Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the 2017 SCV High School Football Preview, published by The Signal on Aug. 25, 2017.
The way JT Shrout tells it, the excursion took place in a small fishing boat. The Pacific Northwest sky was clear, the Snake River promising.
Shrout, his mother, Stephanie, and a guide undocked sometime midmorning as part of a larger trip tailored for a visit to Washington State University.
It was time for a little fun.
Then he felt it. More than a nibble. More like tug-of-war with a bodybuilder.
Shrout, fastened to the boat by a harness, worked a “really thick” fishing pole for an hour to reel in a 600-pound sturgeon.
“I didn’t believe it, either, till I saw the photo,” says JT’s father, Jim.
Now, have you heard the one about the 6-foot-3, big-armed gunslinger. The one who could have transferred and started at any number of high schools in Southern California, but instead stayed at his parents’ alma mater Hart High as the backup for not one year, but two.
People called him crazy. He didn’t care.
Then it paid off. Not in a $5 scratcher kind of way, but in a life-changing lottery sense. The QB caught the eye of college recruiters and earned 10 scholarship offers, accepting one this summer to play in the Power Five conference of his dreams.
This, my friend, is no fish tale. This is the story of JT Shrout.
Waiting and winning
The way Shrout tells it, he was about 4 when he shuffled into the old Sports Chalet in Stevenson Ranch with Jim.
Amid the jerseys, gloves and ski poles, Shrout stumbled upon a small sculpture of Tom Brady, the prolific New England Patriots quarterback.
Jim paid for it. Brady earned a fan for life.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s why Shrout gravitated toward quarterback around the time he really got into football as a seventh grader. Maybe, too, it was Brady’s passion for the game that burned hot in Shrout even as he burned out on baseball after his freshman year in high school, choosing to focus only on football.
Shrout would need that belly fire. A long, hard road awaited.
By the time he was a sophomore, Shrout was listed at 6-3 and might have challenged for a starting spot elsewhere. But the Indians had a starting quarterback, Nick Moore, the younger brother of Indians legend and Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore.
Still, Shrout put his head down and went to work. He studied film. He took mental reps. He lifted weights. He trained with quarterback guru and former Hart coach Dean Herrington.
When the time came, Shrout swore he’d be ready.
Then he felt it.
On Nov. 6, 2015, Shrout was named the starter for Hart’s 2015 regular-season finale against Valencia after Moore had torn his ACL. A share of the Foothill League title was on the line, and it looked like Shrout’s moment.
Then, sometime in the first half, Shrout took a shotgun snap and rolled to his right.
As soon as he released the ball, he took a hit from a blitzing, unmarked linebacker. Legs got tangled, and Shrout’s cleat stuck in the turf. His season was over.
Back at College of the Canyons earlier this month for a photo shoot, Shrout looked in the direction of where he’d fractured his ankle and fibula. His voice revealed no emotion as he gave the play-by-play, but …
“It was devastating,” Jim says.
Shrout, however, picked himself up. He returned to health in time to attend a handful of college camps over the summer. He planned to make another run at Moore’s job in the fall.
Still, Jim posed the question everyone was asking: Do you want to stay?
“He looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I’m going to do it,’” Jim says.
Shrout says he never seriously considered leaving the school his dad played receiver at in the mid-1980s, the school his family attended all the way back to his grandmother Cleo in the 50s.
“It’s a question a lot of people ask because I think a lot people have gotten used to it. Like, if you’re not playing, people try to get out of there and go play somewhere else,” Shrout says. “But I knew with (head coach Mike) Herrington, if I was good enough, he’d put me in the right position, and I’d have the opportunity to go play in college.”
The Shrouts were hardly passive, though. JT attended his first college camp during the summer after his freshman year.
After his sophomore season, he attended several more, making a valuable connection with then-UCLA quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo at a Bruins camp.
This offseason, Shrout played on an all-star seven-on-seven team with Premium Sports LA. He worked with Cathedral High of Los Angeles quarterback coach Danny Hernandez, who helped pitch him as a prospect to colleges.
“Mechanically, he’s very sound,” Hernandez says. “He’s a perfectionist.”
On Jan. 23, Shrout received his first Division 1 offer – from Weber State in Utah.
By summer’s end, Shrout’s offer haul totaled 10, but one, based on a longstanding dream of playing in the Pac-12, stood out.
In late May, Tuiasosopo, now the quarterbacks coach at Cal Berkeley, had come to Hart to watch Shrout throw.
The Golden Bears offered later that evening, and Shrout committed on June 19, following in the footsteps of Joe Kapp and Kyle Boller as Hart QBs to go play for Cal.
Mike Herrington says Shrout’s situation was similar to Boller’s, Matt Moore’s and David Neill’s in that Shrout also maintained a positive attitude while waiting his turn at Hart.
Now, Shrout’s stock continues to rise. Along with some of the nation’s top high school QBs, Shrout attended The Quarterback Collective camp in July, where he so impressed former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels, that Rosenfels labeled Shrout the camper who could most likely “step in on day one and fundamentally work within an NFL system.”
“His drop was smooth,” Rosenfels told Yahoo Sports columnist Pete Thamel. “His fundamentals were very efficient and he throws a great ball.”
GO BEARS! 💙🐻💛 pic.twitter.com/6NOrpePRLq
— JT Shrout (@JT_Shrout16) June 19, 2017
Says Scout.com writer Greg Biggins, “He has a near picture perfect release and delivery.”
The question now is how far will that arm take a Hart team that hasn’t won a Foothill League title since 2007?
Asked about the team’s biggest strength, Indian players point to their quarterback – the one out on the field 15 minutes after the end of a recent practice. He’s the one launching passes to Da’Von Jones, DJ Palmer and Michael Uribe.
Finally, Shrout backs up to the 40-yard-line and lets one fly toward the goalpost crossbar.
He still works like a backup and aims for the stars.