There was a time when those of us who played high school football thought of it as something that we would reluctantly say farewell to once our senior season was over. As my friend and fellow coach Glenn K. Smith would say, "I was hooked" on the game, couldn't give it up. So, I joined the Air Force with the promise that I could continue playing football, and the Air Force kept that promise...sort of. I had to take a detour to the Air Force Special Weapons Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico to learn the intricacies of the brand new IBM 7094 computer before I was sent to Eglin Air Force Base, the Air Proving Ground Center. There, I was to operate the 7094 except during football season during which I worked in the morning, practiced in the afternoon and played games on Saturday afternoons. When I got out of the service, I kept playing this game I had learned to love in junior college; the semi-pro; and the minor-league professional circuit. Why didn't I play at a higher level? Bad choices provided a partial explanation. Bad genetics was the biggest problem. I was not fast enough to play much at a higher level as a running back and too small when I switched to the line. It is amazing how many parents don't understand that equation, that not every kid is destined to be a superstar. Sometimes the highest level a kid can attain is simply his high school football team, and that's a good thing and should carry with it a lifetime of great memories.
We have parents now who are desperate for their kids' success, so desperate that they will shop their kid around until they find a program that will deliver them what they want: they want a program that would be centered around their kid. It is said that one out every 100 high school football players gets a chance to play in college, One out of every 100 college football players has the opportunity to play, even briefly, in the pros. That means that approximately one out of every 10,000 high school players will make it to the professional level. Every year in the state of Washington there are approximately 10,000 football players. Planning on a professional career is like basing your future on the lottery. That is why we, in the coaching profession, stress academics. A high school diploma is a must and a college education should be a Hope. With the requisite grades, speed, strength, and size (genetics come into play here), a kid can change his Hopes to Goals and, by working hard, maybe, just maybe, that kid can realize his Dream. There are limitations. Always. In track, I ran the 100 yard dash in high school and was destined to finish every time in third place. Not bad for a 195 pound kid, but certainly not noteworthy.
This posting is a way of leading up to what has turned out to be a problem in our area. According to a source close to the athletic program in a middle school in the Mukilteo School District, a representative from a private school, possibly a coach, came into this public middle school's office and dropped off a registration packet for one of the school's athletes to fill out. The private school coach came into the public school to recruit. I've never heard of it happening before, not in my 58 years around the game of football. The private school in question, ATM, states that they do not offer athletic scholarships, only academic ones. The kid in question is not, according to the school source, an intellectual record-setter, an academic All-American. One of the teachers in the public middle school has two children, honor students, who attend ATM, and her kids don't receive a tuition break from ATM for their grades. But, they are willing to do this for an athlete? And, then they say that they don't recruit?
The parents want this kid to play professional football some day. Yeah, and I would like a full, rich head of hair, but I don't see that happening. I have coached and have been around kids who made it to the professional level. The Johnson brothers come immediately to mind. The smallest of the three was Amani, who played for the Chicago Bears after his career at Oregon State, stood about 6'2" and weighed about 245 pounds. Riall came next, and he stood 6'3" and weighed in the neighborhood of 260 pounds. He graduated from Stanford and went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals. The youngest of the brothers was Teyo who stood 6'7" and weighed around 260. He also went to Stanford and then was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders. His high school and college teammate was Amon Gordon who was still in the League last year. As a freshman in high school he stood 6'5" and weighed 235 pounds and looked like he was carved from black marble. Last year this one-time high school fullback weighed 330 pounds and played defensive tackle. How big is the kid in question? He stands about 5'9" or 5'10" and weighs about a buck seventy.
Hey, I'm not saying that this kid is not going to play professional football. It could happen. Lamont Brightful played for us in high school and after a career at Eastern Washington, he played for the Baltimore Ravens for a few years. He wasn't big, maybe 170, but he had some NFL-class speed. Our kid in question does not have that kind of speed. In fact, he does not have much speed at all. I do a running program, and I could make him faster, but I can't make him Fast. It's that genetics thing again.
I'm not out to burst anyone's bubble, but the adults have to give themselves a reality check. ATM has sold the family on the idea that the kid is going to be their next great running back. The parents are afraid that at Mariner high the kid will be moved to the line. Guess what ATM will do within a year or two. I played fullback, and I played guard. Either way, I got to hit people. An I-formation fullback is simply a guard in the backfield anyway. As I told my players, there is only one position on a football field and that is "football player". You play where you're needed. ATM knows this and has sold the kid and his parents an unrealistic look into the future. Too bad. He's a good kid. Not big, not fast, but a good kid. Jim Olsen