High School Showcase Expands
National Football Foundation Showcase now in four states to land scholarships
Capitalizing on the phenomenal success of the NFF High School Showcases in Los Angeles and Houston, the National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame has attracted support for two additional events this year in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., and all four events will take place between Feb. 11 and March 4 with organizers estimating that participants will collectively receive between $8-10 million in academic and participation scholarships for their freshman year.
The NFF High School Showcases, which are absolutely free to both participants and college recruiters, provide academically eligible high school players, who did not sign an NCAA Division I letter of intent, an opportunity to go through a series of drills in front of divisional college coaches from the NCAA Division II, III and the NAIA levels. Last year, the events attracted representatives from 110 colleges covering 30 states, coupling them with more than 1,000 aspiring college players who earned millions of dollars in academic and participation scholarships.
“The leaders in these four cities all deserve huge praise for their efforts to expand opportunities for kids to earn their college degrees with football opening the door,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “Their leadership has helped build a free system, literally providing thousands of talented student-athletes the opportunity to continue their educations. The Showcases provide a great path to college that previously did not exist.”
Participants, who all have to meet minimum academic standards, compete in a series of athletic drills designed to let divisional college coaches assess each player’s potential, including a 40-yard dash and several agility and strength tests. The events allow the college recruiters a unique opportunity to evaluate a large number of qualified student-athletes in a short period of time while minimizing their travel costs.
Launched by a group of Houston coaches in 2009, the concept expanded to Southern California in 2013 with the two events in Florida and North Carolina added this year. Collectively, the four events will reach more than 2,000 seniors this year with an estimated one-in-four receiving some kind of financial aid to go to college.
Feb. 11 — The Fifth Annual California Showcase, launched by College Football Hall of Fame Coach Terry Donahue (UCLA, 1976 – 1995), will kick off the season on Feb. 11 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.
Feb. 18 — The Ninth Annual Greater Houston Senior Football Showcase, founded by Phil Camp, the former head football coach Milby High School in Houston, Coby Rhoden, an academic coordinator at Houston Heights High School, Chris Vaughan, a member of the NFF Touchdown Club of Houston Chapter, and Daryl Wade, the former athletics director for the Houston Independent School District, will follow on Feb. 18 at the Houston Sports Park in Houston, Texas.
Feb. 25 — The Inaugural Orange Bowl Florida High School Football Showcase, led by the Orange Bowl Committee and its newly installed president Don Slesnick, immediate past president Judge Michael B. Chavies, CEO Eric Poms, and NFF Board Member and Orange Bowl past president Bob Epling, will take place Feb. 25 at the Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
March 4 — The Inaugural Carolinas Senior Football Showcase, spearheaded by ESPNU college football analyst and former UCLA player Charles Arbuckle, in conjunction with Blazing 7 on 7 (a local non-profit organization that runs offseason passing leagues), will conclude the series March 4 at the Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, N.C.
“Most of these types of events around the country charge a fee to participate, excluding a lot of great kids who can’t afford the price of admission,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “The events in Houston, Los Angeles, Charlotte and South Florida provide all student-athletes an opportunity to pursue their dream of attending college. The NFF Showcases provide a cost effective way for us to make a huge difference in the lives of these kids, and the impact has been phenomenal.”
Nine years ago, Coach Camp and the NFF Touchdown Club of Houston Chapter joined forces with 75 coaches from the Houston Independent School District to stage the first showcase. Last year the Houston event had 800 high school seniors enroll with coaches from 54 Division II, III and NAIA universities in attendance, both single-year records for the showcase.
“It means the world,” said Camp. “If one kid gets an offer, then this is worth it. You get an inner city kid who’s never been out of the city and he goes to one of these schools and gets an education and a chance to play football. How great is that.”
Inspired by the success of the Houston event, Coach Donahue assembled an impressive array of former coaches and players from multiple colleges and universities in 2013, introducing the first California Showcase. Last year, the event attracted 599 high school seniors who worked out for 55 Division II, III and NAIA universities, and organizers counted 152 players who landed on rosters with financial aid at two-and-four year colleges last year.
“This is an incredible opportunity for the kids to continue their education and play the great game of college football, and it’s free,” said Donahue. “There are so many combines and showcases, but this one really has legs to it because it’s totally free for the players and the colleges.”
Hearing about the success of the Showcases in Houston and Los Angeles, the Orange Bowl Committee in South Florida and Charles Arbuckle in North Carolina approached the NFF about launching events to benefit the high school players in their regions.
“I saw Terry Donahue do it about five years ago, and they have been able to get $11 million in grant and aid scholarships if not more for these young men,” said Arbuckle, who played for Donahue at UCLA. “Every year when I was playing for the Colts in Indianapolis and now here in Charlotte, I would have kids who were not getting recruited ask ‘how can you help me,’ and this is the perfect way to do it on a mass level. We have a lot of former NFL players who are going to help as guest coaches and lot of local coaches who are volunteering. This is exciting, and we’re looking forward to bringing it to Charlotte.”
The Orange Bowl, which ranks among the top local sports organizations in the country with an impressive reputation for supporting a wide-range of community events, has strong ties to the NFF. Bob Epling, who serves on the NFF Board, is a past president of the Orange Bowl Committee, and Hatchell served as the Orange Bowl executive director from 1987 to 1993. It did not take much to convince the current leadership, including president Slesnick, immediate past president Chavies and CEO Poms, of the merits of the NFF Showcase model.
“Everyone knows Florida is a hotbed of football talent for Division I players, but there are hundreds of academically qualified student-athletes beyond Division I signees who are excellent football players and looking to continue both their academic and athletic careers,” said Chavies when the Orange Bowl Florida High School Football Showcase was announced last October. “The Orange Bowl is excited to provide this opportunity for student-athletes so that coaches from around the country, who may have limited recruiting budgets, can evaluate these football players all in one location.”