After four years, the star quarterback is home.

Drew Cortez graduated from Lafayette in 2015 and went on to have a strong career at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Over his four-year career, Cortez showed out for the Spires. He finished with over 10,000 career passing yards and tied multiple records during his time at the school.

On Oct. 28, 2017, Cortez tied the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference record for most completions in a game against McPherson. The record he tied has been in place since 2002. He also tied the conference record for longest pass of 99 yards, which has been in place since 1982, in 2016. He’s also the No. 3 player in the KCAC for season passing yards. In 2017, he threw for 3,637 yards.

And he’s bringing all that talent back to St. Joe.

“Whenever I was in college, I really wanted to teach, but I also wanted to coach football,” Cortez said. “Just being able to do that is a cool addition to what I’m doing.”

Cortez graduated from Saint Mary earlier this year and now works as a credit recovery teacher at Lafayette. He said football gives him a chance to participate in the sport he’s always loved but in a different way.

“It’s pretty surreal — I was in meetings all day (Tuesday), and it was kind of different seeing it from a teacher point of view and a coach point of view,” Cortez said. “It’s pretty exciting just to be able to come back and help guys who I’ve seen grow up through my brothers and through my sister.”

Lafayette head coach Eric McDowell said Cortez’s young energy will be good for the team.

“(He has) that young fire,” McDowell said, “obviously, a new view, too. You never want to surround yourself with people that are the same because then you’ll all make the same mistake and jump off the same cliff. He can probably relate a little bit differently to the kids than some of the older coaches as well.”

Senior quarterback Daeton McGaughy also said since Cortez is young, he can help guide him through the season with his own experiences.

“It’s been good just having someone I can relate to fresh out of college to come in and be my mentor for my last year,” McGaughy said.

Cortez has shown that energy early with McGaughy when it comes to days he struggles.

“Everybody has days where you really don’t feel like getting up and rallying the troops, but he lets me know, ‘Hey, it’s time to go,’” McGaughy said.

For Cortez, coming back to Lafayette as a coach is a completely different feeling, but in a good way. He joked that even with the paperwork, meetings and hectic schedules, he’s glad he doesn’t have to run as much as he did when he was a player.

“As a coach, I like to be able to see things and step back and be patient — kind of see how everything works,” Cortez said.

The season hasn’t even started but Cortez said his main focus is to make sure the team realizes there are smaller goals that need to be reached as they strive for a state championship.

“Obviously, everyone wants to win a state championship, but I think the problem with some kids saying that is they bypass — we’ve got districts, we’ve got conference, we’ve got a lot of the playoffs we have to do, so I think we have to take little steps at a time,” Cortez said. “It’s kind of a stepping stone we have to have to build all the way up to that state championship.”

That first stepping stone is at the jamboree on Friday, Aug. 23.

Amanda Sullivan can be reached at amanda.sullivan@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @NPNowSullivan