John O’Korn grinds his way to ‘The Swamp’

There is a new kid on the block for St. Thomas Aquinas football. After winning the 2010 National Championship and seeing the departure of senior starting quarterback Jake Rudock, the Raiders have a gaping hole under center.

Enter rising junior John O’Korn — a transfer from Huntingdon High School in Pennsylvania will battle incumbent backup rising senior Max Lescano for the starting job.

O’Korn has business to take care of first at the University of Florida for Friday Night Lights. The July 22 showcase pits 2012 and 2013 prospects against each other in a variety of drills. Friday night will be an early test for O’Korn to see where his game matches up with the high school football talent in the state of Florida.

“I’m just excited for another opportunity to go out and better myself, and get to compete in front of coaches against some of the best players around,” O’Korn said.

The 6-foot-4, 195-pounder participated at Florida’s Junior Day on March 19, which featured top 2013 prospects, including Gators commit cornerback Brian Poole Jr.

“I visited UF earlier this year for Junior Day and I had a great time. Their facilities are some of the best in the country. The campus was beautiful and I really felt like I was at home there,” O’Korn said. “I liked all of the coaches and felt like I could fit in really well in Coach Weis’s offense. I also built a previous relationship with the strength coach [Mickey Marotti] and I thought it was amazing with some of the things he’s been able to do to prepare UF’s past players for the next level.”

Since moving to Florida in December, the signal-caller has gained 30 pounds. The pro-style quarterback works hard to adapt to the increased talent of the competition.

“I’ve been lifting and throwing almost every day with my receivers,” O’Korn said. “All of the hard work I’ve put in is really paying off and it makes me appreciate the opportunity to play at St. Thomas Aquinas. It’s a grind but that’s why I’m here.”

With a quick release, O’Korn distributes the ball to his receivers in a timely manner. O’Korn finds himself though playing football in a new state. As with current Gators starting quarterback John Brantley, there is a learning curve when playing against new competition and learning offensive systems.

“One of my strengths is being able to concentrate on one play at a time and move on if something doesn’t work out. It really helps when you can focus on what’s happening now and don’t worry about the play before or the next one,” O’Korn said. “One thing I’d like to work on is getting used to the speed of the game in Florida. The plays develop so much quicker here than in Pennsylvania because everyone on the field is a complete athlete.”

Although the recruiting process is just beginning for O’Korn, several schools have taken notice of the quarterback’s skills on the football field. Alabama, Florida, Miami, Oklahoma and Penn State have all reached out to him. Although the only school he has not visited is Alabama, O’Korn likes their offense and the tradition.

Other schools O’Korn favors are North Carolina, Pittsburg, Purdue and Virginia Tech. O’Korn sees each school as a potential door yet to be opened.

“I’ve just been trying to enjoy everything about the recruiting process,” O’Korn said. “You only get to go through it once so I’ve been taking every opportunity to get out and see as many schools as I can and just have fun.”

Expected to join O’Korn camping at Florida are fellow 2013 quarterbacks Heys McMath and Brice Ramsey. The Pennsylvania native compares himself and his pro-style game to two All-Pro quarterbacks.

“I think I have a similar playing style to Tom Brady or Sam Bradford. I’m your typical pro-style quarterback, but play with a lot of passion and energy and I see a lot of that from Brady,” O’Korn said. “He always wants the game in his hands in big moments and I feel the same way.”

The big moment for St. Thomas quarterback John O’Korn will come Friday night under the lights.