Friendly Competition: Thompson QBs and friends Zach Sims and Trent Seaborn ready to work together for another state title
Published 11:02 am Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Written by Andrew Simonson | Photos by Dawn Harrison
Spend any amount of time watching football, and chances are, you’ll hear about a quarterback competition. You know, the aging veteran stubbornly refusing to let go of his spot, the wide-eyed rookie deemed as the chosen one by fans and the media, the coach who says he’ll have to wait and see who the best man is, even if he’s already made up his mind.
That’s not what’s happening at Thompson this season. Here, it looks like both quarterbacks riding to the interview in the same car after getting lunch together, cracking jokes during the photoshoot and hyping each other up all day long.
This isn’t your typical quarterback competition. And that’s because in the battle to be the Warriors’ starting quarterback for the 2023 season, Zach Sims and Trent Seaborn aren’t typical quarterbacks.
Both have guided the Warriors to state championships in historic fashion. Both have shown tremendous potential and have the Power 5 offers to back that up. But most importantly, both are each other’s friends, and no matter what happens this season, they will support each other every step of the way.
A LEGENDARY LINEAGE
“Let me back up.”
Before Seaborn can talk about his relationship with Sims, he has to go back to the beginning.
Seaborn was born in Hawaii, and he shares that heritage with the Tagovailoas, who moved to Alabaster in 2018 when Tua Tagovailoa began playing for the Crimson Tide and Taulia Tagovailoa transferred to Thompson.
The Seaborns moved to Colorado around the same time, and they visited the Tagovailoas in Alabamas to train under their father Galu, who was a renowned quarterback coach in Hawaii.
That’s where Sims came in. He was training with Tagovailoa while preparing to eventually take the starting quarterback spot at Thompson, and he and Seaborn met during one of those training sessions with coach Galu.
“I think Zach was in middle school or a freshman at the time, and I was probably fourth or fifth grade, and I got to meet him and he was a really great guy,” Seaborn said. “I got to train with him, throw at him, and he really was like an older brother to me, and there’s no one else that I would choose to play behind. And that was really where our relationship sparked.”
While Sims was already becoming like an older brother to Seaborn, he was learning from the quarterbacks ahead of him: Tagovailoa, who broke dozens of state passing records in 2018 en route to Thompson’s first state title game appearance since 1982, Sawyer Pate, who won the 2019 state championship, and Conner Harrell, the starter during the 2020 state championship game.
Harrell and Sims especially had a big brother-little brother relationship, and Sims said that it was ingrained in Thompson’s culture for the current starter to take the future one under their wing.
“Our tradition of QBs, it’s always been a brotherhood,” Sims said. “You go back to when it was Lia (Taulia Tagovailoa), and then Lia and Sawyer, and then Sawyer and Conner, and then Conner and me, and now, it’s me and Trent. It’s just a brotherhood that just really trickles down, and it’s just a tradition that we have.”
It wasn’t until Sims’ sophomore year when the Warriors needed a quarterback behind him that Thompson coach Mark Freeman pulled up Seaborn as a seventh grader to be Sims’ backup.
From there, Sims and Seaborn became even closer friends as they worked together every day during practice as they learned the offense.
Sims learned quickly how crucial it is to be prepared as a backup because something bad could happen at any moment. When Harrell went down injured late in the 2021 season against Hoover, Sims had to come in and finish the game and start the next week against Florence in the playoffs. He also had to briefly step in again for Harrell in the state championship game, where Sims threw two touchdown passes in the Warriors’ state title win.
He used the leadership skills he developed under Harrell to help prepare Seaborn for whenever his moment would come.
“I think, especially at the quarterback position, we just have to be leaders, so I think that’s the first and foremost,” Sims said. “And as far as football wise, just always being ready. We’ve had injuries at this spot as well. Connor had gotten hurt and I had to come in. I got hurt last season, Trent had to come in. So, it’s just first, being a leader, and then always just being ready at this spot.”
GOT YOUR BACK
Once Harrell moved on to North Carolina, it was Sims’ time to shine as a starter with Seaborn as his backup.
The two quarterbacks would prepare together every week last season to compare notes and help make each other better throughout the year.
Seaborn’s extra preparation was put to use as Thompson found situations throughout the season in out-of-state games and late in blowouts to let him play.
Sims was still the starter, but Seaborn played a great supporting role as the quarterbacks traded notes and tips as they went into each game.
“Throughout the whole season, he was the guy, and I was completely fine with that,” Seaborn said. “I love being right behind him and helping him throughout the whole season. I give him some feedback on what I saw, and it really helped when we played different teams. And then the same thing, what happened when I went in, I’d go in and he’d give me the same exact feedback, whatever he was saw or he would see, and we would just work like that. And that’s really what helped me throughout the playoffs was him being right behind me, supporting me and helping me throughout the whole way.”
But even that preparation couldn’t fully help Sims and Seaborn brace for what was to come. In a cruel twist of irony, Sims went down with a season-ending injury against Hoover in the regular season finale.
