During his 25 years as the head football coach at Fairview High School, Tom McCartney has mentored several talented quarterbacks.
Aidan Atkinson is near the top of that list. On Monday morning, the sophomore announced that he has received a scholarship offer from Colorado, giving him the chance to play collegiately for his hometown Buffaloes.
"It was pretty cool, just being so close to CU," said Atkinson, 16, who was born and raised in Boulder County. "I'm surrounded by guys from all different walks of life, but a lot of them are associated with CU in one way or another. There's so much history in that program and they have a lot of special players and a lot of special people at that program. Being a Pac-12 school and a Power 5 school, it means a lot."
As a sophomore last fall, Atkinson completed 68 percent of his passes (224 of 331) for 3,405 yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions in leading the Knights (10-2) to the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
He is the latest in a long line of talented Fairview quarterbacks, including Taylor Tharp, Anders Hill and Johnny Feauto. Atkinson is arguably the best Boulder-area quarterback prospect since former Fairview star Craig Ochs, who signed with CU in 2000.
"I've had some good ones over the years and no one had these kinds of offers this young, this early," McCartney said. "Obviously what he's been able to do on the field and get the attention of so many big time programs is incredible."
In addition to CU, Atkinson has offers from Akron, Boise State, Ole Miss and Nevada. He has taken unofficial visits to LSU, Michigan and Washington. Atkinson said those visits coincided with 7-on-7 tournaments in which he was participating and that it worked out for him to make the most of those trips by visiting schools.
Atkinson has attended several CU games over the past few years and said that with this offer from the Buffs, "I'll be attending, hopefully, all of them."
Despite his proximity to CU, Atkinson said he doesn't have a dream school and that he'll let the recruiting process play out. He certainly has time as a class of 2020 recruit.
"I think it's just finding a school that's the right fit," he said. "Obviously staying close and being close to my family is really important to me. Being able to play in front of my friends and family every Saturday is something that I take pretty seriously.
"In terms of making a decision, I'm not going to try to rush this at all. When I feel like I've made the right decision and I'm comfortable doing so, I will."
Despite his youth, Atkinson has already impressed McCartney with his poise, on and off the field. In addition to excelling on the field last season, Atkinson has a 4.0 grade point average.
"He takes that hunger in the classroom and also brings it to the film room and is constantly working and studying his craft," McCartney said.
Possessing the ability to move quickly from one play to the next, Atkinson has also displayed a knack for reading defenses, McCartney said. Fairview doesn't exactly play an easy schedule - the Knights faced several 5A powers last year, including Columbine, Mullen, Arvada West and Pomona - and Atkinson still shined.
"We play a lot of smart coaches that do some different things with coverage and disguise and things that trickle down from the colleges as they study and get their defenses ready," McCartney said. "We feel like we're giving Aidan an opportunity to go up against the best to get ready and prepared."
At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Atkinson already has good size, but he said he wants to work on his strength, as well as his speed. He ran for just eight yards on 22 carries last season.
"I know a big knock on me is that I'm a pro style guy and I've already had a few schools tell me they're not interested because I'm not a dual threat guy," he said. "Something I would hopefully like to work on is speed and if I have to run the ball a few times this year that's what I have to do."
Atkinson isn't planning to do much on the camp circuit this summer, but will possibly participate in camps at CU and Colorado State, and maybe Wyoming.
CU hasn't signed many in-state quarterbacks since Ochs 18 years ago, but the Buffs signed Valor Christian's Blake Stenstrom this past year and they currently have a commitment from Palmer Ridge's Ty Evans for the 2019 class.
Atkinson could make it three years in a row for in-state quarterbacks to land in Boulder, but there's plenty of time to make that decision.
"One of the really cool things (about recruiting) is not the offer itself, but getting to know the coaches and getting to talk to so many different people from so many different parts of the country," he said. "(Recruiting) has been interesting and fun and stressful. But, I'm glad to be in the position I'm in right now. "