On the night when Brandon Dawkins could break his Arizona career rushing record for a quarterback, Ron Veal will attend the Kinnesaw (Ga.) Harrison vs. Acworth (Ga.) Allatoona high school game in suburban Atlanta.
Veal cares about Dawkins’ potential record-breaking achievement Friday night against Utah at Arizona Stadium. He may return to his Atlanta home in time to watch the game between Arizona and Utah on Fox Sports 1 at 10:30 p.m., his time.
He is attending the high school game to observe his star pupil, Harrison quarterback Justin Fields, a 5-star dual-threat talent who will play at either Georgia or Florida State next season.
“Everything is going well, going very well,” Veal said when asked about his Ron Veal Quarterback Camp. “We’ve got one of the top kids in the country (Fields), so that’s a good thing.”
In his 16 years of running the camp in Atlanta, Veal has established an identity in the South as one of the finest minds and teachers of young quarterbacks when it comes to quarterback footwork and passing accurately in motion.
At a time when dual-threat quarterbacks are a hot commodity in today’s age of spread offenses, Veal’s insight is valuable.
Dawkins fits the mold of a dual-threat quarterback under development. His running ability is exemplified in his 1,374 career rushing yards, averaging an amazing 7 yards per rush. Veal’s school record, established from 1987 to 1990, is 1,419 yards (he averaged 3.1 yards per carry).
Dawkins needs 46 yards against Utah to become the school’s top career rusher for a quarterback.
“In their scheme, he fits exactly what they do,” Veal said about Dawkins in a telephone interview from his Atlanta home. “He moves well, throws an accurate ball for the most part. He is able to escape the pocket and make things happen with his legs. I would like to see him be a little more patient.
“I wasn’t patient in the pocket at first, but I grew more patient and let things happen. That will come over time.”
Veal sees that promise in Fields, who will likely be a household name next fall. Arizona offered Fields a scholarship but Veal said the young quarterback wants to attend college closer to home.
Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey landed Veal from Fernandina Beach, Fla., in his first recruiting class 30 years ago. Veal committed to Arizona three days before signing date after Tomey and offensive coordinator Ben Griffith entered late in the recruiting process.
Griffith operated the run-and-shoot offense, which bucked the norm of pro-style drop-back quarterbacks at that time. Many colleges tried to recruit Veal as a defensive back. When Arizona showed an eagerness to have him play at quarterback, most likely right away, it was a no-brainer for Veal to head to Tucson for the first time in his life.
Veal became a starter as a freshman and rushed for 566 yards and nine touchdowns. He also passed for 1,239 yards in one of the most productive seasons for a freshman quarterback at Arizona.
“The run-and-shoot we ran was kind of like a spread offense now, except we were more under center,” Veal said, noting the quarterback must make quick reads off the run. “It was the spread before it even happened.
“The people around me helped me adjust right away. We had a great team. I just let those guys do what they did and I tried to get them the ball as quickly as I could, the best way I could. Everybody rallied around me. … I took advantage of my opportunity. I wanted to play and I took advantage of it. I just played.”
Veal offers that simple suggestion for Dawkins in his career, which resembles that of Veal in that Veal competed with George Malauulu for playing opportunities through his senior season. Dawkins has battled Anu Solomon and Khalil Tate to become Arizona’s starting quarterback.
“‘Just keep playing,’ that’s what I’d tell (Dawkins),” Veal said. “The biggest thing is when you’re in that situation is you don’t want to have an attitude toward that other guy because he’s trying to play too. The biggest thing is play as hard as you can while you’re in there.
“If they take you out, they take you out. There’s nothing that you can do about that. But don’t let them take you out because you’re not playing hard or well. That’s the biggest thing that I told myself — ‘If they take me out, they take me out. I’ll just play hard when I’m in there.’ That was my philosophy.”
Veal almost gave up on football upon moving to Atlanta with his wife following his brief stint in the CFL in the early 1990’s. He relocated to Atlanta to be a teacher with family in mind because his wife was from nearby Macon, Ga., and Fernandina Beach was not too far away.
“I stopped doing anything with football for like six years,” he said. “I was driving home from school one day and I saw this kid throwing a football. I told his dad I could help him. And that’s what started it. It’s become a passion of mine ever since.”
Football has taken him this far, his name still mentioned at Arizona some 27 years after he played his last down for the Wildcats. That’s surreal for somebody who reportedly had trouble spelling Tucson correctly upon his arrival from Florida because he did not know much about this part of the country.
Veal says his finest moment at Arizona was beating a storied USC program as a senior in 1990 after entering in the second half in place of Malauulu at the Los Angeles Coliseum and rushing for three touchdowns in a 35-26 win over the Trojans (coached by Larry Smith at the time).
From 1990 to now, his quarterback rushing yardage record has lasted with the Wildcats. Dawkins, a junior, can overtake him Friday night, just like Veal surpassed Bruce Hill’s then-record 964 yards in his junior season.
“That’s what they’re there for — they’re made to be broken,” Veal said about records. “It’s good with me. I wish him all the power. I hope he breaks it and surpasses it.”
When told Dawkins needs 46 yards against a stout Utah defense, which leads the Pac-12 in rushing defense yielding only 49.3 yards a game, Veal said without hesitation:
“He’ll get it.”
Veal will still hold the quarterback rushing touchdown record of 27, followed by Hill with 17, Malauulu with 16 and Dawkins and Keith Smith with 15.
Here is a list of Arizona’s top rushing quarterbacks:
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.