A whole different quarterback

Hoover High senior quarterback AJ Pule has become a different player from when he began as a Tornado.

November 12, 2010|By Edgar Melik-Stepanyan, Special to the News-Press

To fully understand AJ Pule's maturation process, one must first look back more than a year and remember the Hoover High football team's season opener against Sierra Vista.

A knee injury knocked Pule, then only a 15-year-old junior and the Tornadoes' starting quarterback, out of the game. All the shaggy-looking quarterback could do was watch helplessly from the sideline as the Tornadoes were unable to come from behind and defeat Sierra Vista at home.

Some mumbled that Pule should've stayed in the game and played through an injury that was originally feared to be a torn medial collateral ligament that turned out not to be true.


More than a year later, his teammates and coaches rave about his toughness. They talk about his ability to bounce back from a hit. They shower Pule with praise and rant about his willingness to play through an injury, whether it is a sprained ankle or a bruised shoulder that he's suffered this season.

The humble Pule doesn't want to hear much of it days before the Tornadoes (1-8, 0-6 in league) take on Glendale (0-9, 0-6) at 7 p.m. today in the annual "Battle for the Victory Bell."

"I try to play as hard as I can every play," he says. "So does everybody else on the field."

He attributes his toughness to simply wanting to play.

"It's just the love of the game," he says.

To further understand his growth as a leader of the Tornadoes, one must also talk with Coach Chris Long about Pule's willingness to practice.

Two years ago, when he first became the starter in the third game of the season, he was still 14.

"He was still a kid," Long said.

Being a teenager, Pule didn't mind joking around and laughing during practice. Being a teenager also meant being playful and missing a few days of workouts during the spring.

"I didn't take it as seriously," Pule said.

He grew up this year.

"During the spring time and summer time, he was business," Long said of Pule, who has thrown for 1,916 yards, an average of 212.9 per game, and 12 touchdowns.

Already the leader of the offense, Pule was ready to take over the team.

His leadership started off the field. No longer did he miss workouts. He took the lead in the weight room, during stretches and lifting. Being a former receiver himself, he spent time with his wideouts, talking about their routes and the timing of the Tornadoes spread offense.

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