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Real Talk with QBV #5: Former College and Pro Football Quarterback Chris Hixson

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

On Thursday the QBV team had the pleasure of interviewing former College and Pro Quarterback Chris Hixson. Hixson was a four year starter at the University of Rhode Island and has many school records at URI. He also played professionally in the Arena Football League.

After his professional career, Hixson has dedicated his life to the game of Football. He is the owner and head coach of "Trent Dilfer's QBIQ," Where he teaches his IQ system to many different young Quarterbacks. Hixson is a QB expert who has written three books on being a Quarterback. Take a look at what we learned below!

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Coming to URI for college, what was your first impression of the football environment in New England?

Obviously I came from the West Coast, I played High School at Belleview High School. If you guys know who Belleview is, if you’ve seen the movie “Where the Game Stands Tall” that’s the same school, we beat them, we snapped their 151-0 record, which was the best record in sports history. Commonly top five, top ten in the country, it has not been as good the past few years but typically we are in the running for being top in the nation.

Coming out of that to going to the University of Rhode Island, I did not have a whole lot of opportunities from scholarships and what not. I didn’t have a junior year then all of a sudden we are playing in a Wing-T Offense where we throw the ball 6-7 times a game. Flats, drags and occasionally the backside post when the backside safety falls asleep. We were smoking every team so I would play 2-3 quarters a game.

Ultimately, I didn’t have a whole lot of scholarships but I got the opportunity to go to the University of Rhode Island. I was able to start right away, anyplace you are able to start right away, you typically like. I really enjoyed Rhode Island, it was awesome being a Ram...”

What was it like playing in the AFL (Arena Football League), differences between 8 man and 11 man game?

“I had a couple of opportunities other than arena, arena is what I did post college, and I played a good amount of years in that league. I am going to tell you right now, it’s the most fun type of Football I have ever played, because you throw every down and you are always in scoring position. It’s an exciting, fast fast game.

Put it in context like this, take a guy who runs a 4.4 40, you do not just take the field and half it, you take the width of the field and half it as well, so it is the quarter of the side and then you are not done yet. You take the guy who runs a 4.4 40 and give him a head start. Now this guy basically runs a 3.7, a 3.8.

What I used to tell myself is my mantra, I drop fast, I read fast and I throw fast. Tie your eyes to your foot, that’s what Trent Dilfer always says. He always says tie your eyes to your feet, when you see a quarterback start to do that, you realize this Quarterback understands the intelligent side of Football, so he can anticipate the windows. Once you see that, you see that this Quarterback is approaching a maturity level that is pretty impressive.

You got to do that in Arena, look at what Kurt Warner did, he got to do that in Arena Football. If you don’t, you are going to be late, you won't have a shot to hit the guy. That’s why a lot of NFL guys that try to play Arena can’t really make the transition.”

How important is film work in the off season? How important are pre snap reads?

That is obviously a super important part of the game right. Preparation is like you resume going into a game. When bosses look at you and say, “Hey let me see your resume.” Hardly ever are you going to outdo your resume. You are usually going to do exactly as your resume suggests. You are not just going to be amazing by lightning strike, or bad by lightning strike. You are usually going to have exactly what your resume has for that week, which is your attention on your opponent.

You are going to play like how your whole week preparation was, you are going to play exactly like that, bottom line. The better the preparation, the better the process, the better the results. A part of that process should be a great amount of time looking at film. Look at guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, they are looking at film consistently.

What are you looking at? When you are talking about the QBIQ System, knowing how to watch film is a great part of QBIQ. We watch film with an intelligent eye, when you get defenses that you are familiar with or accustomed to, you are simply going to react quicker with anticipation and with general rules, I know how this guy baits because I’ve watched him... If you can learn that from position to position to position, you can ID the Defense faster, you can know what works with that defense and apply it to your current play package.

Obviously, use your situational understanding, knowing what you should be throwing and what you shouldn’t be throwing and throw smart passes.”

Should a young QB study different types of QBs who may not match their playing style?

I think studying a certain type of Quarterback and how he operates the position makes sense but only in a mental sense. Certainly, we need to learn to operate in the pocket and spatial awareness and be able to put ourselves in the best scenario. Even though we are in a small space, making extra space but keeping our eyes down the field. Those types of drills with off-scheduled type plays need to be rehearsed.

Elite 11 does a great job with that, in terms of conflict climb, secondary reaction and all these types of drills that make you understand how to maneuver. When to evacuate, when to side door eject, when to climb, when to protect the ball on climb and then ultimately if you have to exit, if you have a vertical read and you have to move left, you can back pedal, if you have to side door eject left but yet the throw is out to the flat, you got to 180 flip the ground. There are all these different things you have to rehearse, when the situation arises so your body never feels like it is in new territory. I’ve rehearsed this a million times, it is like second nature.

