Recruiting Insider

Local Football Players Show Off Skills

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 5, 2006; 12:51 AM

More than 400 football players from Prince George's County ran through an assortment of football drills after school this week at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Nearly 200 of their counterparts from the District did the same thing at Dunbar High. All under the watchful eyes of college coaches looking for potential recruits.

The NFL High School Player Development camps have been the key for several Washington area players earning college scholarships in recent years, essentially bringing together hundreds of players in a few locations for the opportunity to be seen by college coaches.

However, NCAA legislation passed in March and scheduled to go into effect August 1 will prohibit colleges from attending these workouts and other camps and combines.

"It's really disheartening that the NCAA is going to pull the plug on coaches going out," Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies said.

The new regulations are designed to try to limit college coaches' workloads. There are so many camps and combines and colleges feel a certain pressure to keep up with the Joneses. "Such off-campus nonscholastic events compel both prospective student-athletes and coaches to participate/attend for the sake of impressing each other," is the rationale for the legislation, according to NCAA documents.

Also, with the influence of shoe companies growing in football recruiting, one source said, the NCAA was interested in trying to keep football recruiting from going the way of basketball recruiting, where travel-team and shoe company tournaments dominate the landscape.

The new regulation also will prohibit colleges from allowing their facilities to be used for combines. The Nike tour of combines will be looking for several new venues and the Maryland Football Coaches Association no longer will be able to hold its annual junior combine on Maryland's College Park campus.

But the biggest impact locally could be the ban on college coaches attending the NFL HSPD camps. Under the direction of DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor, every county in Maryland has access to the program, which allows players to show their skills in a football setting. Wide receivers and defensive backs tend to benefit the most -- they often are outside the action on any game films that high school coaches are able to put together for colleges.

"We run it during the month of May so you can get college coaches out to get [the players] a look," McGregor said. "It's going to hurt a little bit. It's for the kids, to try to get them exposure."

McGregor, the NFL's Jerry Horowitz and others argue that the HSPD is different from a typical combine in that on-field football drills and off-field seminars on life skills and meeting NCAA academic requirements are the most important components of the program. Locally, the on-field drills are important because -- unlike other parts of the country -- most schools in the Washington area do not hold spring football practice.

As for the notion that making camps and combines off limits will create a better quality of life for college coaches and give them fewer days on the road, one insider scoffed. "You're going to be out anyway. It's an evaluation time," he said.

Horowitz, the national coordinator of the program for the NFL, asked Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Rick Houchens to have as many college coaches as possible write letters about the importance of the NFL HSPD camps. He hopes to use those to influence the NCAA and alter the legislation before next spring.

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