MATTHEWS Butler High’s senior quarterback added a few things in the offseason.
Anthony Ratliff’s parents were married, and he added a name to honor them. He’s now Anthony Ratliff-Williams.
He also packed on 15 pounds of muscle and now measures 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. Most of all, Ratliff-Williams has added responsibilities to his role as the face of one of the Carolinas’ top football programs. As the 2014 season kicks off this week, Butler is ranked No. 2 in the Observer’s preseason Sweet 16 and expected to make a run for a fourth N.C. 4AA championship appearance in six seasons .
Last season, Ratliff-Williams threw for 2,558 yards and 34 touchdowns. He ran for 1,655 yards and 20 touchdowns, leading Butler to the . 4AA state semifinals.
This season, Ratliff-Williams promises to do much more.
“I used to be the guy who tried to lead by example,” said Ratliff-Williams, a North Carolina Tar Heels recruit, “and I didn’t talk a lot. I would go on the field, do what I do, and I hoped for my teammates to follow. Definitely, I’m not one to just watch from now on. I need to make my voice heard. We needed it all along, and I wasn’t focused on it. I’ve got to make sure all our guys are in tune, especially offensively.”
Ratliff-Williams appears to be the next in a line of superior Mecklenburg County quarterbacks since 2000, starting with Chris Leak, who starred at Independence and went to Florida. After Leak, there were stellar quarterbacks like Independence’s Joe Cox (Georgia) and Anthony Carrothers (Grambling); Butler’s Christian LeMay (Georgia); Mallard Creek’s Marquise Williams (North Carolina); Butler’s Riley Ferguson (Tennessee); and Davidson Day’s Will Grier (Florida).
In fact, Ratliff-Williams reminds a rival coach of another outstanding Mecklenburg County quarterback – West Charlotte’s Darius Thomas, who threw for 4,452 yards and 56 touchdowns in 2007, wiping out Mecklenburg County records in the process.
“Cox and Leak were great,” said Rocky River coach Jason Fowler, “but they were more pocket kids. This kid (Ratliff-Williams) can do a little bit of everything. If I’m starting an offense, he’s the type kid I want. You load the box, and he’ll throw for 300 yards. You spread it out, and he’ll run. He reminds me of D-Thom (West Charlotte’s Thomas). I think he is next in line around here.”
Butler coach Brian Hales said Ratliff-Williams has much better understanding of his team’s offense this season and is expecting a big season from his quarterback.
“Last year, he was very much still finding his way,” Hales said. “This year, he has much more command of the entire offense. His understanding of what we’re trying to do, not just Xs and Os, but tempo and knowledge of what everybody else should be doing is just great. He’s light years ahead of where he was last year.”
Hales said Ratliff-Williams is one of the most intense and strongest players in the program. He bench presses 305 pounds and squats more than 600. He was part of a state championship track relay team last spring, and Hales said running track has made Ratliff-Williams faster.
The quarterback said all the hard work comes from a desire to win a state title – like so many of the great Mecklenburg County quarterbacks before him. When he helped the Mint Hill Chargers win a national championship in middle school, Ratliff-Williams worked out with LeMay, who was then considered one of the nation’s top high school quarterbacks. Today, Ratliff-Williams regularly studies film of guys such as Leak and Cox and Williams, who could be his teammate at North Carolina next season.
“You can learn a lot watching those guys,” Ratliff-Williams said. “My game is based off theirs.”
Hales said he believes Ratliff-Williams is poised for the type of senior season many of those guys he watches on film.
“He wants to be good,” Hales said. “Not just another guy out there. He wants the responsibility of how the team does, and he understands as the quarterback, ultimately a lot of praise – right or wrong – falls to him, and a lot of blame as well. He accepts that, and he really relishes that. That’s what makes him special.”
Wertz : 704-612-9716; Twitter : @langstonwertzjr
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