JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shaquille Quarterman had his football path planned in eighth grade.
That’s when the Oakleaf High grad said that he fell in love with the game and found a relentless work ethic that would send him on to the University of Miami, and, optimistically, on to a selection in next week’s NFL draft.
Quarterman, a four-year starter at linebacker with the Hurricanes, is projected as a third-day pick in the draft. He’s been building up to this moment since middle school and stands to be the first player in Oakleaf history to hear his name called in the draft.
“I can’t really allow myself to get nervous, I know how the draft goes. One decision can cause a whole snowball effect,” he said. “I’ve prayed on it. I know I put in my work. My resume is substantial. That’s all due to God. I’ll go to whatever team is right for me.”
Quarterman has been laser-focused on this for years and followed a routine to get him here. A four-time All-ACC selection, including first-team nods as a junior and senior, he’s already in the books as one of the best defensive players to go through Coral Gables. Quarterman is the only Miami player to start 52 games and never miss a start. He ranks ninth in school history with 356 tackles and amassed 46.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
Quarterman’s work ethic is what has allowed him to get to this point.
“All the stuff that got me to where I am now, I’ve been doing consistently,” he said. “I decided that most of my fun would come later rather than earlier.”
Translation: Put in the work and sweat in the beginning to lay a foundation and reap the benefits of it later.
Quarterman didn’t take any shortcuts.
Coming out of middle school, he was a well-known football player who was poised for high school success. And he had options.
“My parents said, ‘you can go to Bolles.’ I took the [admission] test and passed the test. My parents said, ‘they go to playoffs every year,'” he said.
“Me and my friends, I’ve had the same friends, teammates, same core of friends, since I was 6. My core of friends didn’t have the option to go to Bolles.”
So Quarterman stayed, electing to build something at Oakleaf with his friends and teammates. It paid off.
“I fell in love with football in the eighth grade, but the offseason between my sophomore and junior year is where I really learned about [what it took],” he said. “We went so hard that offseason. We’d do drills until the street lights came on. We’d leave the football field and still keep doing drills. I remember those times.”
Oakleaf went 12-1 in Quarterman’s junior season.
That work ethic went with Quarterman to Miami.
Quarterman said the mantra about freshmen not being able to contribute right away in college didn’t sit well with him. Quarterman knew that it had to be earned and said that he and roommate Mike Pinckney, a Raines High product, were unfazed by the notion that they young players had to marinate in the system for a year before they could be ready.
Maybe some freshmen had to, but not Quarterman or Pinckney, who were roommates their first season at Miami. Pinckney is also an NFL draft prospect this year.
“We built something in high school, why can’t we do it again? Mike went to Raines and that school is famous, famous [for football]!,” he said.
“There was a thing that every freshman starts at the bottom of the roster. We know we can play. It was about who wanted it more. You can teach a person technique [early in college], but it was about who can play. Who had the passion. I’d never known not starting before. We were livid [at that mindset].”
That mindset got dumped on its head.
Quarterman and Pinckney started every game as true freshmen. Now, the NFL awaits, even if the draft process has been quite different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the first time it’s ever happened, have to roll with the punches, everybody has to,” Quarterman said. “It’s been tough missing out on those face-to-face interviews. It’s different. Never been a draft like it.”
Should Quarterman be selected, he’d be the first player from a Clay County program to be taken in the seven-round draft since Clay graduate Will Holden went to Arizona in the fifth round in 2017.