Conner Poulson got a taste of the highs and lows of being a starting quarterback on two offensive plays last season.
He experienced the rush of throwing a touchdown pass and the disappointment of tossing an interception.
The rest of Poulsons time in 2012 was spent on defense, chasing wide receivers as a starting free safety for the Capital High football team.
But Poulson doesnt consider his first two seasons on varsity a waste of his offensive skills.
Quite the contrary.
The cerebral 6-foot, 205-pound junior credits those years as a backup for better preparing him for the role hes always wanted.
This season, hes the Eagles full-time starting quarterback.
Ever since I was a little kid, Ive always wanted to play quarterback, Poulson said. Ive always wanted to have that pressure on me.
Through five games, Poulson has blossomed in his new role, completing 73.5 percent of his passes (75-of-102) for 880 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception. He has a quarterback rating of 178.3.
Hes been nearly as effective with his legs, rushing for 417 yards and six more TDs.
Poulsons early success has the 5-0 Eagles off to their best start since 2010.
Believe it or not, playing safety he wasnt very aggressive. He was passive. He wouldnt go hit anybody, Capital quarterbacks coach Dave Kemper said. Now that you put the football in his hand, hes a completely different person. Hell run you over. Hell attack you. He does all that kind of stuff.
Poulson who carries a 4.0 grade-point average has been a student of the game for as long as he can remember.
As the youngest of three brothers, Poulson spent many Friday nights watching older siblings Nick and Jake play football for Capital. Nick, who said he was in high school by the time Poulson was born, played on the O-line, while Jake was a two-year starter at quarterback and went on to play at Utah State.
I was not in the stands, I was down on the field, talking to all the players and getting the feel of it, Poulson said. That made it really fun for me as a little kid being on the field with all the big high school players.
Just as his older brothers mentored him along the way, Poulson also credits his two years as a backup to Makena Simis the 2012 5A SIC player of the year who now plays for Montana with preparing him for a starting role.
Last year when Conner was our starter on defense, he was our backup quarterback, too, Capital coach Todd Simis said. He didnt get a lot of reps, but he learned everything. I dont think he quit learning throughout the year. He was still staying involved mentally on offense and he had a great relationship with Makena, and that helped along the way.
Poulson has deflected most of the praise for Capitals hot start onto his teammates.
Its awesome how many weapons we can go to on the offense, he said. I trust every single one of them with the ball.
Eleven receivers have caught passes so far, and seven of those players have accounted for at least one touchdown.
Ten players have run the ball for the Eagles, and five of them have scored at least one TD.
Capitals signature Gurkha defense is doing its part, too. The Eagles have one of the stingiest defenses in the 5A SIC, limiting opponents to 292 yards and 17.2 points per game.
Last weeks come-from-behind 42-26 win over previously unbeaten Rocky Mountain solidified the Eagles confidence in their first-year quarterback.
Capital trailed 20-7 at the half, but overtook the Grizzlies with five second-half touchdowns.
It doesnt get any bigger than that. The crowd, the pressure, Simis said. The way he and the rest of the kids handled themselves in that situation, how can you not believe in him and what we are doing?
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX