This time there will be no national television or major magazines around, but there will still be plenty of attention on Friday night’s football game at University High School.
Adam Bledsoe will see to that.
The Eisenhower quarterback begins his senior season with a 7:30 non-league game at U-Hi as one of the most sought-after players in the country, thanks to the trail blazed by his big brother, Drew.
By maintaining close ties to his family in Yakima, Drew Bledsoe, who the New England Patriots made the highest-paid player in the National Football League, has drawn the spotlight toward his not-solittle brother.
It’s the name, and not the numbers, that first drew recruiters to Yakima. Last season, Adam Bledsoe completed less than 50 percent of his passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns.
What the talent scouts discovered is a potential Drew Bledsoe, who threw for 2,560 yards and 25 TDs his senior year at Walla Walla six years ago.
“He’s not his brother,” Eisenhower coach Greg Gavin cautioned, “but if his name was not Bledsoe, he’d still be a pretty good high school quarterback and get recruited.”
Behind Adam’s modest numbers are a 6-foot-5, 205-pound quarterback with a strong arm and surprising speed who can squat 400 pounds and has already scored almost 1,200 on the SAT.
“Drew is probably a year ahead of Adam as far as getting the job done on the field,” Gavin said, pointing out that Adam split time on the JV as a freshman and sophomore. “Mechanically, Adam is a clinic and he’s a better runner. He’s a complete player.”
Adam also takes the glare of the spotlight in stride.
“The only bad thing is people always comparing me to him,” Adam said. “Those pressures haven’t changed, but my attitude about them has. It’s not so bad. I’ve got it in perspective, and I try to only see the positive side of it affects me.”
Said Gavin, “The nice thing is, his dad, (Mac) who’s an assistant coach with me, and his mom (Barbara) are wonderful. They brought him up to handle it.”
Adam threw eight straight incompletions in his first varsity start a year ago, but the Cadets won. They went on to win seven of nine games, including five of six decided by four points or less. An early loss to Richland kept them out of the playoffs. The biggest win was a 10-6 victory over Walla Walla, which went on to finish second in the state, with Drew in the audience in Yakima.
It was a bye week for the Patriots and a television crew followed Drew, who was on his way to become the Patriots’ answer to Ted Williams, Bobby Orr and Larry Bird in New England.
Last week’s Sports Illustrated pro football issue had a feature on Drew and his relationship with coach Bill Parcells. It included a Bledsoe family picture with Adam front and center.
Drew sharing the spotlight - and his wealth - has allowed Adam to travel to New England and around the country for NFL games and meet many professional athletes.
“It’s great,” Adam said. “For a kid, it’s like a dream life.”
The spillover has fallen on the Eisenhower players.
“The kids enjoy it,” Gavin said. “It put us in a positive light. It’s great for the team. Gives us positive recognition. We talk about it all the time.”
Gavin said he needs a bigger mailbox to keep up with the recruiting mail. He has talked to coaches coast to coast and is constantly sending out film. The hardest pursuers are from the Pac-10 and Big Ten. However, Adam isn’t a lock to follow Drew to Washington State, though he’s not afraid to fill those shoes and counts Cougar coach Mike Price as a close family friend.
But just because Gavin has a Bledsoe, don’t expect to see Drew-esque numbers under Adam’s name.
“We’re not a passing team, even with a Bledsoe on the team. People have their ropes out. They’re fraught with anticipation,” Gavin said with a chuckle. “Change for one year then go back to what the program does best? We’ll throw when we want to throw.”
It doesn’t make sense to completely change direction now that the Cadets have tied a school record with four straight winning seasons.
Also, for the first time since Gavin left Central Valley for Yakima in 1983 a Tri-Cities team isn’t one of the top two preseason favorites. Walla Walla and Ike are picked 1-2 in the Big Nine.
Gavin said that 26 of the top 28 offensive players from a year ago return.
“Based on the kids we have back and the way the program has progressed, we should be OK,” Gavin said. “We made a determination not to put the whole load on Adam Bledsoe, even though he’s capable. We have a good line and good running backs.
“The defense is really rebuilt, I hope it can catch up to the offense. We’re not a shootout team, we like to run the ball, play defense and have a good kicking game. We like games in the two- or three-touchdown range.”
Just maybe those touchdowns will be a little easier to come by with a Bledsoe throwing the ball.
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