West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer coach Jack Daniels admits that he thought former star quarterback Jacoby Brissett would end up at West Virginia after he decided to transfer from Florida. However, the longtime relationship that Brissett had with new NC State head coach Dave Doeren ended up tilting the scale in the Wolfpack's favor, and the 6-foot-4, 229-pound true sophomore is on his way to Raleigh to enroll in school today.
"[Doeren] was obviously the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and, at that time, Wisconsin was recruiting Jacoby and a couple of our other players," Daniels recalled. "He actually went on a visit to Wisconsin and developed a relationship with Coach Doeren because he was the one that recruited our school. That made a huge difference in the process.
"I was kind of surprised by the decision, but I think in the end, that was the determining factor for his mother and him in making the decision. I just know that he felt at home with Coach Doeren. He's extremely honest, and I think he feels like that he's going to have a guy that is going to be there for a while. I think he has shown that he's going to develop a quality program [at NC State], and I think that Jacoby just felt at home there."
Brissett also had the benefit of a former prep teammate and friend playing under Doeren when he served as the head coach at Northern Illinois. His former star receiver and classmate in high school, Tommylee Lewis, helped the Huskies win two conference titles and reach the Orange Bowl this fall under the former Wisconsin assistant.
"I know for a fact that Tommylee and Jacoby have talked about the positive influence that Coach Doeren was," Daniels noted. "He took Tommy under his wing, made sure he was going to class every day, made sure he was going the right things and has helped him develop into a quality young man."
Daniels fondly remembered Brissett's exploits on the prep level, which helped the field general rise to being ranked as a four-star prospect, the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback and No. 75 overall player in the country as a senior by Rivals.com. In addition to leading Dwyer to a state crown on the gridiron, he also led the basketball team to a title on the hardwood, but he'll be focused exclusively on football in college.
"I mentioned it briefly, but he appears to have no interest," Daniels said of playing two sports in Raleigh. "He wants to play football and that's it."
During two seasons at Florida, he appeared in 13 games with a pair of starts, and completed 41 of 74 passes (55 percent) for 455 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions; he has also rushed for three scores. However, Daniels predicts his star pupil will find the type of success he experienced at Dwyer once again.
"Obviously, it's a different game in high school, but every time he stepped on the field for our team, he completely dominated," the coach said. "His arm strength is ridiculous; he's got great accuracy. People kind of underestimate him as an athlete because they tag him as a drop-back passer, but he's really underrated as an athlete. He was one of the top [basketball] guards in the country as a senior, he led our football and basketball teams to state championships. He's a winner, he's very competitive and he's very proud.
"He's dynamic and kids want to play with him, teammates want to play hard for him. He's a leader. He's not going to necessarily rip into somebody, but it's just the way he plays and commands his presence, it's remarkable."
The coach admits that it was hard on the star quarterback to lose the battle for the starting job in Gainesville, but he has bounced back from that obstacle and will be better because of it in the future. Daniels called Brissett's experiences at Florida motivation for when he becomes eligible in 2014.
"Initially, it was crushing [for Jacoby to be second-string]," he said. "In perspective, it's just a football game, it's not the most important thing in life but, at that point and time, it crushed him. There was a point where he was so proud and felt like he let so many people down that he wouldn't answer his phone for a couple of weeks. He wouldn't talk to anybody. It crushed him, but it was a lesson in life that he learned. After the initial blow, he said, 'I'm going to pick up the pieces, help this team the best I can and move on.' That's what happened.
"It you look at the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL, all of those guys — except for maybe Peyton Manning — have had a difficult road. Tom Brady was an after-thought as a draft choice, Joe Flacco was a guy that was at Pitt and then had to leave there to go to Delaware, Aaron Rodgers was a junior college guy. Those guys are proud and good player, but they remember those things that make them work harder, they hold those grudges, and I think Jacoby will be the same way."
Brissett has also faced many challenges off the field, but has developed into a strong young man because of his journey, according to Daniels.
"He's very likeable," he noted. "He's a kid that doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't go out. He comes from a tough raising — his mother raised him and his father has never been in his life. He's very proud, competitive and I consider him to be like a son to me. He's just a fantastic kid.
"I'm happy he decided on NC State, and now I'm a Wolfpack fan."