Shawqi Itraish has the support of past Pirates quarterbacks, too.
He’s a 6-foot-2, 193-pounder with a bazooka arm and speed that can get himself out of trouble.
Braden River coach Curt Bradley said his rising junior quarterback Shawqi Itraish looks the part, so when the 2019 season arrives, Itraish will be handed the program’s reins. Then he will have to prove he belongs, like the long line of successful Pirates quarterbacks before him.
Itraish caught the attention of Bradley and offensive coordinator Eric Sanders when he was a freshman. He started on the freshman team, then was promoted to junior varsity as a sophomore, eventually spending the last few games of that season with the varsity team, watching from the sidelines.
Last season, as a junior, he backed up starter Bryan Gagg, now at East Carolina.
Now, it’s his time.
“It feels great,” Itraish said. “The coaches have trust in me. I have prepared well. I feel comfortable with all the pre-play stuff, looking off the defense and figuring out zone coverage. I’m ready.”
Itraish spent the summer at collegiate camps, including ones at Duke and Georgia Tech. There, he improved his footwork and versatility, perfecting his balance on three- and five-step drops. These may seem like small things to fans, but when a player has natural talent, he doesn’t need to change the big things.
Bradley noticed his talent right away, but the program had plenty of talent at the position on the varsity. Even though Itraish played on the freshman team that first year, the varsity coaches knew they had something special, and not just because Itraish can throw the ball 50 yards in the air.
“He’s very quiet,” Bradley said. “He comes from a great family. He’s a kid you never have to worry about as far as, is he going to be here on time? He will be here early. He will stay late when needed. He will do all the work necessary. You don’t have to call his name during attendance because you know he’s there. He’s dedicated to the weight room. He’s put on a bunch of weight and put himself in position to have a great junior year.”
Bradley said Itraish isn’t a “moment” person. He never asks for the spotlight or makes the game about himself. He just does his job, and does it well.
Itraish appeared in three games last year, completing 12 of 17 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. The experience taught Itraish about the difference in speed between junior varsity and varsity football, and allowed him to create a rapport between he and the team’s returning wide receivers, including Robbie Goecker, who holds offers from Cornell and Holy Cross.
Bradley said some teams disliked the Pirates throwing the ball in games all but decided, but they did it to get Itraish the experience he needs to have a seamless transition to the starting spot.
Itraish still talks to Gagg, he said, about football and other things. He also got a Twitter shoutout from former Pirates quarterback Jacob Huesman, now a junior at Appalachian State.
“The next great one coming out [of] the River,” wrote Huesman, attached to a video of Itraish.
Following in these footsteps doesn’t make Itraish nervous, he said. He’s quiet, but confident, and is already thinking about how he will celebrate his first his first win, then his second and third.
Until then, don’t expect any celebration dances from him. He knows he has to earn that right.