JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shaquille Quarterman has had the same mentality for years — work hard and stay consistent.
It’s taken him from a high school field at Oakleaf into the NFL with his hometown Jaguars, becoming just the second local product to be selected by Jacksonville since 2006.
But long before Quarterman became a fourth-round draft pick of the Jaguars last Saturday, he was helping lay the foundation at Oakleaf High School. Derek Chipoletti, his coach for four seasons with the Knights, said that Quarterman’s physical skills have always been visible. As a freshman linebacker, he was 6-1 and 230 pounds and was a violent hitter.
The trait that stands out above all — consistency.
Quarterman is doing the same things now, granted on a higher and more visible level, that he was doing as a freshman linebacker on the varsity team.
Chipoletti said that the Oakleaf staff started to see what they had in Quarterman before his freshman season began in 2012. The Knights traveled to a camp out of the area and wanted to see what they had with the soon-to-be ninth grader.
Quarterman was already a well-known commodity coming out of middle school. He had options to go to more established high school programs but opted to stay at his neighborhood school and build something with the Knights.
“We stuck him in, welcome to high school football, you’re playing against some good teams. Booker T. Washington. Seffner Armwood,” said Chipoletti, who was a Super 11 linebacker in high school at Orange Park and signed with UCF. “It really was welcome to high school football moment. Some of the best talent in the state down there. So, he got a taste of it real quick. He didn’t back down, which was impressive.”
Oakleaf opened in 2010 and went 2-7. In 2011, the Knights went 0-10. Chipoletti was hired in 2012 to help the program find its footing.
That summer, he and the staff saw something special in Quarterman.
There other players around Quarterman who were special during those early Oakleaf years. Twin brothers Jeremy and Jerod Boykins were solid players. Darrion Owens. Chris Westry. Aaron Duckworth. Keylan Brown. But Chipoletti said that Quarterman was a poised to be great.
“We had a lot of great program kids that worked really, really hard but he set the tone for sure. He set the tone,” Chipoletti said. “If your best player is not the hardest working guy in the building, what incentive do the other kids have [to work hard]. He set that tone. Definitely the leader in the locker room.”
Oakleaf went from a combined 2-17 in its first two seasons, to years of 6-4, 4-6, 12-1 and 8-2 during Quarterman’s tenure.
Quarterman hasn’t changed either. He remains the same person now as he was back then, Chipoletti said.
“There are people that are 6-1 and 230 who can run a 4.7 out there that are walking down the street that have played football that are not drafted in the fourth round,” Chipoletti said.
“He is a very unique mix of God-given talent. He is fast and strong and all those things. You knew in eighth grade that this kid was going to be a great football player. Not very often does it come in that humble and hungry and get after your ass package that he has, with a consistency kicker. The consistency that he brings, from the time you talked to him in eighth grade to the time you’re talking to him as a would-be rookie in the NFL, hasn’t changed much.”
As for winding up with the Jaguars, Chipoletti said that it’s a win-win.
The local kid returns home to play with a team he grew up watching, and the Jaguars drafted a steal. Quarterman is the first player since 2006 (Ed White High’s Dee Webb) to be drafted by his hometown team.
“I can tell you that linebacker room just got better. Whether he’s the starter or not, [the] linebacker room got better,” Chipoletti said. “That locker room got better because they drafted this guy. He is going to make the people around him better and to me that’s the true testament of what a man is supposed to do, much less a football player.”