Is this record-setting high-schooler the Gophers' next quarterback?
MINNEAPOLIS — Brennan Armstrong accounted for nine touchdowns in a game at Shelby High School in 2014, yet the 14-year-old freshman quarterback didn't get much publicity for his performance.
The local newspapers in north central Ohio and national outlets such as Deadspin, Fox Sports and the Sporting News all focused their coverage on the exorbitant final score — Tiffin Columbian 83, Shelby 82 — and how one of Armstrong's opposing running backs scored 10 touchdowns.
But college coaches began to take notice. Before Armstrong's junior season, North Carolina, Virginia and Iowa State had offered scholarships to the 6-foot-2, left-handed, dual-threat QB.
Western Michigan, under P.J. Fleck, offered Armstrong a scholarship after his junior season last December, and when Fleck took over the Gophers in January, he re-extended that offer. Armstrong took an unofficial visit to the U in February and within a week gave an oral commitment to join the Gophers' 2018 recruiting class.
As questions and concerns about the Gophers' current stable of quarterbacks continue into mid-October this season, next year's starter could be finishing up an undefeated season and record-setting high school career in Ohio.
Armstrong's senior year, however, started with a suspension for violating training rules, he confirmed to the Pioneer Press. He missed the first three games because he said he attended a party last spring, but he says he did not drink alcohol before he left.
"That is what I got in trouble with," Armstrong said. "... It was a learning experience. When something like that happens, I just have to get out of there and not worry about who I'm with.
"I learned the hard way. I will take care of it, and I will definitely not make that mistake again."
Armstrong's suspension shouldn't be construed as a red flag, Shelby coach Erik Will said. The following day, Armstrong apologized and worked out in the weight room.
"He took ownership over it," Will said. "... He didn't make excuses. He knew that making excuses wasn't going to make the situation any better."
Will said Armstrong hasn't missed a practice or workout in four years, and when the team runs sprints, Armstrong is at the front of the pack. "That is the kind of kid that Minnesota is getting," he said.
The Shelby Whippets started 3-0 without Armstrong, and they are 4-0 with him over the past month. That record continues an upward trajectory that Will and Armstrong have led since 2014.
As a freshman, Armstrong beat out a senior for the starting job before a 2-8 season. As a sophomore, Shelby improved to 5-5. That following spring, Armstrong went into Will's government classroom when the coach wasn't teaching.
"He comes in without a speck of arrogance," Will said. "He said he really wanted an opportunity to play defense. He felt like — and we were — kind of protecting him a little bit. We knew at that time he was going to be a college quarterback."
As a junior, Armstrong played QB and safety as the Whippets went 11-2 and advanced to the equivalent of the state quarterfinals. Armstrong loves to hit and feels like playing defense helps him diagnose coverages as a quarterback.
"He really wants to win football games," Will said. "He doesn't consider himself above; he considers himself amongst. That's hard because a lot of people say that, but he shows that day in and day out."
Armstrong said he talked with Fleck for an hour and a half during his visit last winter. "My head was definitely throbbing," Armstrong said. "I had to soak it all in."
What resonated with Armstrong was how he felt Fleck could help him mature.
"He doesn't just look at the football standpoint," Armstrong said. "He looks at creating a great young man and taking control of your future and your life."
With three remaining high school games, plus playoffs, Armstrong will add to his existing school records: 9,153 total yards and 113 total touchdowns (61 passing, 52 rushing). He has a 3.5 grade-point average and takes advanced-placement courses that will allow him to graduate this winter and enroll at Minnesota in January.
At the U, he will become acclimated to college life, get a jump start with spring practices next March and ultimately compete for the Gophers' starting QB role next fall.
"That is definitely my goal," Armstrong said. "I think I bring a lot of playmaking ability, and my arm is strong, too. ... If I learn the stuff and stay true to myself, and stay true to what they give me in their process and game plan, I think I will be in great shape."
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.