By DAVE MORRISON
MCMECHEN – Last year at this time, Jesse Padlow was a skinny kid with big dreams.
A year later, Padlow is still a skinny kid (6-foot-1, and weighting in at 158 pounds at a recent camp), though he is fighting mightily to add some weight to his frame.
Everything else has come much easier than the weight gain.
Last summer, Padlow was hardly on the football radar. He didn’t make the all-state team, not even the honorable mention list. With a pair of OVAC quarterbacks returning from all-state seasons (Ross Comis of Madonna and Tristan Haught of Clay-Battelle), just making the all-OVAC squad would be a chore, let alone a spot on the all-state squad.
This summer, it’s a whole different ballgame.
Padlow had a season of stats that would be a career for most players. Not only did he put up all-state numbers, he led the state in passing, with 2,468 yards. He completed 153 of 264 passes (57.9 percent) with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions and helped lead the Bishops to the second round of the West Virginia Class A playoffs.
He ended the season as the first team all-state quarterback, despite missing two games (St. John and Clay-Battelle) with an injury.
“It (being on the all-state team) wasn’t something I thought about, especially with the guys who were coming back,” Padlow said. “I just worked hard to get better and good things started to happen. That’s all it was, just working hard and playing with a great group of guys.
“I didn’t even know what my stats were until Coach (John Durdines) told me at the end of the season. I was just like, ‘Wow!'”
The goal this year is to get better.
“You always want to do better than you did the season before,” Padlow said. “I’m not much on the numbers other than the scoreboard but you never want to achieve less than you did before.”
To that end, he is embarking on a football camp tour that has seen him already attend the the Blue Chip Academy in Shippensburg, Pa.
He has three more scheduled this month before practice begins in August.
He has already felt the heat, so to speak, at the Blue Chip Academy.
“The dorms didn’t have air conditioning, and it was about 105 degrees in that room when I was trying to sleep,” Padlow said, laughing at the memory. “But it was a great experience.
“We had a classroom session every morning and four practices a day. You really learn a lot. I think I will be better just by getting that experience. You really get a good look at a lot of different aspects, like reading coverages.”
Some 200 players attended the camp, from places like Piscataway, N.J., to Baltimore, to Martinsburg.
There were 18 quarterbacks in the camp, five of whom have already signed with Division I schools.
“I competed with them, no doubt about that,” Padlow said. “I would put myself in the top five. I thought I did well.”
Despite not being able to pack on the weight, little slows the quarterback, who has a penchant for big plays.
Two stand out from 2013.
In a must-win game at Wheeling Central, Padlow completed 19 of 29 passes for 257 yards and two scores, including a two-yard touchdown pass to Chaice Truex with 6:02 remaining in a 33-32 victory on the Island.
In the game that put Bishop into the playoffs, a 47-28 victory against Tyler Consolidated (which had knocked Bishop out of the playoffs the year before) he completed 21 of 31 passes for 332 yards and three scores.
Exuding great confidence, little gets to the senior-to-be. He has already experienced the heart-wrenching loss of a parent, losing his mother 10 years ago.
In her honor, he wears the No. 11.
“We were both born in the 11th month, that’s why I wear No. 11,” Padlow said. “I know she is watching what I am doing. I know she is there with me. It’s why I do what I do.”
As for weight, Padlow said he isn’t overly concerned.
“It bothers me to hear it, but at the same time, I’m not worried,” Padlow said. “I worked all summer in the weightroom. I’m getting stronger, the weight is just not coming. But my dad told me he didn’t start putting on the weight until he got to college, so I guess it might be hereditary.”
Weight or not, Padlow is looking forward to a bigger 2014.
“I’m more confident then ever,” Padlow said. “We’re going to be good. I think we need to win a state championship. We have all the talent in the world. If we don’t win a state championship, I think it should be a disappointment.”