a freshman, he’s still a boy, of course.
The difference in Patterson -- a member of the class of 2016 from Hidalgo, Texas, in the state’s Rio Grande Valley -- and many other freshmen who play high school football is that Patterson can now say his college future is solidified. Patterson received an offer from Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez during an unofficial visit on Friday, and he verbally committed to the Wildcats shortly afterward.
“The place is amazing,” Patterson said. Right when I got there, I took a tour of campus. It was beautiful. I took a tour around the football field, locker room and the weight room. It just felt like a right fit.”
Many might think a freshman committing -- let alone a program offering a freshman -- might be something of a stretch. Hidalgo coach Scott Ford will be the first to argue that Patterson is not the average 15-year-old.
He certainly didn’t put up average statistics. Patterson was named the MVP of his district, accounting for roughly 2,600 total yards and 24 touchdowns. His numbers are even more impressive considering he missed a few weeks of the season with a broken left wrist, which is his non-throwing wrist.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach some good high school players, but he’s head and shoulders above the best,” Ford said. “There’s really not much he can’t do with the football. He’s so goal-oriented, and I’m really looking forward to watching him grow more.”
One of Patterson’s best highlights of the season came on Nov. 2, when he threw for 583 yards and six touchdowns in a win against Progreso, Texas. He also rushed for a touchdown in the game.
Patterson’s father said his son’s highlight tape reached roughly 25 college programs. When they found out that Arizona was showing interest, they decided to make a trip to Tucson, Ariz., to not only visit the campus but also see family who lived nearby.
“We were very proactive with his video, because he had a great freshman year,” Sean Patterson said. “We forwarded it to schools, and they saw the video. Arizona was one of the schools to show a lot of interest, so we decided to come for a visit.
“Shea is a mature 15-year-old kid, and I told him if it feels right and the offer, go ahead and do it. He loved it. He said it was perfect for him.”
As an eighth-grader, Patterson participated in the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio back in January. He was a starter for the Unlimited West squad. It was the second time he played in the bowl game. The first time was in 2011 as a seventh-grader.
Patterson, who can throw the football 65 yards, next will prepare to play for Team USA’s 16-and-under team at the International Bowl in Round Rock, Texas, in February. He was the starting quarterback for Team USA’s Under-15 Red squad earlier this year.
Patterson’s blood line has plenty of athleticism. His father, who stands 6-5, played college basketball at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside. His grandfather is the late George Patterson, a 6-8 athlete who played center in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons in the late 1960s.
Additionally, Patterson’s older brother Sean Jr. just finished his senior year as the quarterback for Duquesne. Sean was a three-year starter who threw for more than 6,500 yards and 63 touchdowns in his college career.
Shea now will get the opportunity to follow in his brother’s footsteps. The best part about it is that he’ll have the chance to get better with three more seasons of high school ball.
“I don’t have to worry about anything for the next years. I think that’s the best part,” he said. “I can just go out and help my team win football games and just enjoy my high school career.”