Jaxson Dart’s meteoric rise from an unheralded recruit with offers from schools like Fordham and Louisiana Lafayette, to one suddenly getting them late in the process from the likes of USC, UCLA and Arizona State is a tale woven through two schools, two coaches and a pandemic that in a strange twist of fate might’ve been his catapult to stardom.
One by one this summer as states started pushing their high school football seasons to next spring because of COVID-19, it forced ESPN to scramble for replacement games to showcase on its Friday night broadcast.
In week 3 in Utah, it identified Corner Canyon at Bingham as one of those games.
Corner Canyon hadn’t played a game yet as the ink dried on the ESPN contract, but well into summer practices already, coach Eric Kjar had a pretty good hunch his quarterback was headed for amazing things.
“You realized after working with him for a couple weeks he was going to be a pretty special player,” said Kjar, who seemingly coaches a special player every year. It didn’t take Dart long to prove himself to be unlike any other quarterback before him.
During that nationally-televised game against Bingham, Dart passed for 279 yards and six touchdowns and showed off his physical running style by racking up 132 rushing yards on just 11 carries.
“He has that natural arm talent and he can rip it anywhere, and it’s really clean, I don’t know that he ever throws a duck.” — Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar on Jaxson Dart, the Deseret News’ 2020 Mr. Football
Almost immediately his phone started blowing up with messages from college coaches who’d watched the game.
In a normal year, Dart would’ve already gotten exposure in front of many of those coaches at college summer camps but because of COVID-19 those opportunities never happened. ESPN ended up providing Dart with an alternate digital platform, and Dart’s years of hard work had him well-positioned to capitalize. After shining in week 3, Dart continued to shine every week of the 2020 season, shattering state records in the process, winning a state title and being named the Deseret News Mr. Football recipient.
At the start of the season Dart said he hoped to break the single season passing touchdown state record of 58, which incredibly was in his back pocket before the state semifinals.
He finished the season with a staggering 67 passing touchdowns compared to just four interceptions on 240 of 345 passing for 4,691 yards. He came within 43 yards of breaking the state passing yards record as well.
“He has that natural arm talent and he can rip it anywhere, and it’s really clean, I don’t know that he ever throws a duck,” said Kjar.
He also added 1,195 yards and 12 touchdowns to lead the Chargers to a perfect 14-0 record and a third straight state championship.
“It was crazy how efficient we were the whole year, a lot of times it was in the first half we were putting up a ton of those points. Looking back on it, it was super cool,” said Dart.
Early signing day is this Wednesday, and Dart has indicated he hopes to announce his final college choice by then as he’ll graduate early this month and enroll in college early in 2021.
That fact USC is one of the schools chasing his services speaks to just how dominant Dart was his senior season to create so much buzz.
“It’s been super crazy, but I wouldn’t want to be in any other place than I am now. It’s something I’ve worked really hard for. It’s felt incredible and it’s been super stressful just trying to find the school that’s going to be best for me in a short period of time. There’s not a better position I’d want to be,” said Dart.
They’re opportunities that likely would not have come if he’d stayed in his comfort zone at Roy.
Back in 2017, Dart won the starting quarterback job at Roy as a freshman which gave him the opportunity to learn from one of the top offensive minds in the state in coach Fred Fernandes for four seasons.
At the time, Fernandes told the Deseret News, “He can just spin it really well.”
He got better each of his three seasons, but Dart and his father Brandon Dart — a former Utah Ute — wondered if he’d plateaued in Fernandes’ offense at the end of the junior year.
With an aunt who lived in Corner Canyon boundaries, Dart decided to transfer schools shortly after his junior year to immerse himself in Kjar’s offensive system which he hoped would create a better path to the next level.
24 years of Deseret News
Mr. Football recipients
2020 — Jaxson Dart, Corner Canyon
2019 — Noah Sewell, Orem
2018 — Puka Nacua, Orem
2017 — Cammon Cooper, Lehi
2016 — Jaylen Warren, East
2015 — Semi Fehoko, Brighton
2014 — Britain Covey, Timpview
2013 — Ula Tolutau, East
2012 — Austin Kafentzis, Jordan
2011 — Chase Hansen, Lone Peak
2010 — Alex Kuresa, Mountain Crest
2009 — Tuni Kanuch, Bingham
2008 — Craig Bills, Timpview
2007 — Boo Andersen, Alta
2006 — Sausan Shakerin, Alta
2005 — Riley Nelson, Logan
2004 — Jason Zundel, Bear River
2003 — Ray Feinga, Hunter
2002 — Kyle Brady, Tooele
2001 — Daniel Coats, Northridge
2000 — Steve Tate, Skyline
1999 — Bo Nagahi, Skyline
1998 — David Fiefia, Hunter
1997 — Morgan Scalley, Highland
It wasn’t an easy decision by any means.
“Took a shot on me when I was a freshman so leaving him was a super hard decision, I think it just came down to being in an offense that would showcase my abilities in the best way it could,” said Dart.
Corner Canyon’s passing schemes and concepts allowed Dart to showcase his tremendous arm talent right away. His accuracy hovered around 70% all year, ultimately finishing at 69.3%. His accuracy throwing on the run was uncanny as well.
Another aspect of his game that developed was his rushing prowess. At Roy, Dart said in three seasons the coaching staff probably only called a couple of designed runs for him. At Corner Canyon, quarterbacks are a featured part of the running game, and Dart liked that challenge.
The fact he rushed for 1,195 yards as a pro-style quarterback will be a huge feather in his cap at the next level.
With Dart’s arm strength and strong running, Kjar has no doubt his senior quarterback will transfer seamlessly to the next level wherever he ends up.
Dart was quick to highlight the three-year foundation under Fernandes and Kjar’s tutelage this season as key reasons for his success.
“I’m just super thankful cause I feel like was able to be coached by two of the best coaches that have ever coached in Utah,” he said.
Winning the state championship was the icing on the cake.
“In the state championship, besides the pick, I was on cloud nine just being in that environment and getting the chance to play in the state championship,” said Dart.