Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Central Gwinnett's Eman Westmoreland is a three-year starting quarterback for the Black Knights and is peaking in head coach Todd Wofford's offense.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- When Eman Westmoreland signed up for football as a 6-year-old, his Collins Hill district team didn't have enough room for all the new members and his family got a choice to send him to a Norcross or Central Gwinnett team.
"My mom didn't want me to be called a Blue Devil, so I went with the Black Knights," Westmoreland remembers. "She didn't want me to be called a Devil."
With that choice, Westmoreland joined a team and he stuck with it. Eventually, he moved into the Central Gwinnett district, staying a Black Knight.
"I wanted to be closer my friends, to go to school with my friends, the people I have been playing sports with," Westmoreland said.
He's a senior now and a three-year starter at quarterback for Central, overseeing the transformation of the program under third-year head coach Todd Wofford and becoming one of the county's most prolific passers ever during the process. Westmoreland's 61 touchdown passes are the most in Gwinnett history and his 6,206 career passing yards put him ultra-close to the record of 6,496, set by North Gwinnett's Mikey Tamburo.
"This year we are coming together more as a team and we are getting that pace that Coach Wofford wants us to get," Westmoreland said. "We are not the biggest team out there, but we are one of the fastest."
And fast is the hallmark of Wofford's spread attack, which relies on the offense keeping a frenetic pace to force the opposing defense to buckle under an endless attack. Central's game is about speed and maximizing time, a luxury Westmoreland learned very young. His full name is Emmanuel Westmoreland -- 20 letters -- and when he first learned to write he tired quickly of filling out page after page with all 20 letters.
"I used to always complain how long my name was," he said. "In class, kindergarten, writing that 20 times in an hour, it was difficult. My mom just came up with Eman."
Speed mattered even then.
In Westmoreland's first two seasons running the offense, there were always spurts when the offense showed its potential. Then there was a hiccup. They were adjusting.
"The first few years we had to get used to the tempo and the style of Coach Wofford," said Westmoreland, who threw for 5,363 yards and 53 touchdowns his first two seasons as starter. "This year, we finally got on the same page with the coaches and the coaching staff."
Even at 3-0, things aren't perfect.
Following a 45-42 win over Clarke Central in Week 2 this season, Westmoreland met with his fellow seniors to discuss where they would go from there.
And not in a good way.
Even at 2-0, the quarterback was not pleased with his performance, despite scoring 45 points and winning the game. Westmoreland's refusal to be satisfied parrots his head coach, who sets high expectations for his quarterbacks.
"If anybody gets ripped hard, I rip him harder than anybody on the team. That comes with the position," Wofford said. "He's in a pressure position, if things go good, they are going to say it was because of him. If things go bad they are going to say it's because of him. Quarterbacks and head coaches, they take the bullets. When I get on him hard, he listens to it and then gets on to the next play. He's not one that hangs his head and thinks about the last pass or turnover."
Westmoreland moved to quarterback late, officially. Through youth football he played tight end, running back and linebacker. He played some defensive end too. But during practices he kept one eye on his drills and the other on the QBs.
"I would shadow him," Westmoreland said. "I always wanted to play quarterback."
He got his chance in eighth grade and never turned away. As he prepares to play football in college he still hopes to play quarterback, if he can.
He's not the tallest, but in the spread system out of the shotgun, he can see the field and make quick decisions. On the season he's completed 60 of 90 passes (67 percent) for 843 yards, eight touchdowns and just four picks. He's also rushed for 139 yards on two touchdowns.
And, of course, Wofford wants more.
"If he plays within the system, I really wouldn't be surprised if he had 90-95 percent completion night with 250-300 yards," Wofford said. "I've never had one do that, but he's that much smarter than other guys I've had at that position."
After three seasons, Wofford listens to suggestions Westmoreland brings to the sideline and, on occasion, agrees.
"I wouldn't have listened to anything he said his sophomore year," Wofford said. "Nothing at all."
THE WESTMORELAND FILE
Who: Eman Westmoreland
School: Central Gwinnett
Favorite movie: "Remember the Titans"
Favorite athletes: Tom Brady and LeBron James
Dream job: Accountant
• Started for Central since his sophomore year
• Enjoys math
• Mother taught him to play basketball
• Thrown for 843 yards and eight touchdowns in three games, also rushed for 139 yards and two scores
• Threw for county highs of 2,626 yards and 25 TDs as a junior, as well as 2,737 yards and 28 TDs as a sophomore
Central Gwinnett senior Eman Westmoreland, in his third season as a starter, ranks among the top passers in Gwinnett County history. The following is a look at where he stands in Gwinnett's career record books.
Career passing yards
Name, school Yards Years
Mikey Tamburo, North 6,496 2006-08
Eman Westmoreland, Central 6,206 2010-Present
Taylor Heinicke, Collins Hill 6,112 2008-10
Jon England, Norcross 5,637 1992-94
Bradd Schlosser, North 5,607 2004-05
Career passing TDs
Name, school TDs Years
Eman Westmoreland, Central 61 2010-Present
Taylor Heinicke, Collins Hill 60 2008-10
Mikey Tamburo, North 57 2006-08
Matt Wyrick, Norcross 57 1989-91
Bradd Schlosser, North 53 2004-05