SAN ANTONIO – Steve DeBerg's NFL career spanned from 1977-98, so when the former professional quarterback offered advice to the play-callers at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, they listened. Even the best of the best have things to learn.
"It's definitely beneficial, just trying to be like a sponge with the rest of these guys and try to soak up all the information that Mr. DeBerg had for us," said West quarterback Dayne Crist, a Notre Dame commit. "It's pretty special to put a face to a name and learn from a guy like that.
"Anytime you hear about an experience like that, multiple times in the NFL, a guy that can have that kind of longevity is doing something correct and you're trying to emulate that and do the same kind of thing."
DeBerg said today's college quarterback is more athletic than a decade ago but since there is a 20-hour per week practice rule for coaches and players implemented by the NCAA, quarterbacks might not be as technically sound. He said the off-season is when quarterbacks need to work on their mechanics and technique. The season is more dedicated toward implementing the playbook.
"My experience with training quarterbacks is you improve in the off-season," DeBerg said. "Once the season starts, it's more X's and O's and if you don't have the technique part down, it's too late. The off-season is when you should get your instructional things and technique work out of the way to the point where it becomes habit.
"It does make it tough for young quarterbacks to develop and learn techniques because at the college level they don't have time to work on the techniques. It's more teaching plays than it is technique."
East quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the nation's top-rated player by Rivals.com, said listening to DeBerg is important because he's been through it all and speaks from experience. Pryor has many of the qualities that DeBerg said make a successful quarterback. He's athletic, smart, a leader and Pryor has shown he has a cannon for an arm so far this week. All the quarterbacks at the U.S. Army game are top-notch.
Crist is rated as the second-best pro-style quarterback nationally. West quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a Missouri commit, is third on the pro-style list. Stanford commit Andrew Luck is fifth.
On the East team, Pryor is tops regardless of position. Alabama commit Star Jackson is sixth on the pro-style rankings and MarQueis Gray, who will pick either Minnesota or Oregon Saturday during the game, is second on the dual-threat list. DeBerg said he has been impressed with how advanced the quarterbacks have looked.
"Their size, their athletic ability, their leadership roles, they're all pretty exceptional," said DeBerg, who threw for more than 34,000 yards in the NFL. "They're basically college players already. They are head and shoulders above normal high school quarterbacks."
The next phase for these quarterbacks will be to prepare for college football and DeBerg said they must understand the speed is greater and the game gets more complicated at the next level. The transition to college will be especially challenging for the quarterbacks who plan to run a spread offense since DeBerg said it gets more difficult to run when the passing game is more involved.
"It's always the speed of the game, how complicated the game becomes and at the next level, every time you go to the next level, half of it's physical and half of it's mental," he said. "It gets more complicated, speed and strength changes, and size. It takes quite a bit to make the jump from high school to college and then from college to pro."
DeBerg did it and made football his livelihood. At the same stage, he said he was not as good as the quarterbacks here at the U.S. Army game.
"I wasn't good enough for an All-Star game," DeBerg said.