When Austin Burton returned to his Newton home from Purdue University early in the pandemic, he was determined to keep training and work on his quarterbacking skills.
Burton, a former standout at Newton South who transferred to Purdue after three years at UCLA — worked weekly from May to early August with Mike McCarthy, the career passing leader at Bridgewater State who is now the owner of M2 QB Academy.
McCarthy’s ability to film and break down throwing motions so young quarterbacks can improve their mechanics has become invaluable for Burton, to the point he made sure to book two sessions over winter break before heading back to college.
“I’m extremely grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from [McCarthy],” Burton said. “He’s helped my physical skills and my mental approach to the game. What he does is unique.”
After tallying more than 2,000 total yards and 41 touchdowns while leading Martha’s Vineyard to a Division 3A Super Bowl appearance in 2008, McCarthy played one year at Merrimack, then transferred to Bridgewater State, where he started every game for four years. He spent a year with the Geneva Seahawks in Switzerland, and played for the New Hampshire Brigade in the CAN-AM Indoor Football League before a shoulder injury ended his career.
Now a physical education teacher at Plymouth North, McCarthy dove into coaching in 2014 and started a private training service that eventually blossomed into M2 QB Academy by 2018.
His program focuses on training quarterbacks to adjust to defensive pressure by throwing off balance, or using different arm angles. With fewer college camps or options to train during the pandemic, M2 has grown exponentially with more than 200 quarterbacks, receivers, and linemen participating this past year.
Training at M2 has served as a spring board for the success of local prospects, including Milford senior Brady Olson.
Olson stood 6-foot-1-inch and weighed 150 pounds when he began working with McCarthy last February but has grown into a 6-4, 195-pound frame. He learned the position from his uncles, Dale and Dana Olson, but reached another level thanks to McCarthy’s creative training regimens, earning 13 collegiate offers before officially signing to UMass on Dec. 16.
“We wanted our nephew to get coached and yelled at by someone other than his uncles,” said Dana Olson, the former Millis head coach who is an assistant for his twin, Dale, at Milford.
“We liked what [McCarthy] is doing from a coaching standpoint, and he’s in it for the right reasons, whereas it can be a money grab for a lot of guys.”
In addition to sharing his passion for quarterbacking with a new generation, McCarthy said he wants his academy to keep New England prospects on the national radar.
A shorter training season can hurt recruitment for QBs in the Northeast, but along with Burton, Jake Willcox (Everett/Milton Academy/Brown), Luke MacPhail (Dexter Southfield/Syracuse) and Andrew Landry (Newton North/Boston College) have found success at the collegiate level and returned to work out with M2.
“We’re competing against the rest of the nation for scholarships,” McCarthy said. “Being from the Northeast and having cold winters we are at a disadvantage, so we try to level the playing field and show that we’re working year-round, because we have guys that can play.”
Those college QBs are setting a benchmark for young prospects such as Reading’s James Murphy and Milton Academy’s Jake Holtschlag.
“Being able to learn from Austin Burton has been crazy,” said Holtschlag, a 6-4 junior from Hingham.
“We’re always learning and competing, but it’s not cutthroat. You really develop a bond with those guys and the individual training you get from Mike [McCarthy] is incredible. You just can’t get that much attention to detail on your fundamentals during a season.”
McCarthy takes little credit for the initial success of those older QBs, but his program is helping them stay sharp.
“We didn’t mold these guys. That was all them,” McCarthy said. “But it’s huge toward the community we’re trying to build. These younger guys are a part of the process now and those are the guys the next group will look up to in five years.”
McCarthy also continues to learn. He first started working on his technique with his father, Mike Sr., a former player and coach at UConn.
To hone his craft as a coach, McCarthy studies and emulates notable QB camp directors Trent Dilfer, Jordan Palmer, Will Hewlett, and Tom House. His staff includes former Bridgewater State QB coach Alex McLaughlin, Plymouth North QB coach Greg O’Sullivan, and former BSU stars Steve D’Emilia and Cam Moitoza.
With an unquenchable passion for studying the nuances of the quarterback position, McCarthy is going to be an asset for young passers for years to come.
“Clearly he’s one of the best QB coaches around,” said Burton’s father, Steve, the longtime sportscaster at WBZ-TV who played quarterback at Northwestern.
”Austin looks forward to coming back every year and working with him. I’ve seen how his confidence when he leaves here is sky high. You don’t have to go down south for that type of training, you can get it right here in Massachusetts.”
▪ Joenel Aguero, a nationally-ranked prospect from Lynn and member of St. John’s Prep’s 2019 Super Bowl team, recently accepted a full scholarship to IMG Academy in Florida, where he will compete for the program’s elite national team. Prep coach Brian St. Pierre called Aguero “the best player in New England as a sophomore . . . he’s as good a safety as I’ve ever seen at the high school level.” The 6-foot, 185-pound Aguero moved to Florida in late December and will work with trainers until IMG training camp begins in July.
▪ Barnstable, Sandwich, Falmouth have paused winter sports activities with a plan to resume on Jan. 11 . . . Reading has put an indefinite pause on winter sports.
▪ Saugus hired William Cahill and Joseph Bertrand as co-head coaches for the varsity boys’ basketball program after Joseph’s father, Mark, died unexpectedly.
▪ Needham named Rich Raymond as baseball coach . . . Ursuline hired 2015 graduate and former Assumption star Morgan O’Donnell as girls’ basketball coach.
▪ The following athletes recently announced or formalized their college commitments:
Basketball: Holt Bashinsky, Winchendon School (NYU); Jake Gomez, Weymouth (Suffolk)
Field Hockey: Alison Michalik, Quabbin (Saint Joseph’s of Maine)
Football: Domenic DeCrescenzo, Reading (Tufts); Seamus Foley, St. Sebastian’s (Union); Will McKay, Tewksbury (Springfield College); Wesley McQuillan, Dighton-Rehoboth (Assumption); Ryne Rametta, Tewksbury (Husson)
Lacrosse: Will Nolan, Duxbury (Bentley)