K.J. Costello is more than willing to pay it forward when it comes to teaching the intricacies of being a quarterback.
The redshirt freshman at Stanford was invited to participate last month at Steve Clarkson’s 13th Annual Quarterback Retreat, where a number of the top college QBs gathered to mentor 75 of the up-and-coming recruits.
“There’s a lot of knowledge out here,” Costello said. “A lot of us spend a lot of time perfecting our crafts over the years, and to share that knowledge with these younger kids is pretty cool.”
The 6-foot-5, 216-pound Costello broke the school record for career passing yards set by Carson Palmer at Santa Margarita Catholic.
A four-star prospect according to Rivals, he was rated the second-best pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class, which included Georgia’s Jacob Eason, Oklahoma’s Austin Kendall and Ole Miss’ Shane Patterson — all of them also counselors at the retreat.
“We hang out quite a bit,” said Costello, with two-day camp broken into eight stations. “And it’s about just really building a relationship that never would’ve been able to be built upon if it wasn’t for these mini-camps.”
He added: ‘It’s a pretty cool gig. I think for a lot of us it’s more of a way to connect with a different quarterback network.”
Growing up, Costello “bounced around here and there” to attend a few camps himself.
“I tried to take one or two things from every camp I went to and kind of form my natural approach to the position and to the game,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t acquire knowledge if you’re not exposed.”
The scout team quarterback as a true freshman on The Farm this past fall, he learned not to allow outside factors come into play.
“I think we run a system unlike anyone else in the country, very technical,” Costello said. “The focus is a lot on preparation and understanding how the offense is running as a whole and what our goals are and exactly how we’re going to execute. We’re always going over a lot of schemes and multiple plays, always trying to give the offense the advantage of the situation.”
The knee injury to Keller Chryst at the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30 kept the Palo Alto High graduate out of spring practice, plus the Cardinal and White Spring Game in April.
That meant a lot more reps for Costello, who is battling redshirt senior Ryan Burns for the backup spot whenever Chryst is cleared to return to practice.
“It’s not in my power to determine that,” Costello said. “I control what I can control and I leave that up to Coach (David) Shaw, who’s doing a great job in basically painting the picture. We’re all striving for the same goal and at the end of the day we’re going to put the guy better suited for the situation.”
The Cardinal opens its 2017 season on the road at Sydney, Australia, against Rice on Aug. 26.
Not making the trip is Christian McCaffrey, who moved on to the NFL as the running back was selected No. 8 overall by the Carolina Panthers.
How will the offense look without the Heisman Trophy runner-up from two years ago, when he broke the NCAA record set by Barry Sanders for all-purpose yards in a season with 3,864?
“People ask that question a lot,” Costello said. “I think we have some serious talent behind Christian in Bryce Love. And Trevor Speights had a great spring game, a young freshman coming up. And Cameron Scarlett, as well. Obviously no one can replace Christian, but I think the cool part about this team is we have a lot of other guys step up and contribute.”
That includes tight ends Dalton Schultz and Kaden Smith, along with wide receivers JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin.
“He’s always at the right spot,” Costello said of Irwin. “Really, really, really good route runner — one of the best I’ve seen.”
And while the defense will sorely miss defensive end Solomon Thomas, who was taken third overall in the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, it appears Costello has a ton of confidence in one aspect of the team.
“I think our secondary is one of the best in the Pac-12,” Costello said, “and going against that every day is awesome for me. Great competition, it allows you to really feel how a DB core plays well together and understand how I can beat them.”
It’s the type of knowledge he could share at the QB retreat.
Though when asked for how the transition went from high school to college, his experience doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone.
“I think it’s a little different at Stanford University,” Costello said. “From Day 1, you’re forced to be an adult and you’re going to continue to struggle until you make that conscious decision to start acting like a responsible human being, someone who’s willing to take accountability for their actions, their responsibilities in each and everything they do.”