Around 150 high school football players, recognized as some of the most talented in the state, flocked to the Williams Field High School football field in Gilbert on Feb. 23 to compete in a regional stop of the Under Armour All-America Camp Series.
The football skills camp, presented by the athletic wear brand, allowed players a chance to display their own skills to college coaches and recruiters. The Arizona camp was one stop on an eight-part tour ending in May in Baltimore.
Athletes took part in tests of measurables such as a 40-yard dash time, standing leap and more before skill-based drills and one-on-one competition in their respective positions at the end.
Before the event even started, though, the players in attendance appreciated the invite as a recognition of their production in the fall and acknowledgment of their chances as a potential college football player.
“I was pretty excited because it was the first time I got invited to something big like this. You feel like you’re getting noticed a little bit,” said Centennial junior offensive lineman Oscar Abundis.
“I just feel like it means you’ve done something good in the season, and they’re showing you some love because of it,” added Deer Valley sophomore running back Ashton Hill.
Unlike the kids from schools like Centennial or others who made deep playoff runs in 2019, Hill was the one player from his team who received an invitation and attended the camp. So was junior linebacker Quinlan Popham from Estrella Foothills.
While it was an individual event, Popham believed a good show of skills and athleticism would not only benefit himself but his teammates as well.
“If I can do well out here, maybe it gets my school a little more recognition, maybe have people looking out there a little bit more and then both me and the rest of my team get a chance to be seen by college coaches,” he said.
The atmosphere on a sunny, mild Sunday was jovial, with many of the kids talking football and appreciating displays of skill from their fellow players. But, when drills went from skill development to competition, the intensity ramped up.
Quarterbacks threw to receivers and running backs, who tried to evade defensive backs, all trying to show off their skills to the coaches and make a great first impression. Offensive linemen like Gavin Broscious, a Desert Edge sophomore, had a chance to go one-on-one with defensive linemen.
“One-on-ones are the one real special thing linemen get to do. So having the chance to do a bunch of those is really good if you can do well, so it helps us a lot,” he said.
And while not everybody could walk away with college offers or the knowledge they had dominated in drills, the experience was one of learning to be used in future high school football seasons moving forward.
“There are so many good players out here. Everyone’s competitive and trying to beat each other,” Broscious said, “but mostly it’s fun and you can learn a lot.”