OVIEDO, Fla. -- Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will be on the biggest stage of his career on Sunday, going up against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Despite the grand stage, his high school football coach said he's still the same guy he was back then.
"Blake's a great guy," said Wes Allen, the former head football coach at Oviedo High School. "From the first time I met him until today, he has not changed. He's Blake. He's the kid from down the street. The kid who likes to go out and throw the football."
Ever since high school, Bortles hasn't backed down.
"The game is on the line and we're down by one," Allen said about a moment when Bortles was a junior in high school. "We're going for two to win the game. It was Blake's call and we had a play called 85 roll, and Blake said 'I'm going to run the corner over' and he tucked it and ran the corner over and scored we win the game by one. It kind of pushed us ahead as a program and I think it defined who he is as a leader in the football program at that point."
Allen watched Bortles overcome obstacle after obstacle.
"He wasn't highly recruited out of high school," he said. "He had five offers really. I think three of those were to play quarterback. And then he goes to UCF and wasn't even the starter and beats out a good quarterback at UCF."
Allen still has the newspaper clippings from Bortles' high school days and framed on his wall are memories from Bortles' draft day in 2013 when he was the third overall pick.
"He got drafted at three and the place just erupted and went crazy," Allen said.
Watching him make his way so close to the Super Bowl today has been both exciting and nerve-racking for Allen.
"I'm really proud of Blake," he said. "I know it was his dream as a kid to be an NFL quarterback. At some point in every kid's life that wants to play football or any sport you dream of being at this stage. Blake has worked very hard. The team has worked very hard. The organization has worked very hard to get them to this point, so it's exciting. It's nerve-racking because Blake is a like a kid to me. He is like one of my own kids, and you want him to succeed in everything he does."
On Sunday, Bortles will go up against one of the best quarterbacks ever, and getting there hasn't been easy. Along the way, Bortles has faced harsh criticism from media and rivals, some calling him the worst quarterback in the league.
"Blake has a very unique characteristic about him that not a lot of people possess and I think it goes back to his parents and how he was raised," Allen said. "He blocks that out. He sees it. He hears it, but if it bothers him we will never know. If anything, I think it's fuel to Blake."
With all eyes on Bortles, Allen said he just needs to remember one thing.
"I didn't tell him this, but don't get wrapped up in that it's the Patriots," he said. "Get wrapped up in the fact that you've earned the right to be there. Go do what you're supposed to do. Do your job, the whole ballgame and I feel like it will be a good night in Duval."
Allen said he still talks to Bortles all the time. He said he would love to be in Foxborough to cheer on Bortles Sunday, but Allen's wife is scheduled to deliver their second child next week so he will be rooting for him, dressed in his Jags gear, from his home in Oviedo.