Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Next Great Quarterback

Eleven years old is too early to herald a kid as the next can't-miss prospect:

"I know he's young but there's always an exception. He's the exception," says Steve Clarkson, who runs the Air 7 Quarterback University, a national camp for quarterbacks. "By no means would I recommend this for ten-year olds, but he's a special case..."

David Sills IV, the quarterback's father, won't say how much he has spends on his son's football education only saying, "It's fair to say that with the traveling back and forth, it's expensive." Clarkson generally tutors about a half dozen clients at a time, charging around $3,000 plus expenses to be flown in for one evaluation. After agreeing to coach the prospective student, he charges an additional $1,000 per four-hour lesson. Quarterbacks that attend the Air 7 camps pay $1,400 for four days of training.

"I'm not really a money-driven person," says Sills IV, a commercial developer and contractor. "It's not like I want to keep it and hoard it. If I can help [my children] achieve their goals, then why not? What else am I going to do with it? This is part of his growing up experience. Hopefully I won't have to pay for college someday."

Initially Clarkson, 45, didn't want to take on Sills. While working with Leinart prior to the NFL Draft two years ago, Clarkson continued to get phone calls from Sills IV before he finally called him back and said he would take a look at his son after he was done with Leinart's program.

"I was still very leery because I had not worked with a kid at this age before," says Clarkson, who was coached by Jack Elway, John Elway's father, and Dennis Erickson while he was a quarterback at San Jose State. "He had just turned 10, so he was really nine going on 10. I thought I could use this as sort of an experiment for myself to find out just how much information I can throw at a kid this young and how much he will retain."

Clarkson, who has coached about 25 Division I-A starting quarterbacks, was shocked with how much information Sills was able to retain and how many plays he was able to carry out on the field and agreed to take him on as a student. "He's studying far beyond his years at what he'll ever see at his level. Basically, it's like taking trig when you're in basic math," says Clarkson. "For him to be able to define the concepts and apply them is truly remarkable."

Even if this child is as gifted as Clarkson says that he is, 11 years old is too young to pressure a boy by calling him 'one of the greatest prospects ever.' Pro sports are littered with players unable to deliver on the expectations when they were drafted -- let alone seven years before they became eligible for the draft; years before they were old enough for high school.

For every LeBron James -- a highly-touted star when he had barely gotten into his teens -- there are dozens of Ryan Leafs, Tony Mandarichs, Blair Thomases, Brien Taylors, Shawn Abners, Alexandre Daigles... the list goes on and on. Why not give Sills a chance to develop in High School and college before labeling him as a 'great quarterback propect?'


Anonymous said...

Give the kid a Big Mac before he becomes Todd Marinovich!

The Editor at IP said...

Yeah -- I hadn't wanted to mention that name, but it was certainly one that came to mind...