It wasn't long after Loudoun Valley's surprise run to the Region II Division 4 playoffs last season that Stephen Sheehan approached Vikings Coach Bruce Sheppard with the future in mind.
And a plan, too.
With his oldest brother, John, set to graduate after earning All-Extra honors at quarterback, Stephen asked if he could make the move from wide receiver to quarterback and try to pick up where his brother left off.
The timing of his request wasn't an accident. If given the go-ahead, Stephen knew he'd have the entire winter to start making the transition, with the added benefit of having a personal training partner at home. John Sheehan had run the Loudoun Valley offense efficiently, passing for 1,157 yards and completing an area-best 55 percent of his throws.
"With John leaving I just thought it was something I needed to do," said Stephen Sheehan, who had not played quarterback since his days in little league football. "I knew it was going to be hard to replace John, but I felt like it was something I could do."
Sheppard agreed. He already knew the kind of work ethic that Sheehan possesses and had no question Sheehan was one of the best athletes on the Vikings roster.
Sheehan proved him right, winning Loudoun Valley's Iron Man competition in the off-season, showing the best combination of speed, strength and agility in a series of five tests. So all that was left was attaining the technical skills needed to play the new position.
"I knew he was an athlete, knew he could throw a football," Sheppard said. "But I also knew he'd have to learn to be a quarterback. But he's got some natural skills, and having an example right there in the home hasn't hurt."
Stephen and John began training in the gym before school, working to improve arm strength and footwork on pass drops. Soon they added some receivers to the mix so Stephen could work with them under his brother's watchful eye.
"The whole process has actually been fun," said Stephen Sheehan, the second-oldest of five boys. "Once I got the steps down and started learning the offense and who I was supposed to be reading, it felt good. Plus, it's fun getting the ball every play, too."
As a wide receiver last season, Sheehan caught 29 of his brother's passes for 393 yards and two touchdowns, an average of 13.5 yards per catch. But this year, if he can hold off junior Sam Clay and sophomore Clyde Kessler for the starting job, he'll have the opportunity to do much more.
"Stephen's worked hard and has taken the lead," Sheppard said of the quarterback race. "Just like his brother, he's total energy all the time. And he's been meticulous in his work habits, and it's paid off."
The genes don't hurt, either.
"I know I don't know everything, but it's starting to really come together for me," Sheehan said, grinning. "What can I say? Maybe it just runs in the family."