Pressure makes diamonds: St. Louis quarterback Chevan Cordeiro seized his moment

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the final whistle of St. Louis football practice blows, the players depart the field to the track to remove their pads. Most of them talk story and remove their gear without distraction while others are still fixated on what's happening on the field.

Even after a long practice, Chevan Cordeiro is still throwing the ball with velocity.

A soft-spoken and "shy kid" as his head coach Cal Lee would call him, Cordeiro leads by example. And as the sun sets over Kalaepohaku and the shadows of the night grow larger, Cordeiro runs four laps around the track to "stay in shape".

But in reality, he's distancing himself from the shadow of Tua Tagovailoa.

Tagovailoa hasn't played for St. Louis School in over a year, but he's still making headlines in the islands. After leading the Alabama Crimson Tide to unfathomable second half comeback in the national championship game, Tagovailoa became an overnight sensation in college football.

Thousands of miles away, Chevan Cordeiro watched Tagovailoa put together the game-winning drive on college football's biggest stage. He's seen it before on the sidelines as Tagovailoa's understudy and second-string quarterback for the Crusaders, but this time around is different.

No longer is Cordeiro the backup; he's the state's offensive player of the year.

"This whole offseason, everyone was doubting me," Cordeiro said ahead of the 2018 Polynesian Bowl. "Everyone was saying, 'Oh, Tua's gone. There's no quarterback so they're not going to win.' I just had to prove everybody wrong. And hopefully, I did that."

Cordeiro had his critics before the season started, but no one scrutinized his play more than he did.

"I was pretty nervous. I had to fill some big shoes," he said. "But this offseason, I was working hard … I didn't want to let anyone down."

There aren't many other positions in football that require a player to handle the moment. Whether it's in practice, a preseason game or state title game, Cordeiro's demeanor never wavered as he became the silent leader his head coach knew he could be.

"I think it's very difficult being behind someone with the reputation that they have in front of you. But I like the attitude of the kids that keep practicing. They never know when they're gonna have to step up. Tua could've gotten hurt, gotten sick, they practice like they're going to get ready for any call," Lee said. There's this tremendous pressure, stepping into the shoes of Tua. But I like the attitude that he has. He just comes out to work everyday, work hard and do the things that he has to do to get better. But it is a tremendous amount of pressure for any youngster coming up, trying to repeat what Tua did. And to his credit, he did. And did it awfully well."

Cordeiro was named the Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year after guiding St. Louis to an Open Division State Title victory over Kahuku that capped off an incredible statistical season in which he threw for 3,157 yards, 39 total touchdowns (29 pass, 10 rush) and just eight interceptions.

But St. Louis wasn't supposed to be that good this season, according to popular opinion. After all, they lost the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback to graduation.

But Cordeiro wasn't sitting on the bench just watching Tagovailoa rack up accolades. He was biding his time.

"Football is about attitude: You either want to be good or you just want to play the game," Lee said. "Looking at him, he isn't something you just go, 'Ah!' He's kind of tall, lanky and that kind of stuff, but what he has, is he's got a great arm and what he has is two good feet that can run. Add that two together and you got a quarterback that can not only throw the ball, he can run as well … I give him a lot of credit because his work ethic is unbelievable. He's the first one on the field and I promise, I promise you, he's the last one to leave the field because he just keep practicing; throwing the ball, doing the things he needs to do to get better."

From the moment Cordeiro made the team, he never stopped working.

Extra passes after practice, extra laps around the track, extra film study; you name it, he's done it. And he did it all to prove everyone wrong.

"After the first game, I just realized that it's my team now and I gotta prove everybody wrong," Cordeiro said. "What really helped me was my coaches and teammates. They believed in me. They told me that I was the best quarterback in the state and they really had my back. And that really helped me a lot."

Before the season, Lee admitted he had his doubts. Not so much in Cordeiro's ability to throw the ball and read the field, but he had doubts regarding his quarterback's lack of playing time.

"Before the season, you never know, being that he had that inexperience background. But during the season, the way he moved, the way he handled the game situations, the things that he did naturally, I mean sometimes the player's coaches get too much credit," Lee said. "Sometimes, he's got some natural ability."

Despite a stellar senior season, Cordeiro didn't get the national recruiting attention like his predecessor did. But Cordeiro didn't need the spotlight, as he signed early to play for the Rainbow Warriors.

Saying that Cordeiro has a chip on his shoulder would be an understatement. He thrives when others doubt him because he knows how much work he puts in despite not being vocal about his work ethic.

"I like pressure," Cordeiro says with a smile. "It just makes me work harder."

Cordeiro will play one more game before heading to Manoa at the 2018 Polynesian Bowl this Saturday at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:15 p.m. HT.

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