By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
You could say T.C. Williams High School senior Robert Longerbeam has had a good fall. As quarterback of T.C’s football team, he has led the Titans to the state playoffs, breaking several school records along the way. He was also T.C.’s homecoming king.
Longerbeam’s football success can be traced to his father, who is T.C.’s head coach. Longerbeam literally grew up with the game.
“I was basically just born into it,” Longerbeam said. “I’ve always been around football. As soon as I was ready to play, I just started playing. I was young. As soon as I was able to walk, they say I was playing with footballs.”
Longerbeam got his start in church flag football leagues at four or five years old. The youngest of five kids, he grew up watching his brother, who is now quarterback at Livingstone College, be coached by his father as well.
Born in Florida, Longerbeam moved to Alexandria four years ago when his father accepted the head coaching position for the Titans.
Longerbeam’s high school career started off rough. He broke his wrist his freshman season and again the first game of his sophomore season, not truly getting a chance to play until his third year at T.C.
That junior season proved a turning point in Longerbeam’s football career. Five games into the season, the coaches decided to move Longerbeam from wide receiver to quarterback.
The team still finished the 2018 season with a losing record of 4-6, but the players, many of whom have been together since their freshman year, left knowing what they’d need to accomplish in the off-season to be successful in 2019.
The Titans started the 2019 season strong with a blowout 53-0 win against Herndon High School, followed by a 29-26 win over Robinson Secondary School. The streak was broken by two losses in a row, leaving the team at 2-2.
“Everybody kind of lost hope in us, but our team stayed together and we just kept building. Then we went on a five-game win streak,” Longerbeam said.
The Titans lost their last regular season game 33-6 against Mount Vernon High School on Nov. 1, ending the regular season with a record of 7-3.
The Titans are currently seeded fifth in the Gunston District, Division 6A playoff rankings, behind Mount Vernon, South County High School, West Springfield High School and Lake Braddock Secondary School. However, because they have a bye this week, the Titans won’t know their official playoff standing until their competitors play on Friday.
The Titans have had an unusual season, playing their five home games at The St. James sports complex in Springfield.
Athletic Director James Parker said the turnout has been between 1,000 and 2,000 at all five games, more than doubling the number of spectators T.C. had averaged at its Saturday home games in previous years.
“We’re doubling, tripling the number of people at the games, which I think has given the team a lot of motivation,” Parker said. “More people in the stands, a lot louder and more exciting and people are excited about T.C. football again, which is a good thing.”
In addition to the energy buzzing around the Titans this year, Longerbeam has been a major factor in the team’s success thus far. Playing on both offense and defense, he’s been invaluable. With 30 touchdowns – 15 passing and 15 rushing – so far this season, he’s on track to break school records.
“He’s probably going to break two or three school records this past year,” Parker said. “He’ll probably end up breaking the most touchdowns in a season and I think he’ll have the record for the most touchdowns in a game. He had six in one game a couple weeks ago, so he’s been dynamic on the football field this year.”
In the six-touchdown game against Annandale High School on Oct. 11, Longerbeam went 11 for 11 passing, threw for three touchdowns, ran in three touchdowns and picked off three interceptions on defense. He was named the DMV Football Recruits’ player of the week for the performance.
At about 160 pounds, Longerbeam is on the small side for a quarterback, but he said he doesn’t let it hold him back.
“I’ve always been a little smaller, so I learned to be like more shifty and agile than most people,” Longerbeam said. “I use my speed to my advantage. I like reading defenses and taking what they give me. I like adjusting off of that kind of stuff.”
Parker said Longerbeam’s quick moves make him a fun player to watch.
“He’s had some really dynamic plays this year where you’re looking like, ‘How did he get out of that? He should’ve been sacked in that situation.’ He just has the will and determination to always keep the play going and make something happen either with his feet or getting the ball downfield to one of our wide receivers. He’s definitely a good weapon to have on the football field,” Parker said.
Despite his individual stats, Parker said one of Longerbeam’s greatest strengths is his team mentality.
“Being modest, that’s just him,” Parker said. “When people come up to him and say, ‘You did a great job. You scored all the points this game,’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m happy I’ve got great teammates and guys who really do a good job blocking for me.’ So he’s very much team-first.”
The commitment to his teammates and his role as quarterback has allowed Longerbeam to become a leader for the Titans.
“He’s definitely a player that always is talking to other teammates, pumping them up, getting them ready for the game,” Parker said. “During the game, he’s really good at just motivating guys, going up to them when they’re down, letting them know, ‘Hey, we got this.’ He’s the epitome of what you would call a leader on the football field. Everybody on the football field respects him on both sides of the ball.”
As the coach’s son, Longerbeam often ends up taking more heat than the average player.
“It’s tough because a lot of people think he’s playing because he’s your son,” Coach Jim Longerbeam said. “The other part is he can’t ever get away from it. When we go home at night, as much as I try not to, you’re constantly [saying], ‘You didn’t do this, or we should do this.’”
In addition to being the coach’s son, Longerbeam faces the pressure of being quarterback.
“He’ll be the first one to tell you, as a quarterback you get probably too much credit and also probably too much blame, that kind of thing, so you just have to be humble in that position,” Coach Longerbeam said.
While coaching Robert for four years, Coach Longerbeam has seen his son go through the recruiting process. Longerbeam committed to Temple University in April, and he plans to graduate early this winter and enroll at Temple in January.
“I’ve done it for years with other people’s kids, but it’s a little more nerve-wracking once it’s your own son,” Coach Longerbeam said. “If you’d have told me a year ago that’d he’d have this many opportunities, I would’ve been shocked because you just never know. He went to a camp and … ran really, really well and that’s kind of what put him on the map.”
In college football, Longerbeam will likely play defense or wide receiver.
“Nowadays in college if you’re good enough to play as a freshman, you’ll play, but I think a lot will be dependent on him,” Coach Longerbeam said. “There’s so many variables. I think the biggest thing will be how quickly can he gain about 10 pounds and how well will he do in the spring.”
Outside of football, Longerbeam is well-known in the halls of T.C. Williams and was voted homecoming king by his peers earlier this year.
Coach Longerbeam said his son’s outgoing personality and sense of humor help him on and off the field.
“He’s a clown. Absolutely. But he’s always been that way. He talks quite a bit and he’s got a good sense of humor,” Coach Longerbeam said. “The other thing that helps him is all the kids on the team are so close. And I think that’s a benefit a lot of the times for me because they’re at my house all the time visiting him. You see them differently than out here on the field.”
Heading into playoffs, the team is adamant that they just have to keep up the mentality that has carried them here all season.
“We’ve been like working for this moment for four years and we’re finally here where we wanna be,” Longerbeam said. “We’re in the playoffs, we have a chance to win games in the playoffs and make a run, so really just putting this team together and coming together … and showing people what we’ve been working for.”
Playoffs for the Gunston District begin Nov. 15. Playoff game dates and times will be released on Sunday.