HARVARD – They might give each other a hard time once in a while, but it’s all in good fun for teammates and close friends Jacob Stanley and Damon Mueller.
Stanley, a sophomore, and Mueller, a junior, are battling each other for the starting quarterback position at Harvard this summer. Head coach Sean Saylor said both QBs have been sharing reps.
“It’s a fun, friendly battle,” Mueller said after a recent summer practice.
The two grew up playing sports together – football, basketball, baseball. Stanley usually played quarterback when they were younger. Mueller didn’t play the position much until his freshman year on the JV squad.
As a sophomore in 2017, Mueller moved to receiver to give himself a better chance at a spot on varsity. Stanley was the varsity backup to senior quarterback Dylan Stephens, until Stephens went down with a shoulder injury and Stanley had to take over QB duties.
Stanley made three starts in Stephens’ absence.
“It was very stressful, especially being a freshman,” Stanley said. “Dylan Stephens helped me a lot with that and Coach Saylor gave me a lot of confidence.”
Saylor enters his fifth season coaching the Hornets this fall. He believes the opportunity for Stanley helped boost the then-freshman’s confidence.
“Jacob definitely brings experience from last year,” Saylor said. “It’s weird to say that with a sophomore. He’s comfortable calling it at the line of scrimmage [in the option offense], bumping it out a gap, or calling it to the other side. He does a really good job of reading [the defense]. He’s patient enough to make that decision.”
Meanwhile, Mueller suffered a thumb injury last summer. He needed surgery on his left thumb and was forced to wear a cast during the early part of the 2017 season.
“We always joked about it,” Mueller said. “When they wrapped it up, it would be this huge club. It was kind of funny.”
Even wearing the club, Mueller pulled in three interceptions at cornerback.
“It was pretty amazing,” Stanley said. “He’s always been an athlete like that. It’s cool to see him go out and play ball.”
The cast is gone now, though a scar on his thumb remains, and Mueller has started taking reps at quarterback again.
No matter who wins the starting job come August, Saylor plans on having both players on the field. Mueller will admit he needs to work on his footwork. Stanley has his steps down after playing the position his whole life.
At 6-foot-1, Mueller is taller (Stanley stands at 5-foot-8) and said he believes his arm strength is an asset. He enjoyed playing quarterback as a freshman and wanted to give it a shot at the varsity level.
Both are athletic options for an offense that likes to run the ball.
“We both can run, we both can throw,” Stanley said. “We both know most of the routes. It’s just going to come down to how camp goes.”
For now, the friendly competition will continue.
“It pushes us both to work a little bit harder,” Mueller said.