Andre Baylor is an 18-year-old who played quarterback for Cardozo High School. He has a strong arm, quick feet and reads defenses well. His team had its best season in six years (5-5) and attracted the attention of a few college scouts.
Baylor was impressive enough to earn himself a football scholarship. In February, he signed a letter-of-intent to attend Cheyney State University in Pennsylvania.
Dirk Logan is an 18-year-old who played quarterback for Spingarn High School. He, too, has a strong arm, quick feet and reads defenses well. Last fall his team finished with an 1-8 record.
Logan was one of his team's best players, and played at no fewer than seven positions. But since few colleges will spend time scouting 1-8 football teams, he was not offered a college scholarship.
Baylor and Logan likely will be the starting quarterbacks for the 18th annual D.C. Coaches East-West All-Star Football Game Saturday at Cardozo at 5 p.m. Although the two athletes have taken similar paths to get to this game, their reasons for competing will be very different.
Baylor, who will play for the West, is fortunate. He knows where he will be attending college and enjoys the peace of mind that comes with that knowledge. He said he would like to improve some of the finer points of his offense. Baylor believes the competition he will face Saturday will be good preparation for the test of college football that awaits him next month.
"The areas I want to work on are my passing accuracy and my scrambling," said Baylor. "I want to try to refine some of the skills I'll use at Cheyney so that, hopefully, I can compete for a starting job when I get there."
Logan, competing for the East, finds himself in a more urgent situation. He knows that this could be his last shot at a college scholarship. He will be playing in this all-star game in the hopes of impressing a college scout enough to earn an opportunity to play college football.
"I think it's a little unfair that my team didn't get much recognition this year, but I think our record may have scared the scouts off," said Logan, a versatile 6-foot-1, 170-pounder. "I feel that I have the ability to play college football on any level. I'm just waiting for the chance to prove that. I just hope I can have a good game and that someone likes what they see."
The scouting aspect of the all-star game, which has been moved from RFK Stadium for the first time since its inception, began to take on less significance in 1982 when the NCAA passed a rule prohibiting college coaches and scouts from visiting with potential recruits during the so-called "dead period" of June and July. Ordinarily, however, college coaches do attend the game as spectators.
The NCAA ruling was a blow to the game in that it eliminated one of its original purposes by preventing scouts from taking a final look at some players who had not received scholarships.
Staging the game in summer has also led to other problems.
"When you play a game after the school year has ended, you generally run into the problem of having kids who want to play but have jobs," said Cardozo Coach Bobby Richards, who will coach the West. "We had a few kids this year who won't be able to play for that reason."
Another potential problem is getting the players prepared and in good shape after the long layoff. But East Coach Willie Stewart of Anacostia doesn't believe that will be a factor.
"I've been pleasantly surprised by the shape some of the guys showed up in," said Stewart. "Right now, our skill position kids look pretty sharp, and hopefully we can get the big linemen sharp, too.
"I don't think getting in shape will be as important as learning the system."
Both coaches are aware that the areas generally affected most by a layoff are the offensive and defensive lines, where preparation is most important, and athletic ability is less of a factor. However, neither Stewart nor Richards plan for the game to be won in the trenches. If the coaches' predictions are any indication, the fans should brace for an aerial show.
"We won't waste any time. We're going to fill the air with footballs, I can promise you that," said Stewart. "That's the kind of game the fans like seeing, and that's what we want to give them. Coach Richards used to work as my offensive coordinator at Anacostia and Eastern , so I know he likes to put the ball in the air, too."
"Both teams will probably run wide-open offenses, so you can expect to see a lot of points on the board," said Richards. "Willie and I have similar philosophies about the game. We both like to throw the ball often, and we both like to toss in a few surprises. It should be fun."
If those predictions hold true, quarterbacks Baylor and Logan will figure prominently in their team's fortunes. For his part, Logan says he is up to the challenge.
"I hope we do throw the ball a lot. That's the kind of game I like," said Logan. "I'm looking forward to playing with all these guys because I've got a lot to prove. I want to show that I'm as good as anyone else -- good enough to play college football."