For Stonewall Jackson quarterback Greg Stroman, it’s the size of the heart that matters

November 28, 2013

Amid the medley of basketball and football trophies that serves as the focal point of Greg Stroman’s bedroom, two pieces of hardware are conspicuously absent.

Tucked away inside a drawer and hidden from view are framed All-Northwest region and All-State certificates, commemorating a junior campaign during which the Stonewall Jackson quarterback scored 35 touchdowns and compiled over 3,000 yards of offense while leading the Raiders to a 9-2 record.

Stroman’s father, Greg Sr., stands at the top of the stairs.

“I told him it was time to put the stuff from the past away,” he said. “He needed to look ahead and focus on 2014.”

For Stroman, next year means a position change to defensive back and a scholarship to Virginia Tech.

But before he sets his sights on Blacksburg, Stroman and the Raiders (8-4) are contemplating an upset of No. 2 Centreville (12-0) in Saturday’s 6A region semifinal.

Sidelined by a hip injury for four games earlier this year, Stroman has returned with a vengeance, leading Stonewall to playoff road upsets of Washington-Lee and Langley with a combined 401 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in two shootouts. The Raiders will need another all-out effort from their senior quarterback to keep pace with high-scoring Centreville on Saturday, but keeping up has rarely been an issue for Stroman.

‘Dependent on us’

During a Sept. 6 game against Stonewall, Hylton defensive end Chris Lee learned the extent of Stroman’s athleticism.

“I’ll remember this forever,” Lee says. “I was squeezing the O-lineman. [Stroman] pulled the ball so quick [on an option keeper], that he caught me in the backfield. I can tell he works on his art.”

Lee’s teammate, senior quarterback Travon McMillian, will join Stroman with the Hokies next year.

Despite possessing similar skill sets at the same position and playing in the same county, the two didn’t meet until this year. They chatted just briefly during an official visit to Blacksburg.

“We’re the future of Virginia Tech, we’re both dynamic athletes,” McMillian said. “We just talked about how we’ll have to lead the team, and they’ll be dependent on us.”

When Stroman injured his hip in the fourth quarter against the Bulldogs, the Raiders discovered just how reliant they were upon his presence.

With the 6-foot, 160-pound quarterback out the next four games, Stonewall went 1-3 and dropped to 2-3 overall.

“It was abundantly clear when he wasn’t in there riding the horse, that it was a different tempo, a different level of execution,” Stonewall Coach Mike Dougherty said.

Stroman returned in Week 6 and guided the Raiders to wins in four of their final five regular-season games. His offensive production has led the way over the last two weeks as Stonewall has wreaked havoc on the 6A North bracket, scoring 93 points in its two wins.

Stroman has done much of the damage with his feet. He anticipates cuts and executes them suddenly and violently. But for Tony Horne, a family friend and Super Bowl XXXIV champion as a kick returner with the St. Louis Rams, Greg’s handiest asset isn’t tangible.

“Greg was probably a freshman or a sophomore when he attended my [skills] camp,” Horne said, “but his knowledge of the game was like a college student.”

All about heart

As a sixth grader, Stroman — all of 90 pounds — held down a linebacker spot for the Manassas Mutiny junior Pee Wee Pop Warner team. They won a national championship on the sun-kissed turf of Kissimmee, Florida.

Stroman’s slight stature has never prevented him from being the most dynamic player on the field, but it has shaped his athletic future.

As much a standout on the hardwood as the gridiron, Stroman decided to specialize before his freshman year of high school.

“When I saw kids playing AAU, when I was 12 or 13, when I saw kids who were already dunking the ball and doing whatever they wanted on the court, I knew football would be my ticket to playing a Division I sport,” said Stroman.

His first start at quarterback for the Raiders came against Freedom-South Riding during his sophomore year. Stroman is quick to rattle off his stat line from that day — two rushing touchdowns, a passing touchdown and a 34-3 victory.

“As a 10th grader, he was almost offended that we were going to go with two seniors at quarterback,” Dougherty said.

Realizing he had a rare talent on his hands, Dougherty scrapped the power double wing offense — a mainstay at Stonewall for years — in favor of a spread attack before the fall of 2011.

“When you have a kid that can do the things that Greg does,” Dougherty says, “we essentially built around him.

Despite his success as a junior, offers trickled in at a dawdling pace. But after a strong performance at a Virginia Tech camp early last summer, the Hokies — in a recruiting effort spearheaded by defensive backs coach Torian Gray — offered Stroman a scholarship. He committed in August selecting the Hokies over Virginia and Duke, among others.

Back home in Bristow, Stroman handles one trophy — a faux-bronze football — with particular care. Tattooed on it in black ink are the signatures of his teammates from his national championship squad. One of the marks belongs to Rock Smith, Stroman’s leading receiver with the Raiders and a key weapon as Stonewall looks to extend its season one more week.

“I want to prove people wrong that size doesn’t . . . ” Stroman hesitated and then rephrased. “It’s all about heart to me. That’s how I see it.”

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