College football coaches are the latest to get early starts


David Sills made an oral commitment to play college football at Southern California when he was in seventh grade. (GINGER WALL)
September 23, 2012

This summer — in the midst of our ongoing Olympic obsession — most of America might’ve missed the news that quarterback Tate Martell, a 14-year-old entering the eighth grade in San Diego, committed orally to play football at the University of Washington starting in 2017.

(Of course, some of you may recall Southern Cal’s Lane Kiffin getting a verbal commitment a couple of years ago from seventh-grade quarterback David Sills, 13, of Bear, Del.; if that kid’s smart, he got something in writing about Kiffin staying at USC and USC staying off probation.)

Naturally, some folks are up in arms about this robbing-the-cradle-to-find-the-next-John-Hadl scenario; I am not. It’s no different than prodigies in, say, tennis or gymnastics following a dedicated, athletic course of action well before their teen years, to optimize their potential.

In fact, the Tate Martell recruitment is part of a growing trend in America, to grab the best and the brightest early in the work-and-life cycle.

Some notable recent examples:

Mail Wunderkind Nabbed as Deputy Postmaster General. Jimmy Hewitt, 12, of Shelby Township, Mich., was the surprise choice to help turn around the U.S. Postal Service. A postal prodigy, Kenny was licking stamps at age 2, addressing postcards at age 3, sending priority mail by age 4 and berating postal officials about lost parcels by age 5.

“He’s our wake-up call into the 20th century,” Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said.

“Jimmy’s always been fascinated by envelopes,” his mother, Amanda, said. “We even used to pull him out of school to let him stand in line at the post office all day.”

Reached during recess, Kenny said his immediate goals were a return to the pony express (“I love ponies”) and persuading Santa Claus (“He’s a friend”) to switch the bulk of his overnight-shipping business from UPS to the USPS.

Eight-Year-Old to Colonize Mars. In an effort to re-energize its space exploration program, NASA is turning to Trenton, N.J., third-grader Joey Stewart, handing him the reins to a new $12 billion project that will bring a condo/entertainment complex to eastern Mars by spring 2020. In preschool, Joey was taking A.P. biology, chemistry and physics classes, plus he recorded a score of 372,970 on Germ Hunter. His most recent How I Spent My Summer essay was entitled, “Chlorofluorocarbon Molecules and You.”

“Joey rides a bike through some tough communities,” NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. explained, “and the Curiosity rover has shown us that the terrain of a good deal of eastern Mars closely resembles the pothole-marked streets of Trenton.”

IBM Pulls Paper Boy Out of Radio Shack Line for Key Post. At this time last year, Jamie Butterfield, 7, was delivering the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News at the crack of dawn; now he will be director of product development for IBM.

“The kid’s a whiz with Angry Birds and Temple Run,” beamed IBM chairman Samuel J. Palmisano. “Hell, we saw him create an entire new operating system for our Linux on Power Performance Simulator while attending a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s two weekends ago.

“The thing is, every time I wake up, Apple’s created some new gizmo it’s rolling out to the tune of 14 million units sold. The early bird gets the worm, and this kid’s up by 5 o’clock in the morning. [Note: Jamie is keeping his paper route.] He’ll give us a jump on those Apple techno geeks.”

Tea Party Tabs Home-Schooled Former Safety Patrol Sergeant/Soccer Goalie. Johnny Bates, 9, named as Midwest recruiting coordinator, first was discovered at a Michele Bachmann Tupperware party, where he volunteered to stuff balanced-budget leaflets in neighborhood mail slots. He then gained notoriety in southern Nevada when he jimmied every Cox Cable box in Clark County to show Fox News from 7 to 11 p.m.

“I know two things,” Tea Party activist Keli Carender said. “Illegal aliens are here illegally, and taking back America starts with sure-handed youth raised by right-minded soccer moms.”

AARP Gets Verbal Commitment From 18-Month-Old. Eligible for membership in April 2061, toddler Evan Cosgrove of Pleasanton, Calif., already has applied for his AARP card “because he believes in AARP,” his father, Evan Sr., said.

Ask The Slouch

Q. How many PBRs can you drink while Tiger Woods is lining up a three-foot putt just to miss it two inches to the right? (Charles Chichester Jr.; Clifton)

A. Nearly three-quarters of the PBRs I have in any given day are consumed waiting for Tiger Woods to putt; the other quarter are drunk while watching a Bowflex infomercial.

Q. Are you fed up with the NFL’s fill-in refs? (Mike Beeson; Albany, N.Y.)

A. Not at all. Actually, it’s like when you have a substitute teacher: Everyone just gets away with a little more stuff that day.

Q. If the Yankees and the Nationals both make it to the World Series, will it be billed as The House That Ruth Built versus The House That Boras Built? (Marty Chase; Chevy Chase)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash! For previous columns by Norman Chad, visit washingtonpost.com/chad.

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