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QB gets his shot to be the best

If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best.

Or at least compete with them.

Which is one of the many reasons Land O'Lakes' Drew Weatherford is thrilled to be invited to the prestigious EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp on July 23-27 in Southern California.

"It's a great feeling," Weatherford said. "I just thank God for putting the players around me that have helped me succeed."

The Elite 11 camp is a showcase for 11 of the nation's blue-chip quarterback prospects and a 12th raw but promising talent. The fifth-year camp is run by longtime California coach Bob Johnson, whose son Rob was the Bucs' former back-up now with the Redskins.

It was Weatherford's April appearance at the Florida Nike camp in Gainesville, another exclusive camp for recruits, that earned him an Elite 11 invite.

Not his physical performance, per se. Not with Weatherford playing on a left knee surgically repaired in December. Rather, it was his intangibles that earned him a spot in the Elite 11 camp: leadership and eagerness to learn.

The Elite 11 camp is many things. It is an intense regimen of quarterback drills and blackboard work conducted by top college players such as Eli Manning. It is a week-long counseling session for athletes with star potential. It's also a battle between the nation's elite QBs to come out of the camp ranked No. 1 by recruiters.

And just as importantly, it is a learning experience.

Weatherford wants to take advantage of all that, the organizers said, and not all players do.

"Drew came to the Nike camp, and to be honest with you he had a solid camp, coming off that (knee) surgery," said organizer Greg Biggins of Student Sports, Inc. "He still wasn't 100 percent. His drops were slow, not spectacular. He didn't blow us away.

"Then we watched his game tapes. He's a great leader, and he's a winner. I think the other 10 guys in the huddle want to rally around him."

The organizers don't want to invite players who think they have nothing to learn.

"The other two kids we wanted to invite, they failed the personal interview," Biggins said. "Drew was a great person. He wants to come and learn, and we definitely liked his arm strength."

The Elite 11 camp is the latest entry to Weatherford's packed summer itinerary, one that has taken him from camps at Georgia and Tennessee to Florida State today and Florida this weekend. In between he works with local speed trainer Johnny Walters at the Trinity YMCA at 8 each morning.

It is also the start of recruiting attention that will be lavished on Weatherford this season. After a record-setting junior year in which Weatherford complete 162 of 249 passes for 2,645 yards, a school and county record, and a state-leading 39 touchdown passes, the Class 4A second-team selection shot to the top of national preseason recruiting lists.

"I'm really excited about it, but I'm more determined than excited," he said. "I want to get there and compete with everybody. I want to play my best and walk out of there with the feeling that I gave it 110 percent.

"My goal is to walk out of there being the best quarterback in the nation, and I'm going to give it my all. If I'm not considered the best quarterback in the nation, then I'll have to work harder and prove it on the field."

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