While freshman John Wolford was named Wake Forest's starting QB for the season opener at Louisiana-Monroe, another gunslinger made his case for the job this afternoon: top American tennis player John Isner. The No. 1 seed in the Winston-Salem Open threw some passes to Demon Deacon wide receivers at BB&T Field and received some tips from head coach Dave Clawson.
Isner, who leads the ATP with a 93 percent hold rate on serve, displayed a unique combination of arm strength and accuracy. When asked about his powerful right arm, Isner stated, "I have a lot of leverage with my arm, but I don't throw [a football around] often."
This got me thinking about a mock quarterback scouting profile for the Greensboro-native.
Height/Weight: 6-10, 235
Strengths: Known as the "Marathon Man" for his mental fortitude and ability to train for long hours; Tremendous arm strength; More than enough size to see over his offensive lineman; Outstanding and well-trained foot work.
Weaknesses: Needs to put on some weight; Looked inexperienced facing the rush; Occasionally grunted as he threw, which drew confusion from his teammates.
Unfortunately, this above scouting report never materialized. Isner never played football growing up, but he did admit, "I love football more than anything, even more than tennis. Georgia football and the Panthers are two of my biggest passions. It was great to come out here and throw some balls with some fast wide receivers."
Growing up only 30 minutes away from Winston-Salem, Isner attended many Wake Forest basketball and football games, but that was not enough to sway him to join Tie-Dye Nation. Instead, he bled red with the Wolfpack, "My dad, my uncles and my brothers all went to NC State, so it was natural for me."
Isner also added that people gave him some flack for leaving the heart of ACC country to play tennis at Georgia, but its proximity and its tennis facilities made the difference.
As the conversation returned to the tennis court, the tournament favorite discussed the state of his game after a heartbreaking 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 loss to Andy Murray in Cincinnati last week.
"It was a tough loss, but it was encouraging... I gave myself an opportunity to win with two match points. On those match points, I thought I played well. You can sleep better at night knowing you played the right way and didn't win. It was the best match I played all summer, so hopefully I can keep trending upwards."
Isner has a bye in the first round, and will play his first match under the lights at 7 pm on Tuesday night. He faces off against the winner of Noah Rubin and Bradley Klahn. The 29-year-old was quick to praise the Wake commit Rubin, "He was a lot better than me growing up... Most kids with his credentials don't go to school. He realizes that the guys he's competing against are a lot older and [going to college] gives his time to develop."
Undefeated in the Winston-Salem Open with two titles, Isner was candid when discussing the pressure to win his home tournament for the first time since 2012, "I don't think so. This is not a tournament I 'should' win. I have won here and have great memories here. But if I play the right way and it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."
The event ended just like it started: upbeat and cheery. When asked if he would do another Wake Forest event like this, except this time work on his post moves with Danny Manning, Isner chuckled, "I played a lot of basketball growing up. That'd be cool if we could get that done and maybe get Chris Paul out here too."