Aurora Christian quarterback Anthony Maddie, pictured on his 72-yard touchdown run against Mt. Carmel in the Class 3A state title game, had 17 rushing touchdowns this year and 52 passing.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
Rick Westemail@example.com Playoffs Round Five Aurora Christian vs. Mt. Carmel in the Class 3A state title football game in Champaign.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
It was summertime, and a friendly competition emerged at the 50-yard line on the bright, green turf of what the Aurora Christian faithful call "God's Field."
Nate Peterson reared back and threw the football 6 yards deep into the end zone. Jordan Roberts went just a tad further, unleashing a 57-yard heave.
Anthony Maddie, joining the two elite Eagles quarterbacks of seasons past, was next. His toss sailed through the goal posts, a bomb Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe estimated to have traveled more than 65 yards.
"You could just see the eyes of the other two this kid is something special," Beebe said.
That is a fact, if for no other reason than Maddie led Aurora Christian to its first state championship, the first for a town whose football history dates to the late 1800s.
But there is so much more to Maddie that makes him the honorary captain of the Daily Herald 2011 Tri-Cities All-Area Football Team.
"When you see it from his ability to run the football and his athletic skill, it's just second to nobody, it's just off the charts," said Beebe. In all his experiences nationwide, through his House of Speed and various camps, Beebe said Maddie was among the top-five prep athletes he's ever trained.
An Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 3A All-State selection, the 6-foot-2, 203-pounder has been timed at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash. His explosive power he's bench-pressed 225 pounds 15 times combined with quickness, cutting ability and general slipperiness provides an exercise in futility for would-be tacklers.
Blessed with a 38-inch vertical leap, Maddie has been dunking basketballs since junior high.
"I've seen him do a 360 (degree) windmill dunk before," said Eagles receiver Chad Beebe, the coach's son. "That's probably the craziest one I've seen."
Maddie's statistics are equally insane. The Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division player of the year completed 221 passes 15th all-time on the Illinois High School Association single-season board on 378 attempts (58 percent) for 3,799 yards, seventh all-time.
His 52 touchdown passes this season, which included two games of 6 touchdown throws and three of 5, rank fourth on the IHSA's season list. Maddie's 89 career touchdown passes over a three-year varsity career that began at Joliet Catholic also rank fourth.
Most great teams and coaches, like Darren Peach of downstate Mt. Carmel, which Aurora Christian beat 34-7 to earn the 3A championship, can deal with a one-dimensional attack. What terrified opponents was Maddie's ability to beat them with his legs either on designed plays like his deadly quarterback draw or when he escaped the pocket and took off.
Maddie led Aurora Christian with 1,117 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. With Beebe tweaking the playbook as the season progressed, Maddie's last six games included games of 150, 154 and 157 yards rushing plus the real doozy, his 192-yard, 3-touchdown effort against Mt. Carmel.
"I'm a quarterback, and being a quarterback I've got to be able to throw the ball so I take great pride in that. At the same time my running ability helps me separate myself," said Maddie, who committed to Western Michigan over offers from Bowling Green and Wyoming, with Northwestern, Minnesota and several other schools also expressing interest.
But when to throw and when to pass? A quarterback determines that only through deep understanding of defensive coverages and reads that can vary from the time the huddle breaks to after the ball is snapped.
Beebe believes that is the greatest leap Maddie has taken. When he transferred to Aurora Christian from Joliet Catholic in the spring of his sophomore year Maddie already owned all the physical tools but only a rudimentary understanding of the nuances of the position.
"He didn't really learn how to play quarterback and read defenses until he got to Coach Beebe," said Anthony's father, Joe, a three-year starting quarterback at Romeoville, Class of '89. "So his junior year was a learning process and his senior year was the finished product of what Don did with him."
Beebe, who first encountered Anthony the winter of his sophomore year, said he allowed Maddie to call audibles as a junior "to a certain degree." A week ago Friday in the Memorial Stadium press box, a happy Beebe detailed the senior's progress diagnosing defenses on the fly.
"This year he is such a mentally tough quarterback that when he goes up and sees five in the box he's going to run; if he sees six, seven in the box he's going to throw," the coach said. "That is a tough thing to be able to defend and it shows his great ability not just physically but mentally."
Maddie's 72-yard touchdown run that kicked off the Eagles' scoring against Mt. Carmel came on an audible. So did his 2-point conversion pass to Grayson Roberts for a 14-0 lead, among other plays.
"You just don't do that as a high school kid," Beebe said. "That's like a major college mindset right now that he has. But he's a student of the game, he has passion, that's what he wants to do, and be. Most kids say that but they're not willing to go the extra mile to do that. He's not one of them."
Joliet Catholic's starting quarterback as a sophomore, Maddie was motivated to return to Champaign after Montini won the 2009 5A title game, 29-28. He didn't complete a pass in 8 tries for the ground-based Hilltoppers. Things obviously have changed.
"It was tough for me after that game, but I'm a competitor," said Maddie, who began playing football at age 7 with the Joliet Raiders and remains close to Joliet Catholic players like Ty Isaac, who joined the Maddies for a postponed Thanksgiving dinner Sunday at their Plainfield home after rushing for 515 yards and 6 touchdowns in the 5A loss to Montini.
"I tried to do the best I could. It didn't work out the best, but that's the way it goes," Maddie said.
How it went this fall was Maddie's leadership, work ethic, intelligence and physical abilities helped create a dream season in which he and his teammates went out on top.
"This year I've never seen him so happy, this whole season," said his mother, Angela, who married her high school sweetheart. "He loved to go to practice, he loves the team. I was glad that he was so happy the whole year, and then to have this happen for him, it was so sweet."
You won't find "sweet" in a football player's vocabulary, unless it doubles for "cool." In this case, though, both uses apply.
As Joe Maddie said: "I'm more proud of the type of young man that he's become than about what he's done in football."
"The only thing I can really do is give thanks to the guys on the team," Anthony said. "I definitely wouldn't be able to accomplish some of the things I accomplished this year without them. And I've just got to thank God for blessing me with the ability that I have.
"I go out there and I play every night because I love the game, and I'm just thankful there's something like this in my life that God's given me to take so much enjoyment from."