The college football season has finally come to an end. The final game was a page-turner until the very last play.
I want to talk about that last play and what I have seen as a trend growing in college football.
A true freshman quarterback, throwing a touchdown to a true freshman wide receiver, being blocked for by five freshman offensive lineman. The Georgia team was led by a talented true freshman QB who played lights-out. Freshman made plays all over the place.
Freshman playing is nothing new, even at big programs. During my time (James Coleman played fullback at Florida State from 2002-2005) it was normal for freshmen to redshirt in order to learn the system, how to be a student-athlete, and acclimate to campus life along with the rigors of practice.
In those days, injury or depleted position groups led to early snaps. At FSU, injuries led me to break my redshirt. When I look back on it, that 2002 class broke a lot of trends with much of us playing early and often.
The first game I played in was an ESPN “instant classic” against Miami in the old Orange Bowl. The Miami team I played against had 14 players drafted in the first round on defense – not the the entire team and not total players drafted on defense, but first round picks.
Remembering back to that night, I saw nothing, but orange blurs and was simply running as fast as I could in hopes of blocking one. It was reminiscent to the scene from “Any Given Sunday” when Jamie Foxx’ character, Willie Beamen, first got in.
I bring this up because it makes what happened in that national championship game that much more incredible.
Tua Tagovailoa hadn’t seen any meaningful snaps in a game all season until he went in for Jalen Hurts. That Georgia defense is full of players who will play on Sundays. You practice against top guys, so did I, but the game is different. I also played fullback. I typically only had to lock into one, at most two, positions. A QB has to process the entire play and look at the entire defense.
It hit me harder when I heard Tua break-down the coverage and explain why he made the throw he did. He talked about identifying the defense and what the safety was going to do after recognizing it pre-snap, then using his eyes during the play to freeze the safety so he couldn’t help the corner he was going to attack – all in front of 80,000 live fans, millions on television, in overtime of the national championship on a terrible down-and-distance.
It confirmed something that I have seen in my 11 years since last donning a helmet and chasing linebackers, something that in a short amount of time has become more and more clear in recruiting, as well as why so many players are able to play just three years in college and advance to the pro game.
There are only two types of recruits: trained and untrained.
While recruiting heats up and the next crop of 2019 and 2020 prospects go through the process, one thing remains clear: You better get your @$$ to work and start training like you are trying to make that minor league roster or you’ll be washed out.
I run a gym, Boost Sports Performance, where I’ve seen hundreds of D-1 athletes come through and many turn pro. We take guys through age-appropriate training measures that see them become more efficient, stronger and more explosive making for a better athlete. December through the end of July, we see Pop Warner-aged through pro guys trying to keep an advantage, trying to “secure the bag,” or bluntly, get paid.
It’s becoming more and more clear parents better invest in their child’s athletic ability if they plan on them making it to the next level.
I see this at every combine where I work.
There are kids who have never even tested or had someone show them how to even get into a forty-yard-dash stance, arguably the most important metric in a combine, and with all the knowledge out there, as well as knowing that coaches and scouting services rank you based on performances at these combines, it’s asinine that a parent would even send their child to one unprepared, or worse, out of shape. It’s the equivalent of sending your child to take the SAT/ACT without letting them at least take a practice test.
Training programs like mine range from inexpensive to downright overpriced. But from what I’ve seen at the top levels of high school and college football, these guys are trained. You can tell by the way they run. Speed is a skill no different than swinging a bat. It can be developed.
On my radio show, “The Sports Den,” I reference this often. My co-host is a quarterback coach who works with the Elite 11 quarterback camps and runs a training company called Six Points. We both worked with Under Armour All-American Game MVP Joey Gatewood. Joey not only was developed in the weight room, but worked on how to throw properly, read defenses, go through progressions, break down film, and other areas that made him a blue-chip prospect ready to go to Auburn and compete Day One.
You think Fromm and Tua, as well as those back-ups, just played high school ball and got ready? Heck no. They worked their butts off in the off-season.
When I hear a parent say some guys are overrated, I chuckle knowing they don’t know the half of it.
These guys are not only naturally gifted, but are ultra-competitive and seek tutelage.
I remember when one of my alumni, Derrick Henry, came to me – already damn good – for the sole purpose to, “put on a show” at The Opening recruiting showcase. He wanted to be better. He made an immediate impact and went on to win the Heisman Trophy.
Top high school, and younger, players now mimic what the pros do. Do you think guys just chill and work with their uncles to get prepared for the NFL Combine? No.
I encourage all parents to prepare as early as possible for the dream. It will take good timing and even a little luck to go pro in any sport, but it can no longer be obtained by accident.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but each year as programs get better and the recruiting market becomes more competitive, these exceptions become fewer.
If I told you that you can take $10,000 invested over five years and it could become $250,000 would you take it? Well that’s what one of our packages for four or five months of training can cost and return with about 60-70% odds of a child getting a scholarship after working with us.
It’s an investment of time, talent and treasure to get to that level.
Some students are blessed to have great programs at their high schools which do develop them. Joey Gatewood is at a great school with a phenomenal coach and talented strength and conditioning staff at Bartram Trial; still, he seeks out extra work.
Development helps put you on the radar. It’s then up to the individual to perform.
I was raised by a single mother who rubbed two nickels to put me in a position to do similar. She took tax refund money and invested it into me and my sister, both division one athletes at FSU in football and track. She was a stickler for academics, but she took a gamble, pushed us athletically and academically, prayed for favor, and saw herself not having to pay for college.
It doesn’t always work out, but I’d suggest you hedge your bets. I never owned a pair of Jordan’s, but because of my mother’s investment in my athletic development as a kid, both me and my sister are now in positions to buy as much fly athletic gear as we want.
The game is changing. You either adapt or get left behind.
Chance is no longer the suitable option if you want to compete. As a performance enhancement specialist watching the national championship game I saw the future. The future is in development.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/national-championship-game-shows-sports-future-development/