An injury robbed Austin Appleby of the final three games of his junior season, but the 6-foot-5, 228-pound quarterback from Hoover High School in North Canton, Ohio hasn't looked back on what could have been.
Instead, he's working to become the best quarterback in the nation.
He'll have an opportunity to prove he's among the nation's elite passers later this summer after receiving a phone call on Tuesday from former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who extended an invitation for Appleby to compete in the Elite 11 Camp in California in July.
"I'm excited," said Appleby of his opportunity to participate in the elite event. "It's great to know that hard work is beginning to pay off."
While Appleby is ecstatic about his opportunity to take part in the camp, he isn't content just participating. He plans to win the MVP award.
"I'm not satisfied with just the invite. I'm trying to win this thing and I've busted tail to get to this point," he said. "I'm gonna' continue to bust tail to become the best quarterback in the country. Actually, when Trent Dilfer called to invite me, I was just finishing up a workout following a throwing session with my QB coach and receivers."
For the past several months Appleby has been training with former NFL quarterback Jim Ballard, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008 after setting dozens of passing records while at Mount Union College in Ohio and leading the Purple Raiders to the 1993 Division III national title.
Ballard, who now operates Air it Out, Inc., a quarterbacks training school, said he liked what he saw out of Appleby when the two first started working together, but after just a few months Appleby already has made major strides in his game.
"When we first started, from a fundamentals standpoint, I thought he was trying to really throw the ball too hard. He would use too much of his arm and not enough of his body and he would tense up, his front leg was dipping. It was just some fundamental things, but it wasn't like you had to take him and rebuild him. There was nothing glaring, just some tweaks, little things like that," Ballard said. "Now the ball is spinning off his hand a lot better."
It's not just Appleby's physical tools that have impressed Ballard. Mentally, he's also shown he has what it takes to easily digest what he learns.
"He's so easy to work with," Ballard said. "He just wants to be the best he can be."
And that's why Appleby doesn't plan to celebrate his latest accomplishment.
Instead, it's right back to work to continue the development he hopes will lead to a successful senior season and ready him for the next level.
"I'm ecstatic at the opportunity and I'm enjoying it for tonight," he said. "But tomorrow I'm right back at it to become the best player I can possibly be. "
That's the approach Appleby used when he competed in the Elite 11 Regional Camp at Ohio State earlier this month.
After that camp he said he didn't perform as well as he would have liked, but thought he threw the ball well enough to be one of the quarterbacks selected to move on to the finals in California.
"I did alright at best in my opinion; not nearly close to my full potential," Appleby said. "My coach said I competed at about 80-percent of what I'm fully capable of as far as shaking the rust off skill-wise, not to be confused with my knee. That is 100-percent and I've been cleared for months and feel great. I'm about 90-percent back at this point. I'm working extremely hard and I can't wait to get to California in mid-season form and try to really tear it up."
Appleby, who has received scholarship offers from nine mid-major programs, might be the underdog in California, as he'll be paired up with many four and five-star prospects with offers from major BCS colleges.
But, Appleby wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm going into camp with a chip on my shoulder and something to prove," he said. "I'm looking to prove that I belong in that elite class and am looking forward to the opportunity to do so.
"I'm ecstatic at the opportunity to be around some of the finest coaches in the county and really get to improve my game and learn from them. It's an awesome opportunity to get better and I'm truly blessed and thankful, especially to my parents and my coaches who have been chasing me around throughout this whole process. I'm beyond fortunate."
In addition to the Elite 11 Camp, Appleby plans to spend most of his summer on the road attending camps at schools from the Big East Conference all the way down to several Southeastern Conference Schools.