Coach Brian Newberry and offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut have made it clear that future Navy quarterbacks will have to be able to throw the ball effectively. That is how committed they are to incorporating passing elements to the offense.
Navy football made a strong statement in that regard by landing the most prolific quarterback in Pennsylvania history.
Navy recently received a commitment from Alex Erby of Steelton-Highspire High, a Class 1A powerhouse located just outside Harrisburg. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander is a three-star recruit according to rivals.com and held 16 scholarship offers, including several from Power Five schools.
Erby publicly announced his commitment to Navy last week at Jawns On Fire, a Harrisburg shoe store with which he is partnered. His other finalists were Big Ten schools Maryland and Minnesota.
“At first, I wasn’t really considering committing to Navy because I was blessed with all the Power Five offers. I was also a little hesitant about the military commitment,” Erby told The Capital in a phone interview. “It was the way everyone involved with the program welcomed me into the brotherhood and made me feel so at home that changed my mind. The Navy football brotherhood is unmatched and I want to be part of that.”
Erby holds Pennsylvania state records for career passing yards (12,727) and career passing touchdowns (164). He broke the yardage mark set by Brett Brumbaugh of South Fayette (11,084) during an Oct. 6 game against Camp Hill. One week later, he surpassed Central Martinsburg’s Jeff Hoenstine (146) as the all-time touchdowns leader.
Steelton-Highspire is 11-0 going into Friday night’s state playoff game against Belmont Charter. Erbe, a four-year starter, has already led the Steamrollers to two 1A state championships and is seeking to close his career with a third.
Steelton-Highspire is led by coach Andrew Erby Sr., who described his son as a “special talent.”
“Alex has been a proven winner, on and off the field. He’s an exceptional leader and a fierce competitor with a really high football IQ,” Coach Erby said. “What has made Alex so effective is his work ethic. He is really self-motivated and strives to improve day in and day out.”
Navy formally offered Erby in October 2022 and has been in hot pursuit ever since. Wide receivers coach Mick Yokitis, a Pennsylvania native, was the lead recruiter with Newberry, Chesnut and quarterbacks coach Ivin Jasper also heavily involved.
Erby has taken three unofficial visits to the Naval Academy to tour the campus and football facilities, meet the staff and get to know the players. Senior quarterback Tai Lavatai was among many current Midshipmen who welcomed the highly touted prep prospect with open arms.
“One of the main reasons I chose Navy was the relationship I have continued to build over the last two years with Coach Yo. I talk to him all the time and we have developed a great connection,” Erby said. “When I walked into Coach Jasper’s office to meet with him for the first time, we were drawing Xs and Os on the board. Coach Chesnut came into the room and was explaining what Navy was going to do on offense down the road.”
Erby praised Maryland coach Mike Locksley and Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck for also “showing a lot of love.” However, no program was as persistent as Navy with Erby really appreciating that Lavatai regularly sent text messages of support.
“I think the Navy coaches did a really good job of making sure Alex felt wanted and was their top guy throughout the process. There wasn’t a day or week that went by when, by NCAA guidelines, they didn’t speak to Alex,” Coach Erby said.
Erby threw for 3,389 yards and 40 touchdowns as a junior and is well on the way to surpassing those numbers this season. He enters Friday night’s playoff game 163-for-202 with 3,170 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Erby is a three-time All-State selection and was named 2022 Class 1A Player of the Year by the Pennsylvania Football Writers Association. He was picked as a MaxPreps All-American.
Andrew Erby believes his son found an atmosphere within Navy football that matched what he experienced at Steelton-Highspire, which has been playing football for 130 years and captured 11 state championships. The Steamrollers compete in the Capital Division of the Mid-Penn Conference and routinely capture championships despite being one of the smaller schools in the league.
“Our nickname is ‘Title Town’ so our expectations are really high year-in and year-out. This program has a very rich tradition,” said Andrew Erby, who played at Steelton-Highspire and became an All-American linebacker at Delaware Valley.
“Our team motto is ‘For the Room’ and is about trusting everyone in the locker room and sticking together. I think Navy football was a great fit for Alex because the culture is very similar on a lot of levels. Alex was looking for a team-oriented atmosphere with great camaraderie and found that with the Navy brotherhood.”
Erby, a three-sport athlete who also stars in basketball and baseball for the Steamrollers, said Chesnut described a Navy offense that will include run-pass option plays and other schemes he is comfortable operating. Steelton-Highspire runs a spread offense featuring zone power rushing and lots of RPO.
“Alex is not your typical Navy quarterback. He’s able to do some things with his arm talent that will be different than what Navy has recruited in the past,” Coach Erby said. “Alex has shown that he is a very capable runner. We just don’t run him a lot because it’s not worth having him take extra shots.”
Alex was told he’ll have plenty of opportunities to “spin the ball” at Navy, but understands the offense will remain option-oriented.
“The only thing I care about is winning games. I don’t care if we throw the ball twice in a game,” he said. “That’s the same philosophy we have at my high school. We may run the ball 20 to 30 times in some games. Whatever it takes to win football games is what I’ll do.”
Erby, who boasts a 3.8 grade point average, has not been told whether he will be a direct-entry recruit or attend the Naval Academy Prep School.
“Alex believed in the philosophy that it’s not about the next four years, but the next 40. Academics are very important to our family and Alex knows he’s going to get a great education and be set up for long-term success by getting a Naval Academy degree,” Coach Erby said.
Alex Erby has an identical twin, Andrew, a 280-pound two-way lineman who previously committed to Ohio University of the Mid-American Conference after the brothers abandoned the idea of going to the same school.
Akron, Army Bowling Green, Connecticut, James Madison, Kent State, Louisville, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Toledo also offered scholarships to Alex Erby. Not all of those schools recruited him as a quarterback.
“Me and my brother sat down and talked about it and decided we’re going to separate one day. We figured why not build our own legacies at the next level,” Alex said.
According to Rivals.com, Erby is the fifth quarterback from the Class of 2024 to commit to Navy. He joins Gavin Doss (Saks Senior; Anniston, Alabama), Jackson Gutierrez (John Jay; San Antonio, Texas), Talon Fisher (Fairfield, Ohio) and Brady McDonough (Desert Mountain; Scottsdale, Arizona).
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