For a linebacker, Andrew Rieves makes a pretty good quarterback.
The Navarre senior left his final spring practice sessions with the Raiders resigned to the fact that his quarterback days were over, and fully focused on being the best linebacker he could be for his team.
By the time summer rolled around, though, Rieves found himself back on the other side of the ball, in a battle with sophomore Matthew Webb for the starting quarterback job at Navarre.
"I was playing video games with my friend when coach (Jay Walls) called and told me about Gavin (Wehby) leaving, so he asked me to start playing quarterback in the summer," Rieves said of being thrown back into the quarterback mix after an injury to incumbent starter Robby Miller and the departure of backup Wehby. "I still knew some of the quarterback stuff because I practiced with Dusty Jones and Colton Kane my freshman and sophomore year.
"Since junior year, when coach said I needed to go play defense, I said to myself quarterback was done. I was coming into my senior year thinking I was going to play outside linebacker."
Having spent a couple of years as a backup to starters Jones and Kane helped Rieves as far as knowing the offense, but it did nothing to prepare him for being out there on opening night.
"I didn't really feel the pressure until the kickoff classic against Milton," Rieves said. "My teammates knew about the situation, how I got thrown in there, so they didn't jump me when I messed up. They understood that it was a work in progress."
It didn't take long for that work in progress to become a productive part of the Navarre offense.
"He had a little bit of experience," Navarre first-year coach Jay Walls said. "I had seen him when we were just out playing around, throwing the ball around. That kid throws a pretty good ball and has pretty good mechanics. I had seen him work in the weight room and at other positions, and I knew he was a competitor.
"I knew he was smart. I knew he had some leadership, a lot of want to, so I said let's move him and he took the bull by the horns. I told him and Matthew Webb, the job's wide open. They both competed, but Andrew really took to it quickly."
Rieves has completed 102-of-185 passes for 1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's also added 438 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, which Walls says has been his biggest area of improvement.
"Probably the run aspect of our offense, the zone read, the option stuff we do (has been his biggest gain)," Walls said. "He's improved on that and he's really become a run threat.
"And it showed (in the Region 1-6A final) against Columbia, when he tucked the ball down and took off. Columbia is not a slow team. I think that's where there's been a lot of improvement. And he's throwing the ball well. Early on, he had good mechanics, he didn't have the strength and accuracy yet. He hadn't thrown in a couple of years."
But the one thing that sets Rieves apart from most quarterbacks is he still carries with him that linebacker mentality. He plays with a toughness that Walls said is a requirement for that position.
"Sometimes people say that playing quarterback is kind of easy," Walls said. "I think on any level to be a really good quarterback, you better be mentally tough and you better be physically tough.
"Both of them are equally important. He's proven that he has some toughness about him, mentally and physically."
And Rieves' confidence is at an all-time high as he leads the Raiders (12-1) into the Class 6A state semifinals Friday night against the No. 1-ranked Gainesville Purple Hurricanes (13-0).
"I didn't really know what to expect from the varsity level, especially at the kickoff classic," Rieves said. "Once I started getting used to it, I gained confidence.
"And we practice against our defense all the time, and they're a really strong defense, so they help me out."