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Linebacker is hitting the books too

Buried somewhere among the papier-m…ch/ of thousands of high school sports stories is the awareness that a student’s academics, while less newsworthy, are infinitely more important to his success than what he does on the field. Some learn too late that sticking out in a crowd of innumerable gifted athletes should be an ambition rather than an expectation.
But Travis Quarless, the night before his SAT exam, was doing the right thing, taking it easy and talking to The Queens Courier (but only for a few minutes, really) from home. For the senior, it’s but one part of a plan to go to post-graduate prep school and put the classroom first between now and 2010.
“My grades weren’t terrible, but I think I was putting too much focus on football, and I wasn’t taking the academic part of my career seriously. And I can really say my head is in the right place and God is blessing me,” he says. “In my 11th-grade year, me and my coach [Tom Pugh], we sat down together, and he said, ‘Travis, you have a big future ahead of you athletically, and you could do [well] academically,’ and he basically said to me the only way to get to that future is through academics. And I said, ‘Coach, I’m gonna do it.’ … I’m very motivated in the classroom now. So my whole priority’s being changed.”
Quarless still might go to college this year - if he doesn’t, he’ll retain his four-year eligibility when he’s a freshman - and he says he’s looking at some Division I-A and Division I-AA football schools. On Monday, January 26, he was headed to a combine at Hargreave Military Academy, a boarding school in Chatham, Virginia.
Of course, it’s largely because of his football skills that Quarless is gracing these pages. As a linebacker at Holy Cross High School in Flushing and a particularly strong pass rusher, he was part of one of the best defenses in New York City. The Knights set a CHSAA record for interceptions.
“I’m pretty good on offense, but I think our [defense] is actually the best in the city because of everything we did. Some of the top running backs we shut down to less than a hundred [yards],” he says. “I think my speed, my pursuit to the ball … was a standout for me. … When I see somebody near me I’m gonna go for blood, I’m just trying to get that play, you know?”
“What makes him a great player is his acceleration,” Pugh told The Courier last year. “Like a car, he goes from zero to 60 in no time.”
One of Quarless’ favorite memories as a linebacker comes from a game against Kellenberg in 2007.
“I had three straight sacks, and one time I forced a fumble, and honestly, my emotions got the best of me and I just started to cry. And that’s when I realized how much I really love this game,” he says.
A speedy linebacker can make for an awfully good wide receiver, and Quarless was strong enough from the sidelines to win an award from DeBartolo Sports University - not a Division I school, but rather a division of DeBartolo Sports and Entertainment that runs camps and clinics for high school athletes. In November, the group named Quarless “Jerry Rice High School Wide Receiver of the Year” along with 99 other position-mates from around the country.
Quarless appreciated the recognition, but he says there is much work left to do. The goal? It might very well be to emulate his brother Andrew, a junior tight end at Penn State.
“It’s very motivating, just to see where he’s at, and I actually got a chance to go to the Rose Bowl and see him play,” Quarless says. “My brother is very humble and his head is in the right place right now, and just seeing him, the way he works out, it gets me kind of pumped. He is one of the hardest workers I know, if not the hardest. He just motivates me to get better.”
It starts off the field, putting in the academic hours. And as for on the field - well, Quarless knows that even football isn’t just about the football.
“I just like all the bonding between teammates,” he says. “You can’t beat that.”

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