TAMPA — Though he's no longer a high school assistant or a college recruiter, John Kaleo will be keeping a close eye on a number of local players when spring football kicks off next week.
He has spent the last four months teaching perfect footwork, correct drops, proper reads and decision-making to a slew of young signal-callers.
After tutoring a dozen or so of the area's most promising quarterbacks at his new Kaleo Quarterback Academy, spring ball is like the first exam for the former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback as his students put his teachings into action.
"If they don't look good and they struggle then what went wrong falls back on me," said Kaleo, who has worked with Jesuit's Tommy Eveld, East Lake's Pete DiNovo, Tarpon Springs' Louis Pappas and Freedom's Jon Economou, to name a few, at Tampa's Skyway Park.
None have college offers yet, but all have made significant strides this offseason. Eveld, DiNovo, Pappas and Economou expect colleges to come calling in May.
Pappas and DiNovo, who have done well at various camps and combines this year, both have said that Kaleo's emphasis on watching video and breaking down defenses, as well as the emphasis on footwork, has been a boon to their games.
"I feel more comfortable when I come up to the line of scrimmage," DiNovo said.
Kaleo has been tutoring local quarterbacks between his coaching duties at Iona and Towson University the past few years, working with former standouts such as Alonso's C.J. Bennett, Hillsborough's Tarean Austin and Boca Ciega's Orhian Johnson.
But with a young family at home in Tampa, Kaleo decided last year that the college scene wasn't right for him. He started his academy in January, and is also the offensive coordinator for the Storm.
"I got into this six, seven years ago, at end of my career, I thought there was a need, especially in this area," Kaleo said. "There were a couple of guys doing some personal training, but I wanted to start something (bigger). I want to do like what Steve Clarkson does, bring that to the Tampa Bay area."
Clarkson, a former Stanford standout, is one of the country's most renowned quarterback coaches and now runs a series of camps across the country.
Like Clarkson, Kaleo also starred in college, setting school records for passing yards, touchdowns and total offense at Maryland. In 1997, he led the Storm to the Arena Football League championship.
Kaleo brings a lot to the table; he was able to run as a quarterback, and he posted prolific passing numbers. As an Arena League quarterback for 14 years, he also perfected exactly what he is teaching quarterbacks: drop, read, react.
To do that, quarterbacks have to have some idea of what is coming at them, and that is the emphasis of what Kaleo teaches.
His two-hour sessions include an hour watching video and an hour putting what they just saw into action.
"It's more classroom development than teaching them to throw a tight spiral," Kaleo said. "Through my years in college, I came to see that there's just not a lot of time for coaches to work on proper teaching for quarterbacks."
With fewer scholarships available for quarterbacks than other positions, everyone is looking for an edge. That means lots of camps, combines and throwing competitions. For many in Tampa Bay, it means a few hours each weekend with Kaleo.
"Spring football in the state of Florida is awesome," Kaleo said. "I'm looking forward to watching the 2012 and 2013 kids, to see who stands out and then to get back together and recognize what we need to work on this summer towards the fall."
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6261.