Almost a year to the date after Sims was thrust into the spotlight when Harrell got hurt, Seaborn became the starter as an eighth grader just before the Warriors were set to defend their three straight state titles in the playoffs.
What could have been disastrous for Thompson turned into one of the most talked-about playoff runs in recent history, as Sims’ work preparing Seaborn paid off and Seaborn flourished with Sims supporting him as, in Seaborn’s words, “the man in the chair.”
“Zach being there, he was there with me the whole time, and he was really the guy in the chair right next to me,” Seaborn said. “He was telling me all this feedback and stuff, and I think that was a really good thing throughout the playoffs. He would help me throughout the playoffs on reads and stuff like that, and I think that he’s been a really big part of what really happened.”
Seaborn led the Warriors to an undefeated postseason capped by a five-touchdown performance in the state championship game against Auburn High, which was a Super 7 record.
As the national hype for Seaborn started pouring in, it could have been easy for Sims to be jealous and want the spotlight back, but instead, he was fully behind Seaborn throughout the entire postseason to help him succeed on the big stage.
Sims was simply trying to carry on the brotherhood of quarterbacks before him and set the best example possible.
“I was just trying to be a mentor to him, just like how the guys before me were mentors to me, just telling him, ‘it’s football, just do your best, at the end of the day,’ like coach Freeman says, ‘the sun is gonna rise up tomorrow,” Sims said. “I pray with him before the games, we talk about everything, just from week to week. And our goal is to win a championship. So, we’re just taking it week by week, what we need to talk about and what we need to do just to help our team.”
While many people look at a quarterback room and see a starter and a backup, Sims and Seaborn continue to see themselves as a duo that complements each other’s skillsets to give the Warriors the best chance to win.
“I think it’s good for both of us to prepare to be the starter,” Seaborn said. “At any point, coach Freeman could put any of us in, and whoever goes in, I think either of us would do well. He’s been the guy last year, and the year before that, he went in in the state championship and did amazing. I also went in a little bit, and I think both of us having that experience is going to be good for our whole offense to really prepare. I think me and Zach both going in and having our own special skill sets and abilities, I think that’s going to be really hard for defenses to game plan against.”
What wasn’t hard was for the two of them to become close friends off the field.
While Sims and Seaborn are fierce competitors on the field and dedicated to improving as an individual player and as a position group, they don’t let their relationship stop when they leave the field. Even though they are both highly-rated prospects, they’re still teenagers, and they love to do teenager things together.
“When I got pulled up and I really got to know Zach on a more personal level, he’s really a great guy, he’s down to earth. He’s super easy to talk to,” Seaborn said. “He’s probably my best friend through football and also outside of football. We go everywhere together. He’ll drive me places and we’ll go to a pool or restaurants or stuff like that after practice. That’s really what’s kept our relationship strong is that brotherhood and not thinking of it as, ‘who’s the starter, who’s the backup,’ because you really can’t think like that. That could ruin relationships.
“And I think our relationship is really what helped our team last year. I think coach Freeman would say the same thing, us not going head-to-head with each other and who should start and who shouldn’t. I think really we should just be supporting each other.”
That relationship works because they are very similar people. They know enough about football, and more importantly, about the other person, to help correct each other and point out things that the other may not have noticed.
“I think we’re both really smart guys,” Seaborn said. “We learn through each other. Maybe he’ll make a mistake, maybe I’ll make a mistake, and then we can learn through that, and we help each other with our mistakes, like what we can improve on and what we can get better with.”
The pair have grown to be closer than brothers, but they won’t always be a short drive away. Sims is a senior, meaning this is their last season together, and the last chance for him to teach Seaborn what he will need to know to be the main man under center for the three years after he leaves.
Seaborn is soaking in all of the moments both on and off the field with Sims, and even if he could go back and learn from any other quarterback, he wouldn’t have it any other way than what he has now.
“I will definitely be very sad when Zach leaves,” Seaborn said. “He’s always been a great friend to me and really like a brother to me. And it’s not just like the things that you see on TV, but it’s also the little things too. Like he’ll teach me, at this certain part of the year, on this practice, what will a quarterback do on this day? And you know, it’s really specific, really detailed stuff, and he’s really prepared me to eventually take over the team. I think I really appreciate him for that and I wouldn’t ask for anybody else to take his spot.”
While Sims will obviously miss his best friend, he’s confident in handing off the reigns because this is what he has prepared Seaborn for. He’s done what Harrell, Pate and Tagovailoa did before him and continued the brotherhood, and that makes him prouder than anything.
“To me, it means the world because I get to do what the guys before me did,” Sims said. “Like Conner, you know, Conner was like my big brother. I would ask him questions about everything, and I would come to him about stuff. So for me to be an older guy now and to be that for Trent, to me, it just means a lot just to keep the tradition going and keep the brotherhood going that we have.”
That isn’t typical of how quarterbacks get along. But it’s how programs and dynasties are built, and Sims and Seaborn are the next in line in Thompson’s dynasty.