Over the years some of the nation's best gridiron superstars have called East Texas home. And every year college coaches pull off the main highways and travel the back roads to big and small towns that dot the map in the area in search of the rich talent that is usually to be found.
As coaches eye the 2014 recruiting class, several are finding themselves in the office of head coach Derek Fitzhenry at Pine Tree High School in Longview, Texas, and I am certain many more will be making the trip in the very near future for one very big reason - quarterback Caleb Chumley.
It was not long ago when 6-foot-5, 225-pound Caleb Chumley was an unknown. He had played defensive end, safety, and receiver while at Pine Tree. Coaches at Pine Tree knew they had something special they just did not know exactly how they would best utilize his abilities in their offense.
When offensive coordinator Jeremy Orsagh arrived at Pine Tree late last summer, he had a pretty good idea Chumley would end up being his quarterback. However, Pine Tree had a strong leader and a long time starter already under center and Chumley was raw.
After spending much of the season at receiver, coaches decided it was time to catch a glimpse of the future and gave Chumley a chance at quarterback late in the season against Marshall.
"We were playing Marshall and we were going to go spread. Our starter kept the starting job and Caleb moved back there to run some wildcat type stuff," Orsagh said. "We did really well in the first half and we moved the ball great while he was back there. He was running up and down the field."
Then in the third quarter the starter went down with an injury, and Chumley stepped up.
"He came out of the game and Caleb came into the game," Orsagh said. "Within a quarter and a half Caleb had over 300 yards of offense. I think he threw three touchdowns in the last quarter and a half against Marshall. He did a great job."
After that there was no looking back, and Chumley prepared the next week for his first start against district power Sulphur Springs.
"The week of practice before it was just another practice," Chumley said. "Then about five minutes before the game was about to start it hit me and I just needed to do what I need to do."
It is that exact attitude Orsagh liked. When he saw his quarterback laughing and loose before his first start the coach had a smile on his face.
"I didn't want him to know what's about to hit him and stay loose," Coach Orsagh said.
Chumley proved he was not the one who needed to be worried though.
"It's the first start of his career at the quarterback position against the No. 1 team in our district," Orsagh said. "He throws for 500 yards and rushes for 170 and everybody was like wow where did this guy come from."
After Sulphur Springs, Chumley played Pine Tree's final game at quarterback for a grand total of two and a half games at the position and 1,135 yards passing, 462 yards rushing, and 17 touchdowns.
For now the limited film and his late emergence has kept many top programs from pulling the trigger on a quarterback offer, but there are plenty of interested parties and big time comparisons.
Chumley finds himself being likened to Heisman Trophy winners by coaches who coached and recruited them. Baylor head coach Art Briles has already stopped by the school this spring. TCU, Missouri, Texas Tech, Louisville…the interest is there.
"It's been pretty exciting. It's nothing like I've had before," Chumley said. "Three games at quarterback and everyone is looking at me."
Plans are being made to visit North Texas, TCU, and Missouri, and he has already visited Baylor and Texas State. Both programs left a favorable impression on the rising prospect.
"The coaches are real nice. They're real positive about everything. I feel like they really like me," Chumley said of Baylor.
"Texas State was really good. All the coaches were pretty cool. They liked me too."
The Pine Tree standout is not naming favorites at this time and is enjoying the process, but he already has a few big opportunities on the table. Texas State, Lamar, Jackson State, and Memphis have offered him at quarterback, and Oregon State offered him as a tight end. He has received interest as an athlete and some have even talked about safety.
"It really doesn't matter, but my preferred position is quarterback," Chumley said.
"He wants to play quarterback," Orsagh said. "His secondary position is receiver."
Reading defenses and throwing the ball around is what he enjoys, and he hopes to receive more opportunities to do that on the college level. Pine Tree coaches believe they will come as college programs see him in the spring, at summer camps, and in the fall.
"He makes the intermediate throws and he's not just an athlete," Orsagh said. "He's working on his footwork and his upper body mechanics are really good. He puts it on a rope. The velocity this guy has on his ball I've never had anybody like it. I saw Kevin Kolb throw in high school and the arm strength can't compare. He's a freak."