Covering high school football for two Philadelphia newspapers for nearly 39 years, I got to see a lot of good quarterbacks.
Rich Gannon (St. Joseph’s Prep) and Matt Ryan (Penn Charter) later became NFL MVPs.
Yet, the night Anthony Russo won a state championship with Archbishop Wood, I made this bold statement to a group of writers I was with at HersheyPark Stadium: “He’s the best Philadelphia high school league quarterback I’ve ever seen and that includes Rich Gannon and Matt Ryan.”
Not surprisingly, two or three nodded their heads in agreement.
That’s not to say that Russo will be an NFL MVP like those two were–geez, I hope, so, though–but his high school career in terms of stats and wins and sheer ability to throw the football surpassed those two.
At the time, Russo was a Rutgers’ commit and, as a Temple fan, he fit the profile of the one guy I wanted to have as my quarterback: A Philadelphia star who would be the Pied Piper of Philadelphia stars and make Temple a destination school. That came about when Matt Rhule pursued him and he de-committed from Rutgers and, after a brief one-afternoon flirtation with LSU and Les Miles, reaffirmed his commitment to Temple.
This is what I wrote on Twitter back in October of 2017:
He has gotten onto the field and he has not lost the job and I don’t think he will. That’s not to say Toddy “Touchdown” Centeio will not be nipping at his heels because he will and that’s good for Temple. Trad Beatty is also in line and I don’t think the Owls have had this much depth at the quarterback position since Maxwell Award winner Steve Joachim was backed up by future CFL star Marty Ginestra.
That’s a good thing, not a bad one.
For his first year after shaking off two years of rust, Russo had a terrific season. That’s not to say he was perfect. Fourteen touchdown passes and 14 interceptions is not a good ratio but, say, 25 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions is and that’s a pretty realistic goal to shoot for in terms of stats. Getting away from offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude is probably the best thing that ever happened to AR’s career.
To me, though, about a dozen wins would be even more impressive and, if that’s the end result of the 2019 season, I think Anthony Russo would take that and another 14/14 ratio again.
That’s what made him such a great quarterback in high school and it’s what makes him a great quarterback now.
Temple is lucky to have and, fortunately, it is only 80 or so days until we see him on the field again wearing Cherry and White.
Saturday: Archiving Temple’s Past