Steve Clarkson
Paul Wellman

The most talented array of quarterbacks outside the Archie Manning family spent last weekend on the football field at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium. They were getting an early tune-up for the 2008 season at something called the Steve Clarkson Super Seven QB Retreat.

Steve Clarkson is a former San Jose State quarterback who has established a super-sized reputation as a tutor of would-be Joe Montanas. People pay big bucks to have Clarkson work with their kids, including Montana himself. His sons Nate-who will be a walk-on at Notre Dame-and Nick were among the participants in two days of workouts and brain sessions.

Joe and Jennifer Montana were just two of the parent-celebrities who turned the sideline into a version of courtside at a Laker game. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was there to support his son Jerry. “As a coach, you evaluate,” he said. “As a parent, you pull for them and hope for them.” Snoop Dogg was there for his son, Corde Broadus. “He’ll be a ninth-grader at my old school, Long Beach Poly,” the actor and rapper said. “He’s going to play quarterback; I played with the girls.” And there was Wayne Gretzky, whose son Trevor will be a freshman QB at Oaks Christian. Why didn’t he put the boy in ice skates? “He’s a California kid,” said the Great One.

The Super Seven were top-rated high school quarterbacks, most of whom are about to enter college: Matt Barkley (Mater Dei ’09 / committed to USC); Dayne Crist (Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High ’08 / Notre Dame University); Terrelle Pryor (Jeannette, Pa. ’08 / Ohio State); Matt Scott (Corona Centennial ’08 / Arizona); E.J. Manuel (Bayside, Va. ’08 / Florida State); Josh Nunes (Upland ’09); and Russell Shepard (Cypress Ridge, Texas, ’09 / LSU).

They took turns tossing spirals with a rather impressive lineup of QBs who have already made their names in college: Jake Locker, the rock-solid Washington sophomore; Jimmy Clausen, the battered but unbowed Notre Dame signal-caller; Josh Freeman, a 6’6″, 250-pound strongman from Kansas State; Rudy Carpenter of Arizona State; and Willie Tuitama of Arizona.

Joining them were a pair of SBCC sophomores, Conner Rehage and Austin Civita-one of the perks of attending the host school. “It’s pretty crazy,” Rehage said. “It’s fun to mix it up with guys at that level.”

They practiced their footwork and their arm action. They tested their accuracy by throwing at archery-style targets moving back and forth on wheels. They threw deep posts, fades and slants to a bevy of young receivers.

From a distance of 50 yards, Joe Montana spotted a familiar figure on the field. “What’s up, J.R.?” Montana yelled. It was Jerry Rice, who had caught so many of Montana’s passes during an era when they were winning Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. He was teaching the receivers how to run their patterns.

Leaving the field at the end of the morning session, Rice had a handshake like a vise grip. He was invigorated by the activity.

“I enjoy working out, getting out here with the kids,” the 45-year-old Rice said. “I like being able to go through the drills and stuff. I have found out it’s always better to able to show them. You can stand off and coach, but if you can show them what to do, they have a better opportunity of really sticking with it.”

During his career, Rice said, “It was all about conditioning for me, making sacrifices in the off-season, taking my body to a whole different pain tolerance. You’ve got to be able to endure. It’s about that fourth quarter when everything’s on the line-you’re tired, but you’ve got to be able to dig down deep and still make that play.”

It was no coincidence that the gathering had a 49er flavor with Montana, Rice, and Randy Cross, a former Niner lineman who also was on hand. The Steve Clarkson program is part of the DeBartolo Sports University, an enterprise headed by Eddie DeBartolo, owner of the Niners during their glory days.

SBCC athletic director Mike Warren said he hopes to bring the QB Retreat here every year. The downside is that the public is barred access to the track and field for two days, but Warren said it is offset by the rental income and positive exposure.

You could call it the annual Stargazer Bowl.


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