DAVIDSON – Anthony DiGioia isn’t afraid of the spotlight. The Davidson Day quarterback instead took steps since the last football season moving toward it.
He’s only replacing the top high school football player in the nation. No pressure or expectations there, right?
DiGioia, a senior, transferred from Hough High to become the Patriots quarterback. He is following Will Grier, who graduated after winning national player of the year honors, signing with Florida and helping Davidson Day win its third straight state championship.
All eyes were on Grier during his dazzling, record-setting performances.
All eyes this season will be on DiGioia, the guy following the legend.
“I try not to think about it,” DiGioia said, laughing. “Everywhere I go it seems I’m reminded I have, literally, the biggest shoes in the country to fill.”
Many of Grier’s awards are displayed at the school. Digioia’s seen the shrine, and living in the lake area, knows all about Grier’s accomplishments.
DiGioia can’t be Grier, but doesn’t worry about the comparison.
“I try to do what I can, and play football the way I can,” he said. “Use the coach and the players around me to do what I can.”
DiGioia is a pocket passer, and not the impromptu scrambler that Grier was. But he has a strong arm and throws the deep ball well. At Davidson Day, quarterbacks throw to every quadrant of the field and that won’t change because there’s a new player under center.
Davidson Day coach Chad Grier said he’s impressed that DiGioia stepped into a role many players may shy away from.
“He sought it out,” Grier said. “He’s our quarterback. He’s a great kid who works his butt off. The fact that he’s been able to start from zero is impressive. We have kids who’ve been with us since sixth grade. He’s embracing it. This is what he wants to do.”
DiGioia’s crash course began eight weeks ago to learn the Patriots’ offense. He scribbled notes in his first meeting with coaches. Watched film. Learned timing with receivers during Davidson Day’s summer schedule of 7-on-7 passing competitions.
At first, Grier said, DiGioia was wide-eyed a couple of times. That’s natural, but not totally acceptable when it affects your play. That didn’t take long to change.
In mid-July, DiGioia threw 49 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in 14 games at the Palmetto State 7-on-7 Shootout, helping the Patriots advance to the championship game. The event featured several top-notch large schools from around Southeast.
“To do this you’ve got to believe in yourself, have an inner confidence,” Grier said. “It’s taking a huge chance. His parents are writing a big check for him to come here. You can argue it’s a great situation or a tough situation, but you’ve got to have confidence to put yourself in it. His family believes in him enough to give him that chance.”
DiGioia’s off-season tutelage included a week or so of practicing with Will Grier. It was the legend and the learner on the same field, passing the proverbial baton.
“It’s not about me replacing Will,” DiGioia said. “It’s about learning from the things he did well. We went over (pass) route concepts and different ways the corners and safeties would be playing. When you’re watching (game) film, there’s no better person to watch than Will Grier.”