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Football Player of the Week: Gainesville QB D.J. Irons sharp against West Hall
Red Elephants' junior threw for 288 yards, two touchdowns
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Gainesville High junior quarterback D.J. Irons scrambles to make a play during Friday's 20-10 win against West Hall in Oakwood. - photo by Erin O. Smith

D.J. Irons showed his cerebral approach as a first-time varsity starter for Gainesville on Friday at West Hall.

The junior quarterback for the Red Elephants noticed a wide opening between the Spartans’ two safeties, so he zinged it in to Red Davis for a long reception. It was a play that moved the chains and made Gainesville coach Bruce Miller very happy.

Irons also found Davis over the middle for a 40-yard scoring play in the second half.

“D.J. is very good at locating his second and third options on the play,” said Miller, who has had a wealth of great quarterbacks in his time leading the Red Elephants. “He’s got a great mind for the game.”

Against West Hall, Irons got his name out there by completing 18 of 28 throws for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Making Gainesville’s offense even trickier to defend is the 6-foot-4 Irons completed throws to seven different receivers.

“My goal is to throw the ball to everyone at least twice,” said Irons, who moved to Gainesville late in his sophomore year from Central Gwinnett.

According to Miller, Irons has the ability to shake off a bad play by the time he steps back up to the line of scrimmage.

When Irons made the decision to move to Gainesville, Miller said he really didn’t know much about his new player, who played primarily on junior varsity for Central Gwinnett in 2015. Gainesville’s coach made no promises to Irons that he was in the running for the starting quarterback job during spring sessions.

However, D.J. kept showing up to the quarterback meetings because he really wanted to take on the responsibility.

Irons has great respect for the guys who played the position before him for the Red Elephants (Blake Sims, Deshaun Watson and Mikey Gonzalez), but really is set out to make his own name in the coming two seasons.

“Coming to Gainesville was a better situation for me,” said Irons. “I know I still have to learn about playing quarterback.”

One of Irons’ first decisions upon arrival at Gainesville was to immerse himself in becoming acclimated to the football program and weight room, even before getting to know the rest of the student body. Then over the summer it was full speed ahead with passing camps and lots of lifting.

He even crossed paths with the 2014 Gainesville High graduate Watson, who was third in Heisman Trophy voting in 2015, during workouts at the school’s impressive weight-training facility.

Irons is looking forward to this Friday, his first regular-season outing in front of the Red Elephants’ faithful at City Park Stadium. Gainesville faces Class 7A Alpharetta with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

“I’ve heard it’s packed out for home games here at Gainesville, so I’m excited,” said Irons. “Once the game starts, I really don’t pay attention to the crowd.”

In his first game at West Hall, Irons said it took a little longer to get past the jitters. With a plethora of penalties by Gainesville and a turnover, Irons said it was the second half before he was able to calm down and find his groove.

Even with the season underway, Miller said he’s still installing plays every day for Irons to learn. Gainesville’s coach said Irons has a ‘great aptitude’ for being successful at quarterback.

“We’ll put in four or five new plays today and he’ll be able to pick it up right away,” said Miller.

So far, Irons said he’s receiving college attention from Florida, South Carolina and Coastal Carolina.

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