CORRECTION: Clayton High School's record was incorrect in previous versions of this article. The team's record is 2-1. Correction made on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014
Everything does not come easily to Clayton High quarterback Eric Hoy although he often creates the illusion that it does.
He had not taken a snap from center since the second grade before Clayton High coach Randy Pinkowski decided after last year’s 7-5 season that the Comets were going to make some major changes. The biggest change was moving to a spread option attack. The coach wanted Hoy as his triggerman, although Hoy had never thrown a pass in a game.
Hoy has emerged as one of the area’s most effective quarterbacks. He is rushing for 176.7 yards per game and throwing for another 168.3 yards. He leads the area in passing efficiency, a rating derived from completion percentage, yardage, touchdowns and interceptions.
Hoy reads the option spread offense like he has done it for years instead of nine months. His team is 2-1 following Friday’s 20-14 victory over South Johnston thanks to Hoy’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Gleisner on the final play.
He is a big part of why the Comets have emerged as a primary challenger to East Wake and Garner at the top of the Greater Neuse 4A.
“He is just a phenomonal young man,” Pinkowski said. “I knew he was a good athletically and good enough academically to make the switch. He has done amazingly well.”
But it has taken a lot of work to make it look effortless.
Hoy, who wishes he was 5-foot-9 but is actually 5-8, had no hesitation in making the position switch.
“I trust coach Pink entirely,” Hoy said. “I know he wants what is best for me. If he told me to run 100 miles to help the team, I’d run 100 miles. No questions.”
The trust wasn’t there at the start of last season, Pinkowski’s first at the school. Pinkowski succeeded Gary Fowler, who had coached the Comets for 31 years.
Hoy had played wide receiver, running back, safety and linebacker during his sophomore year under Fowler. But Pinkowski had him only at defensive back during opening drills. Hoy set up a meeting with his coach to see if he could do play offense, too.
Hoy remembers the conversation as, “We’ve only practiced three days, bub.”
Their relationship grew from there. “He is just a great man,” Hoy said of Pinkowski. “It is never about him. It is always about us.”
Hoy attacked the quarterback transition with tenacity. He threw essentially every day after school until dark and on weekends.
Pinkowski, a former athletic trainer, gave him exercises to strengthen his arm and Hoy watched films and studied the plays in Pinkowski’s new spread option attack. He studied football the same way he learned to study in the classroom during his junior year.
Studying was a new thing to him. He has never made anything other than an “A” in a high school course and academic success used to come pretty easily.
“I really didn’t study,” he said. “I’d read over the material once, understand it and maybe look over it again before a test.”
That path disappeared last fall when he began taking college-level classes. He remembers his first test in AP statistics.
“I had read over it once and figured I knew it,” he said. “The test was awful. I got back a 35. I had never had a grade like that. That was my wake-up call.”
Hoy recovered to ace the course and keep his stream of A’s intact. His overall GPA is 4.8, which is as impressive as his 40-yard time of 4.49 seconds.
But Hoy is still learning how to be a quarterback. He can execute the reads, the throws and the runs, but he has discovered that mastering the physical and mental aspects is not enough.
“I thought that as a running back, you run, you block, you catch and as a quarterback you hand off, pass or run,” he said. “But there is more to it than that.
“But if you’re the quarterback, you’ve got to guide a team and show leadership. And you’ve got to lead yourself.”
Hoy said he is still learning that part, still taking on more responsibility and being accountable to his leadership to his teammates.
“You’re just not the passer or the guy who calls plays,” he said. “You’re a leader. Regardless of what happens, you’re going to lead.”