The arm is special, strong and accurate, able to get the ball where it needs to go. This is a fine thing for a quarterback, but it isn’t what separates Dwayne Haskins from the pack. It is where his passes go that lifts a window and reveals the makeup of a youngster who one day soon could be wearing a Giants uniform, anointed as next-in-line when the curtain falls on the Eli Manning era.
It is not only the zip and the spin as the ball escapes from Haskins’ right hand. It is where the ball is sent. Haskins is a sharer. He so strongly desires to spread the wealth that those close to him insist he prefers providing a taste to as many teammates as possible to biting off the bulk of the meal for himself. Haskins wants to win, of course, but seemingly on his terms, involving all, an accompanist rather than a virtuoso.
Raised in Highland Park, N.J., Haskins’ football sensibilities were honed in Potomac, Md., where he attended the prestigious Bullis School — evolving from a pudgy kid into a dart-throwing quarterback, carrying himself as a quiet leader determined to hit the books and his receivers with equal aplomb. It was at Bullis that Haskins rose to prominence without stepping over anyone else, forging a reputation for academic and athletic excellence as he blazed a trail of inclusion that took him to Ohio State and into rarefied air: He is the top quarterback prospect in the 2019 NFL draft.
“Great person,’’ Patrick Cilento, Haskins’ head coach at Bullis, told The Post. “Great young man, he really is.
“He’s everything you want a quarterback to be. Never in trouble, loves the game of football, always looking out to make people better. That kind of stuff. He spreads the ball around and wants everybody to be better.’’
Haskins spreading the ball around and making everyone better can lead to lightheadedness when envisioning Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as the recipients of such selflessness.
Manning will return for a 15th season, but there is more urgency than ever to add his eventual successor to the roster. The Giants realize Manning, 38, cannot go on much longer, and they would like to replace him, eventually, with a younger and sleeker model, but also with reasonable facsimile, as far as the face of the franchise.
“I look at his parents and his background and his brothers and the upbringing, you don’t hear anything bad about Eli Manning in terms of character and who he is,’’ said Dr. Jerry Boarman, the headmaster at Bullis. “I think if the Giants get Dwayne, they’re going to get more than a football player. They’re going to get a great human being.’’
In his one year as a start as a redshirt sophomore at Ohio State, Haskins broke several Big Ten records, including most passing touchdowns (50) and passing yards (4,831) in a season. Those who knew him in his more formative years paint a picture of a low-key, high-caliber youngster devoted to his faith, his family and his football.
“His character,’’ Boarman said, “is impeccable.’’
This was always going to be a two-for-one deal. After leaving New Jersey, the search for a school for Dwayne and his younger sister, Tamia, brought the Haskins family to Bullis — a private prep school just a few miles from Washington on a 104-acre campus established in 1930 with a motto, “Caring. Challenging. Community.’’
The strong athletic reputation appealed to Dwayne. The equally strong theater program appealed to Tamia. The high academic rigor appealed to parents Dwayne Sr. and Tamara. Think Ivy League aura. The son of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder attends Bullis — he is a junior on the football team.
Dwayne Haskins enrolled in January of his ninth-grade year. It was immediately evident the arm was uncommon.
“When you first saw him it was, ‘Wow,’ just how quick the ball jumped off his hand, his quick release and how intelligent he was,’’ Cilento said.
The body was not quite there yet.
“He came in 5-10, and I’ll call it baby fat,’’ Cilento said, laughing. “He still had the baby face and the baby fat. He kept growing and growing and growing.’’
This was not a skyrocket to stardom. Cilento, a top quarterback in high school in the D.C. area — he went on to play at Western Carolina — took his time with Haskins. On Friday nights, when other students were socializing, Haskins found an indoor facility to work on his football. He was not a loner — he attended school dances and the prom — but was driven to become an elite quarterback.
Boarman was Haskins’ adviser when Dwayne was a junior and senior. Twice a week, 15 students would meet and mull over topics ranging from current events to politics to social media to racism. Haskins never talked about football or his exploits. In fact, he listened more than he spoke, seeking the opinions of his classmates. His grades were exemplary and he dove into the most challenging courses. As a senior, he took AP physics and AP calculus.
“I think Dwayne is someone who not only is very cerebral, he is a person who is dedicated to academics and is dedicated to his craft,’’ Boarman said. “I’ve had a lot of good students over my career, a lot of ’em, and he’s in the top 10 in terms of academics and all-around. He’s just that kind of kid.’’
Never before had Cilento given his quarterback free rein to run the offense as he saw fit — until Haskins came along. The coach could not hold back the kid. Haskins was green-lighted to audible, and there were times when, on fourth-and-1, Cilento figured the prudent call was a run to pick up the first down, only to see Haskins throw a touchdown pass.
Haskins was a willing runner, but Cilento had no appetite to grind him down.
Dwayne Haskins dreaming of a Giants future — even if it starts behind Eli
ATLANTA – Take me, please. That, essentially, is what Dwayne…
“We knew we had such a special talent here, the last thing we wanted to do was get him injured,’’ he said. “He didn’t break all kinds of records as a high-school quarterback or anything like that. Once you have a talent like Dwayne Haskins, you do everything in your power not to screw it up for him.’’
So the zone reads Cilento preferred were removed from the playbook because he did not want Haskins pulling the ball down and taking off.
As a senior, Haskins in his final game overcame a badly sprained ankle to lead Bullis to a share of the Interstate Athletic Conference title with a come-from-behind victory over rival Georgetown Prep, tossing a touchdown pass in the final minute.
Haskins returns to Bullis often. He is extremely close to his sister and attends her stage performances whenever possible. After a recent visit, Dwayne Sr. gathered his family together, formed a circle and prayed, giving thanks for his children and the fine school they thrived in.
As a little boy, Haskins wanted to one day play for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes did not recruit him with much vigor and he committed to stay local and attend Maryland — which thrilled Boarman, a Maryland graduate. When the Randy Edsall-led coaching staff was fired and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley — the assistant who recruited Haskins — was not retained, Haskins left town and headed to Columbus, with Ohio State now on board with the four-star recruit.
It was more of the same for Haskins in college. He was a two-time Ohio State scholar-athlete and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. In just three years, he is scheduled to graduate in May, with a degree in journalism. Next, the NFL draft and, perhaps, a place alongside Manning with the Giants, waiting his turn as he did at Ohio State behind J.T. Barrett, turning pro in the NFL’s largest market.
“I don’t think he’ll have a problem with that, being a Jersey kid growing up, coming here, being in D.C. and then seeing him in Columbus,’’ Cilento said.
“I saw him make a comeback versus Penn State in front of 111,000. I was at the Michigan game where there was 107,000 and he destroys Michigan. He doesn’t get caught up in the drama, so to speak. The kid loves football, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to be successful.’’
The Giants have much to learn about Haskins and are deep into their film-study analysis. Not everything can be gleaned from these sessions in darkened rooms, though.
“Whether he was going to a brokerage house or he was going to a football team, Dwayne is a young man who has a lot of presence. He has great tenacity, he has great patience, he’s humble but he’s smart,’’ Boarman said. “He understands the environment he’s in, whether it be Bullis or Ohio State or New York. I think he’ll do very well, and I think the fans there, just like they did at Ohio State, will love him in every way.
“His parents have grounded him very well. He’s been groomed for this. I would be very surprised if he didn’t continue to show the excellence and humanity, the resilience, the care of others and family and continue to wear his religious beliefs right across his chest. That’s how he is. This kid gets it. He really gets it.’’