Before his final game for Lake Travis High School, Charlie Brewer felt colossal pressure.
The standard had been set. His older brother, Michael, had met it twice before, winning a pair of Texas high school state championships. Before that, the Cavaliers had won three. The wait for title No. 6 was longer than the community preferred, and Charlie came close as a junior, but didn’t quite close the deal.
Dec. 17, 2016, was his last shot.
“I was like, ‘Man, I better win this one,'” Brewer, now the starting quarterback at Baylor, recalled jokingly. “If I don’t win this game, I’m not welcome back in Lake Travis.”
Lake Travis already had produced a Heisman winner, an Orange Bowl winner and another quarterback ranked second best in the country. Winning state championships was customary.
“That’s just how it’s supposed to be,” Cleveland Browns quarterback and Lake Travis alumnus Baker Mayfield said, “and you have to live up to it.”
Fortunately for Brewer, he found the finish line. Looking back on it, he called it a “relief.” When you produce a Division I quarterback every couple of years — as Lake Travis has with every starter in its program since 2004 — you learn to live with high expectations.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you why there’s been so many Division I quarterbacks,” Brewer said. “It’s kinda crazy.”
It is, but it hasn’t happened simply by chance.
If you follow recruiting, you’ve probably heard of Lake Travis. It was once was the home of the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country in 2009, Garrett Gilbert. It also produced a quarterback who won an Orange Bowl at Kansas (Todd Reesing). Oh, and there’s that guy who won the Heisman Trophy (Mayfield).
All told, the past eight Lake Travis starting quarterbacks have moved on to Division I programs. Seven signed letters of intent (one as an athlete). One, famously, walked on (Mayfield, again). Current Lake Travis starter Hudson Card, the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback recruit in the ESPN Junior 300, will make it nine straight when he signs as part of the 2020 class (he’s verbally committed to Texas).
The Cavaliers’ junior varsity quarterback, 2021 prospect Nate Yarnell, already has a scholarship offer from Houston.
But it wasn’t always that way.
When Reesing was a freshman in 2002, it was a “sleepy little lake community” in suburban Austin that had virtually no gridiron success. The varsity went 1-19 combined in 2001 and 2002.
“Football was kind of a laughingstock,” he said. “No one really cared. People were much more concerned with going to the lake or listening to music or checking out what the next concert was as opposed to, ‘Where’s the football team playing this week?'”
When a new coach, Jeff Dicus, arrived in 2003, things changed. He and his offensive coordinator, Jerry Bird, installed a more wide-open spread offense. Dicus aimed to better align the middle-school programs with what the high school ran. An emphasis on 7-on-7 competition was placed. Expectations were raised.
“He kinda got the guys off the lake in the summertime and got them in the weight room and got a program going,” said former Lake Travis offensive coordinator Michael Wall, now the head coach at Willis (Texas) High.
Success wasn’t instant, but there was improvement. Dicus’ first team went 3-7, which was three more wins than Lake Travis had the year prior. The team’s quarterback, Nick Bird (Jerry’s son), performed well enough to earn all-district honors and a chance to play at then-Division II Abilene Christian (the Wildcats are now FCS).
“[Nick Bird] was the catalyst that really got everything going there,” Dicus said. “He got kids out throwing and catching and we got involved with 7-on-7. … I give him a lot of credit.”