It's the 17th letter in the alphabet, the second least frequently used in the English language.
At Millard North, though, “Q” is more than just a letter. It's an identity.
In the Mustang football program, the maestro of coach Fred Petito's option offense is referred to by the single letter.
And boy, do the Mustangs have themselves a “Q” these days.
Senior Isaac Aakre will try to cap one of the best careers in the long history of guys under center at Millard North when the Mustangs play Omaha North for the Class A title Monday night in Lincoln.
There are a number of Division I players in that group. A couple who made the NFL. One who won a Heisman.
But none has Aakre's numbers — he passed North Platte native and current New England Patriot Danny Woodhead this year as the all-time leading rusher in Class A history. A win Monday night would give him a second title — the Mustangs, led by a sophomore Aakre, won in 2010 — one more than any other “Q” in Millard North history.
“He's a special one,” Petito said with a slight laugh, as if to say he knew how big of an understatement that was. “We've had some good ones. He's right there.”
Aakre's last game?
Could Monday be Aakre's final competitive football game?
Most may not realize it, but that's a real possibility.
Aakre (pronounced AW-kree) has not decided if he'll play football at the next level or begin his pursuit of a career in the ministry, those close to him say. (The World-Herald failed in several attempts to reach him.)
Big-time college programs have not shown much interest in the 6-foot, 185-pounder. Other Millard North quarterbacks have gone on to play defense at the next level. Isaac hasn't been asked about that much.
Georgia Tech wanted him to come to a camp during the summer. North Dakota State has sniffed around.
The strongest interest has come from Olivet Nazarene University, a Christian NAIA school in Illinois that is most famous for sharing its campus with the Chicago Bears during training camp.
His 40 time isn't what people talk about in the stands. His knack for making plays, though, is off the charts.
“When he comes back from a camp or a visit, they just love him,” Petito said. “They go 'Wow, this kid is pretty special.' He's the type of kid that could earn the guy that finds him a pretty big promotion.”
Isaac's plans will get hashed out soon, said his dad, Joel.
In making sure he wasn't speaking for his son on the issue, Joel Aakre said it's not a decision his son has agonized over.
He'll be happy either way.
No average start
Petito claims he doesn't turn guys into quarterbacks.
“They gravitate to (the position),” he said.
Aakre is the latest example. The latest pupil in all things option got his start early.
Petito remembers the seventh-grader who wanted to take a couple of snaps.
“You can see the ones that have aptitude for it,” he adds. “They have the poise. And they have the patience to do things on a day to day basis.”
Aakre didn't play tackle football until the seventh grade. And back then, Aakre wasn't a quarterback.
“He wasn't necessarily the guy,” Joel Aakre said.
That changed quickly.
At 15 years old, he made his first career start against a tough Omaha Creighton Prep team to open the 2010 season. That year ended with a second-half comeback for a state title.
“He's got total command of every situation,” Petito said, “and he's got total respect.”
Not your typical kid.
“If you're an average guy … you've got to play a different position,” Petito said. “You look at the guys we've had, they're far away from average.”
Football and faith
Todd Doxzon gets it.
He was in Aakre's shoes in the early '90s. Given the keys to Millard North's offense as a junior — one year later in his career than Aakre — Doxzon said he hit a couple of curbs along the way.
“It was bad news,” he said of his play that year. “I was hot garbage.”
Seeing all of Aakre's success makes Doxzon appreciate just how impressive of a young man Millard North has.
And not just on the football field. Doxzon, a pastor at Calvary Chapel in west Omaha, sees the way Aakre leads the church's youth group. Doxzon calls him an “integral part” of a “phenomenal” group of youth.
He see maturity in Aakre that is hard for him to recall in a high school senior.
When an opponent makes a good play, or comes up with a big hit, Aakre springs up and gives him a tap on the helmet or the backside.
While most grow up in their 20s or 30s, Aakre got his start much earlier, Doxzon said.
“For some reason, God got Isaac started early,” he said. “And the fruit of it is really cool to see.”
The two have a connection through passions for both football and faith. Doxzon went to Iowa State and spent some time with the Miami Dolphins in the late '90s. He knows the draw of football at the highest level.
When he discusses the future with Aakre, Doxzon keeps it pretty simple.
“What I've told him is that this is between you and God,” Doxzon said. “Get wise counsel from the people you love and trust. You can't live someone else's dream or someone else's desire for you. He knows he's got a lot of support either way.”
'Q' in control
Controlled chaos. Organized confusion.
With so much going on during every play in the option offense, it's an understatement to say there are many moving parts.
And Aakre is the conductor on the crazy train. On nearly every play, he has reads before the snap and as the play starts, then a quick evaluation once things are in full motion.
Petito calls the weekly planning a “very interesting” process.
“Watching (Aakre) pull it off is even better,” the coach said.
One night Millard North's fullback might get 35 carries. The next week it could be Aakre who finishes with 40 attempts.
In the regular-season finale against the same Omaha North team the Mustangs will see Monday, Aakre pitched on the option a number of times after getting past the line of scrimmage. Last week vs. Millard South, he threw nine times in the second half.
“The person in the stands doesn't understand how crucial it is for the quarterback to get in the right play in that offense,” Doxzon said.
Of course the road graders up front can make or break a running game. This year, Aakre is protected by a pair of senior tackles in Mike Milenkovich and Jordan Padrnos who are the bookends on another Mustang line that is more bulldog than thoroughbred.
No matter which type of attack the Mustangs have going on a given night, the “Q” is the constant. The one with the steady hand.
“While 21 guys are going like a bat out of you know what,” Petito said, “they have to settle with the ball and make good decisions.”
Never too high, never too low. It's the only way Aakre knows to play. And live.
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402-850-0781, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/nickrubek