I don’t care if you are an unathletic guy compared to an athletic guy, you still need to rehearse the same movements. You still need to rehearse the off-platform type of throws, so watching all different types of Quarterbacks is important without a doubt. But most important is how to process the information in front of you. Not only understanding the maneuvers in the pocket but understanding the Defense earlier, which means the ball is going to get out of your hands earlier anyways. You look at the Defense and you know what they’re in and you know what is going to work well in it and you get the ball out of your hands faster.

Who’s better? The line is better, the catch is going to be better because the DB hasn’t had a chance to come on it. I tell guys all the time, if you throw late how perfect does the ball have to be? If you throw it out late it has to be a lot more perfect, like absolutely perfect... Aaron Rodgers talks about this, the more you get better at this position, the more you realize you don’t need to be perfect, but you have to be quick and decisive and if you are quick and decisive you don’t have to be perfect...”

Should QBs study defenses that they may not face in a season?

The way I do it is, we have a general approach on all types of Defenses, here at QBIQ we have an online class that goes every Wednesday and Sunday night at 9. We talk about every defense there is, we go over everything. I also give them Homework, GPS I call it, game, prep, step, towards their opponents, you research their film, confirm it’s the same D-coordinator as last year, if it’s not then you have to research and find film where he was at.

What we do is take that game, or try to take two games and sit there and correct all the data. On first downs what did they do? We chart the game basically. Step two is we catalog everything, all first and tens, second and longs, second and mediums and so forth. Then we go to step three and give percentages, like first and ten, 84% of the time they do cover 4 or whatever and you start to get an expectation...

Bottom line is I have these guys not only learning general defenses, of course we keep expanding our knowledge, but pinpointing what our opponents like to do in every situation. Here is the bottom line, Mike you know as well as I do, on Monday you get handed a scouting report of that defense you are facing this week. How much better would we be if we did the work ourselves instead of being handed a piece of paper? If you do the work you will know it like the back of your hand. The GA’s will be sitting there in the box or on the field, and it’ll be a situation and they are going I already know what they are going to be in because they did all the work so I make my quarterbacks do it.”

What are some things you look for when evaluating a QB?

Alright number one, first thing they will look for is size, they are going to sit there and look, is he 6’2+, and a 4.8 or better run, depending on the offense he runs, they look at different intangibles. One thing they pretty much can’t help you with is size, you know height. What they can do is build you up on weight and width size.

They can also teach the offense and so forth. In terms of Quarterback they will be asking, can he make the throws that I require. They won’t go for a guy who has a shorter arm and can’t run the offense. Is he battle tested is he one year tested, two year tested, three at a varsity level. Does he have good footwork, does he move like a professional or is that something else I am going to have to teach him? Does he have shotgun lazy feet? In college they don’t teach you this stuff usually, they don’t want to sit there and teach you about speed and agility drills, footwork wise, they want to teach you the X’s and O’s and how to operate those to the best of your ability.

The big one they look for is what kind of person you are. Are you going to be good for the program? Are you going to graduate? Are you going to have good grades? Are you going to be a good dude in the locker room? Are you going to be a leader?... Are you a winner? Are you proven to be a winner? That’s a big one. That to me is a full package...

How does a wide receiver benefit from a QB with a high “QBIQ”

One obviously is he will be able to be clear with what he wants in a wide receiver. One of the things we get that is common especially in High School, or lower level College, is we are going to get receivers that are not exact with their routes, having exact routes is important. Then you can have coverage exact routes, then you are going to have much more precise routes with what’s required with timing and window and understanding of when the Quarterback is going to get to you because a lot of Colleges are not using the QBIQ system, so they are getting to their guy progression wise late. Well, what I call college on time, which is NFL late...”

How important is offseason training for a young player?

It always comes down to the guy who does the most reps. 99% of the time it’s the guy who does the most reps. If the reps are close then it comes down to the right reps or the guy who is more focused and passionate. Then if all those are close it comes down to the guy with an overall genetic advantage.

When guys aren’t working it’s a sad thing, it is like we said before about your process and preparation ability. You will only be as good as how you prepare... Bottom line is you’re going to be exactly the person you practice as when you go into games."

The word “culture” is thrown around a lot in sports, describe the culture you’d like to create with a group of QBs

“Obviously is the bond there? We want that Quarterback to be able to bond with everybody and have such a good way of doing that. You are normally as good as your team chemistry is in that locker room. If there is tension in there you will normally not finish well or play well, you’re going to be inconsistent. If you always have faith in each other, that comes from trust, that comes from friendship and bonding. You want that Quarterback to create that culture of family.

We want a leader a guy who is there early and leaves late, we want a guy that’s the hardest worker, because what you do is trend set. When you trend set like that you create frequency, and when you create that frequency, everyone vibrates up to that frequency usually. It hardly ever goes different. You raise the tide, you raise all boats...”

Currently, who is your favorite professional QB to watch?

I would say Roger the Dodger man, growing up even though I played for Roger White, I grew up in Texas when I was young. It would have to be Roger, Roger Staubach.”

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