Before Timber Creek sophomore quarterback Donovan Leary steps onto the field, he sends a text to his mom letting her know he is about to go out. He pulls his navy blue No. 13 jersey over his shoulder pads and walks out of the locker room. Then, he thinks back to a piece of advice he got from his older brother, former Timber Creek star quarterback Devin Leary.
“You don’t have to play to impress anybody else,” Donovan Leary said. “He told me, ‘You don’t have to play to impress anyone except for yourself.’ That was one of those things that made me take a step back. It makes me want to just play this game at a fun level instead of playing so serious.”
Though he may not be setting out to impress anyone, Leary certainly has throughout his first two years under center for the Chargers. This season, Leary has a little more than 1,500 passing yards and 15 touchdowns through five games.
“He has proven the early hype around him,” head coach Rob Hinson said. “Physically, he is far more advanced than a lot of guys. We also run a pretty complicated passing scheme, and he has done a great job there. He’s also able to take the pressure since our quarterbacks are under the microscope every single week. He has handled that pretty well.”
Though he is only a sophomore, Leary has taken over as one of the leaders for Timber Creek. While Hinson describes Leary as quiet, he acknowledges there is just something about the young quarterback that draws his teammates to him. Leary said it comes with the position.
“Being the quarterback I feel like my teammates look at me like that figure,” Leary said of his leadership role. “It is kind of just part of the position. It is just something that came naturally to me. It runs in my family pretty much.”
It certainly does. Before Leary even attempted a pass at Timber Creek, there was already pressure on him to succeed given who his brother is. Devin Leary was one of the most decorated quarterbacks in southern New Jersey history, winning two state championships before heading off to play for North Carolina State.
“I don’t think that is any problem for me because I came to Timber Creek to try and just be myself,” Leary said. “I don’t want to be Devin Leary’s little brother. I want to make a name for myself as Donovan Leary. It wasn’t weighing on me, but it was something I needed to get past.”
When Leary told Hinson he wanted to take his brother’s old No. 13, Hinson paused, given the expectations it represented. He talked it over with Leary who said he was ready to take on the number and all that came with it.
“Danny Williams, the quarterback before my brother, wore No. 13 and set the standard,” Donovan Leary said. “Then Devin came in and kept it going. So I figured if I could come in and keep that legacy going as No. 13, it would mean a lot.”
Leary has garnered some early recruiting interest, acquiring verbal offers from Rutgers, Temple, UMass, Eastern Carolina, Central Michigan and Maryland. Hinson said if Leary’s progression continues the list will likely end up being a lot more crowded a year from now.
“He’ll have a lot of game experience against a lot of high-level competition,” Hinson said. “He is going to be very special, one of the best to come out of South Jersey, possibly the state of New Jersey.”