Ben Partee’s youth was full of games of baseball and basketball, and questions about which sport would become his future.
But football wound up falling closest to the Partee family tree.
“Freshman year was my first year of football,” he said. “My dad was a player and he wanted me to give it try. I had interest, but I was really set on basketball and baseball back then.
“He kind of convinced me and he wanted me to give it a shot, so I took his word that I’d like it … and I’m really glad he convinced me.”
Partee’s rapid development as a quarterback the last three years has given San Marcos High hope for a breakout season this fall. The 6-foot-2 and 210-pound senior, who missed most of his sophomore season with a hand injury, passed for 1,712 yards and 16 touchdowns last year.
“His grasp of the sport in general is so much better,” Royals coach Jason Fowle said. “As a freshman, he’d never played the game before. You’re talking about a guy who’s only had two years of playing experience, freshman and junior year, not counting a couple of games he played as a sophomore.
“That’s the biggest thing for him — his development and just his knowledge of the game, as well as his leadership qualities.”
Ben Partee III comes from hearty, heady stock. His father, Ben Partee II, was a schoolboy star at Marin Catholic High before continuing on as a defensive back at Cal.
His dad also served as the head football coach at the College of Marin before becoming the athletic director at Santa Rosa Junior College. He came to Santa Barbara in 2000, succeeding Bob Dinaberg as the A.D. at SBCC, before becoming the dean of student services.
Ben III, who has accumulated a grade-point average of 4.85 at San Marcos, has been a quick learner at quarterback, but he’s also grown physically over the last three years.
“I definitely put in a lot of work during the offseason, getting my weight-lifting numbers,” he said. “I think I went up 15 pounds and I’m throwing the ball farther.
“My pocket presence has gotten a lot better than last year. I’m not afraid to take a hit and make throws under pressure, extend plays on my feet.”
He was a sophomore when Fowle moved him into the starting quarterback position, but his season ended during his second game on varsity when his hand struck the helmet of a Hueneme defender.
“It was unfortunate because he took some of the lumps last year as a junior that he would’ve taken that season,” Fowle said. “But he had a good junior year, all things considered. This year, he’s stepped up as a leader of our team. He’s improved as a passer and he’s improved as a leader.”
Partee is “fully committed” to football now, having attended camps in Arlington, Tex. as well as at several Ivy League schools. He’s also been tutored by former NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer of Dana Point.
“He’s really good — I learned a lot from him,” Partee said. “I’ve been working in town with local coaches, as well. It’s been a great offseason for me.”
He’s also worked out with several of his receivers, including Josh Brown, who caught 44 of his throws for 675 yards last year.
“Josh is definitely a go-to guy for me,” Partee saide. “Jack Huffman is a great wide receiver, too, and George Tracewell is a great tight end. We just have a better receiving corps all the way around this year.
“We had guys going out pretty much every day for throw-outs, and getting things synchronized. We’re all really comfortable with the playbook.”
He expects better protection this year, as well.
“Niko Chavez is back on the O line, and Jorge Medina,” Partee said. “They’ve both gotten a lot stronger. There’s kind of stand-out guys.
“But I think all across the board, the line has improved.”
The entire program is ready to step up, he said.
“I think we’re a lot more ahead of where we’ve been in the past,” Partee said. “Our offensive periods at practice now are a lot smoother than they’ve ever been … a lot fewer mistakes than we’ve had in the past.
“We’re looking really good offensively right now, for sure.”
And as for the future of San Marcos football?
“My younger brother is a freshman this year, and he’s on the football team,” he said. “It’s his first year playing, too.”
The tree is rooting even deeper at Warkentin Stadium.