Before the beginning of last season, Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said he knew he had an outstanding athlete at quarterback. He knew Blake Tekotte was going to be good, he didn’t know when.
A District 6 title and more than 2,000 all purpose yards later, Hickman fans are starting to get a picture of how good Tekotte can be.
“There is no substitute for experience at any position, especially quarterback,” Nesbitt said. “We’re certainly blessed to have all the same attributes that Blake had a year ago and experience to go along with it. It gives you a lot more confidence as an offensive coordinator. It’s critical. Last year, he ended up setting a school record. He threw for 1,574 and ran for another six or seven hundred yards.”
After a 2-3 start that included three straight losses, the Kewpies won five straight and made their first trip to the playoffs since 2000. They reached the Class 6 state semifinal before losing 17-7 to the Blue Springs Wildcats.
For Tekotte, the early losses were a learning experience.
“I think I matured a lot through last year,” he said. “Just being around the leaders on the team made me a better person and a better football player, I was able to get mentally stronger and that was important for me.”
Mental toughness is a trait Tekotte uses on and off the field. He has a 3.93 grade-point average and has learned what it takes to balance athletics and academics.
“You can’t concentrate so much on one thing and forget about the other,” Tekotte said.
Tekotte entered last season as the first junior to start at quarterback for Nesbitt since 1998, when Danny Perry led Hickman to the state quarterfinals and a 10-2 record.
Before Tekotte’s junior year, quarterback was a dangerous position to play at Hickman. Four quarterbacks, including Tekotte, who suffered a broken collar bone in his sophomore season, were out with serious injuries between 1999 and 2002.
This led Nesbitt, who also serves as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, to convert his three-back option offense to a one-back spread offense.
“Blake could have been a fabulous option quarterback, but he weighed 165 pounds and that offense demands 15 touches and probably another 10 whacks, so we just tried to limit the hits,” said Nesbitt, who is entering his 25th year of coaching and his 12th with the Kewpies.
Not only has the system helped keep the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Tekotte healthy, offensive production rose from 18.2 points per game the previous season to 27 last year.
Because of Tekotte’s size and his ability to run, Nesbitt said he likes to move the pocket.
“He’s a little more comfortable on the edge, throws the ball extremely well on the run and has good vision out there,” Nesbitt said. “He does have the ability to beat you with his legs; he has breakaway type speed; he’s a viable threat running the ball.”
With Tekotte and 17 other returning starters, expectations will be high for the Kewpies.
Hickman returns six All-District selections. Two-way selection Luke Harper is a four-year starter who will anchor both lines along with senior Dannon Coleman.
Cedric Alvis, who led the team with six interceptions, will add strength to the secondary along with Ryan Nesbitt, who led the team with 126 tackles at safety.
Running back Brandon Kendrick finished last season with 988 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tekotte was an All-District punter.
Although expectations will be high in the community, it has not changed Nesbitt’s approach.
“Our expectations are based on ourselves not outside sources,” Nesbitt said. “Last year, we flew under the radar and we expected to be a pretty good football team. This year, we’re going to have a bull’s-eye on our back, and we expect to be a good football team.”
Tekotte will no longer be in the shadow of Chase Patton, who starred at Rock Bridge last season and is starting his first season at Missouri this year.
“The extra attention doesn’t really bother me,” Tekotte said. “I’m not really a guy who cares to be in the spotlight. There are other guys on the team who are more deserving.”
Tekotte’s mother, Sheryl, said her son is not a loud, vocal leader and remains grounded despite his success.
“He’s a real team player. He’s very humble,” she said. “He’s not a kid who has to be in the limelight. He likes to lead by example and by his quietness, so when he spurs on his team, they know it’s coming from his heart.”
Of all the qualities his quarterback possesses, it is this method of leadership that Nesbitt likes the most.
“Blake is a fabulous athlete … He’s a tough competitor,” Nesbitt said. “But I really like his humility. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He leads by example, not with his mouth. He’s really refreshing to a high school football coach.”