Written by Anthony Chiang of The Palm Beach Post
After starting high school football as a defensive back, Ryan Tannehill finally made the switch to quarterback as a junior.
But he didn’t get to pass very much at Big Spring High, which used a run-heavy Wing-T offense. So he turned to 7-on-7 football in the spring and summer to fine-tune his throwing mechanics.
“It was big for me,” said Tannehill, who went on to Texas A&M and was drafted eighth overall by the Dolphins in 2012. “That’s where I got a lot of my throws in. It played a big part in the development of my play and the guys around me, too.”
Tannehill is one of many quarterbacks who benefited from the 7-on-7 craze in Texas and elsewhere. Four of last season’s 12 NFL playoff teams were led by quarterbacks who played high school football in Texas — New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles.“It has to play a part in the success of Texas quarterbacks,” Tannehill said of 7-on-7. “There’s a state tournament and you all compete against each other. The competition, the repetition, it all goes into becoming a better player.”
In Texas, most players compete in major tournaments with their high school teammates rather than creating all-star teams.
The goal is to qualify for the state tourney and win it. Luck took Houston Stratford High to the state 7-on-7 championship in 2007, but lost in the final.
“I played with the guys that I was going to be playing with on Friday nights,” Tannehill said. “Before 7-on-7, you went from spring ball to two-a-days in the fall. You’re not going against a real defense in that period in between. 7-on-7 helps keep things sharp.”
The Dolphins want to help grow the sport in Florida. Two weeks ago, the team hosted its seventh annual 7-on-7 High School Football Tournament.
This year’s tourney included more than 50 high schools from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties as well as Southwest Florida. The Palm Beach County schools were Dwyer, Suncoast, Cardinal Newman, Jupiter Christian, Seminole Ridge, Village Academy and Lake Worth.
“It’s growing the game of football,” said Twan Russell, the Dolphins’ senior director of community affairs. “It’s competing with AAU basketball and lacrosse. It’s making it a year-round sport.”
But 7-on-7 isn’t limited to the high school level. On the first day of the Dolphins’ recent mini-camp, Tannehill pointed out that he had just completed two periods of 7-on-7.
“We do it every day in practice,” he said. “It’s a huge thing for us.”
Even at the NFL level, Tannehill stresses the importance of each 7-on-7 snap. It can help build timing in the passing game.
“If you don’t take the rep as a quarterback or a receiver like there’s a rush on the quarterback, then you’re wasting your time out there,” he said. “It’s a big part of what we do and we’ll continue to use it throughout my NFL career.”